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Memory of Fr Phillips Muthu lives on after four years

Four years ago today (Sept 10), Fr Phillips Muthu passed away after a heart attack in Kemaman, Terengganu. He was 56 years old and was serving in the Catholic Missions in Kuala Terengganu and Dungun and the St Philip Minh chapel in Chukai, Fr Phillips was ordained in 1990, the first “son” of Rawang to be a priest. He had previously served in St Anthony of Padua Church (Kuala Lumpur), Immaculate Conception Church (Port Dickson), St John Vianney Church (Tampin) and Assumption Church (Petaling Jaya). This is a sharing by a childhood friend.

By Agvina Dicom SEPT 10, 2020

Fr Phillips Muthu was one of my father’s students in Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Seri Garing, Rawang during the 1970s. He was very close to my father as they not only met often in school but also on sundays at St Jude’s Church, and both our families were also close as we stayed quite near to each other in Taman Sri Rawang.

Even at that time, Fr Phillips demonstrated a very genuine personality – he was friendly and kind, always full of humour and light-heartedness. He was very considerate and inclusive of everyone he met and only had good things to say about people, never dwelling on unpleasant exchanges nor sharing the negative behaviours of another.

As a young child, I have very fond memories of him. In the early 1980s, whenever he and his siblings would come over to our Rawang home, they would always spend time with us playing games and showing us tricks; keeping us little rascals entertained. Sometimes, we would go over to their place instead, spending a whole day there without even realising the hours going by. When we moved to Ipoh after my father retired, he made sure he got our address and contact details, and would happily make the trips to Ipoh to meet up with us during his years as a newly ordained priest.

I have always admired him for his gentle demeanour. He had a very pleasant mannerism when conversing with people, befriending them regardless of their background, be it young or old. I appreciated him for the love and respect he had for my father. I’ve heard him frequently tell others, of how my father (Vincent Dicom) was not only a good teacher, role model and friendly mentor to him but also one of those individuals who inspired him to join the vocation of priesthood. It was always easy to remember his birthday as he and my father shared the same birth date – July 19.

I honestly do not know much about his journey and challenges in his priestly life but I can share much about my personal encounters and experiences with him. He was a loyal and good family friend, forever ready to give a listening ear or to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. No matter how busy he was or how many responsibilities he had on his own plate, he would try his very best to make time for others and be present in their moments of grievance. He made it a priority to put others first before attending to his own work and commitments.

Fr Phillips with Archbishop Julian Leow.
Screen shot from tribute video.

After we moved to Puchong in early 2008, I recall of many funny occasions that happened when Fr Phillips came to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church to say masses. While chatting with the parishioners after mass, he would often share with them that my father was his English and Literature teacher, and later jokingly remarked that if his spoken English during sermons was terrible, my father was to be blamed for it! He always enjoyed teasing my dad and they both would have a good laugh together. Another thing I admired about him was his sharp memory. Each time without fail, he would always WhatsApp me to let us know when he was coming over to Puchong, to Our Lady of Guadalupe. I still keep all of his chat messages safely in my old Lenovo phone. That gadget now has become my digital diary, containing the memories of conversations we had with a good man and a cherished friend.

It’s hard to grasp the reality that these four years have passed by so quickly. The news of his demise in 2016 came to all of us as a great shock, of sorrow and grief. Even now as I sit down to write this sharing, I do not think that I can find enough words to account for all the spiritual accomplishments that he has achieved or the appropriate words to thank him for all the goodness that he has done and to describe how much of an impact his actions have made on our Catholic community and families. There is a quote from a biblical psalm that reminds me so much of him – “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in His ways” (Psalm 37:23).

Not only was he a faithful servant of God but also a very rare and precious soul. I believe there is a saying that goes, “Our loss is Heaven’s gain”. Therefore I bless and exalt our Lord Jesus Christ for giving me a chance in this lifetime of meeting and knowing this amazing person; a dedicated priest and a lovable compadre whom until this very day is still so fondly remembered and deeply missed – our beloved Fr Phillips Muthu.

person, a dedicated priest and a lovable compadre who until this very day is still so fondly remembered and deeply missed – our beloved Fr Phillips Muthu.