Last Feb 14 saw the passing of Soosay Muthu, a parishioner of St Francis Xavier Church in Petaling Jaya. This is an obituary written by ANDREW SCOTT who knew him well and had worked with him closely.
APRIL 3, 2023.
If one was to walk into any of the Catholic Church within the PJ District of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, and mention to any of the senior Hospitality Minister the name Appu, chances are, this would be met with a smile and nod of the head in acknowledging the person of Uncle Soosay Muthu, who served in various ministries in the St Francis Xavier Church, Petaling Jaya, for more than 30 years.
I write this tribute to honour the memory of Uncle Soosay Muthu who was called home to the Lord on Tuesday, Feb 14, 2023, just a month-plus shy of his 85th birthday on March 19, 2023.
Uncle Soosay’s involvement with the St Francis Xavier Church began in early 1981 with the formation of the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) under the New Image of the Parish (NIP) programme initiated by the late Rev Fr Peter Kim Se-Mang, SJ.
In 1982, Uncle Soosay became a member of the SFX Wardens Society which was at that time, run at parish-level. He was among the pioneer group of Wardens from his BEC.
When the Sunday Fellowship Group was set up in late 1987, at the request of then Parish Priest, the late Fr Selvaraju Selvam SJ, Uncle Soosay became one of its founding members. Not too long after, he was elected as the Assistant Chief Coordinator. In 1991, he was made the Chief Coordinator.
Under his able leadership, the Sunday Fellowship Group rose to a reputable level. His hard work and commitment, and that of his team, were instrumental in making the Sunday Fellowship a central place for parishioners to gather after mass, to forge and build friendships. And to enjoy the local delicacies especially curry-puff, nyona kuih, donut, while enjoying a cup of coffee or tea, or cold beverages and there was also Milo for the children.
Due to it being a gathering point for the parishioners, the Sunday Fellowship became an avenue for fund-raising for the SFX BECs and parish groups. Even outside groups, such as the Catholic students societies of University of Malaya and Petaling Jaya schools like La Salle and Assunta, and many others soon collaborated with Uncle Soosay and his team to sponsor the Sunday Fellowship for a particular Sunday. He did have difficulties meeting all these requests and the sponsorship roster had to be prepared months in advance, but no groups was turned away.
The parish had a policy to limit the tenure to a maximum two-term (four consecutive years). So when he was not the Chief Coordinator of the Sunday Fellowship, Uncle Soosay remained very much in the leadership role, mentoring new leaders. His leadership quality was unparallel. That is how it remained till 2011 when he had to step away due to declining health.
More remarkable, is the narratives that took place in the background and off which most, were unaware off.
For most of the 52 weeks in a good part of the last 20 years, with the exception of Palm Sunday, and Easter Sunday & Christmas when it fell on a Sunday, Uncle Soosay would arrive at the church by 5:30am to begin preparations for the Sunday Fellowship that usually commenced after the 8:45am mass initially and in later years, after the 7am mass. Upon arriving in church, he would make his way to the small-narrow pantry located in Ricci Hall, to boil water using the three or four electric kettles there. After the water was boiled, he would transfer these kettles to the Sunday Fellowship area at the front of the church and proceed to set up what was needed.
By the start of the 7am mass, everything would have been in place and ready. It was usual for the other members of the group to start turning up around 7:30am.
As he was also an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and Warden (hospitality ministers), it was often normal to see him on duty at the 7am or 8:45am mass and then serving the parishioners at the Sunday Fellowship.
Uncle Soosay was also known for organising inter-state trips, tours, visits and pilgrimages to various places all over Malaysia. The annual pilgrimage to the Church (now Minor Basilica) of St Anne in Bukit Mertajam was the one that stood out each year. Often the seats were snapped up as soon as they were made available.
He would plan every single detail thoroughly months in advance and he would write all of these out neatly on a foolscap paper. He put to great use all his years of experience as a teacher of Science and Maths in St John’s School in Kuala Lumpur in his planning and preparation for the trips he organised.
He rarely made any mistakes in the details and his planning was always immaculate. When it was nearing the date of the trip, he would request yours truly to have his carefully and well-thought out itinerary printed and photocopied.
There were trips to other churches for ordinations of priests (especially those involving the Jesuits), trips to Ipoh and many other places for a myriad of reasons. There were even trips to Haadyai and Singapore when there were a long holiday breaks.
For all these excursions, the feedback received were always overwhelmingly positive.
Uncle Soosay always had tremendous joy and enthusiasm planning for the Annual Sunday Fellowship gathering, usually held at the home of one of its members. Each year, the Sunday Fellowship Group would hand over a generous sum of donation back to the parish.
Uncle Soosay was one of very few persons who held the position of Chief Coordinator for two different ministries at the same time; the Sunday Fellowship and Hospitality Ministry. He was also an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion for many years and was an advisor to the altar servers between 1997 and 2001.
As the Chief Coordinator of the Hospitality Ministry, Uncle Soosay led by example, often going beyond the call of service to ensure his team of wardens served at the highest level of preparedness.
The briefings and rehearsals for Holy Week, Christmas, Ordinations and all other important occasions were carefully thought out, planned, and rehearsed. No details were left out.
For as long as Uncle Soosay was the Chief Coordinator of Hospitality Ministry, this was the typical scenario:
He would arrive by 1:30pm on Holy Thursday (Mass was at 8pm!) to ensure things were all in its place. He would only leave for home way past midnight, after the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament ended and the pews at the Sacred Heart wing restored in its place.
Next morning, on Good Friday, he would be in church for the 11am Stations of the Cross and only leave after the 8pm Good Friday Service.
On Holy Saturday, he would arrive by 3pm (mass at 7pm) and return home after the 11pm mass, which often ended past 1.30am.
Aside from his involvement in church, Uncle Soosay loved sports and football in particular; Manchester United was his favourite team. I remember back in the 90s, in the living room in his home, there were replicas of the 1986 and 1990 World Cup ball hanging from the ceiling above. Often on Sunday mornings after Man Utd had lost a match the night before, he would quip, “those stupid fellas lost la, Appu!”. And he would smile.
Uncle Soosay was a man full of smiles. He never got angry at anyone or anything. He was NEVER ever late. Punctuality was his trait. He was a simple, humble, loving man. He respected everyone, whether young or old. He addressed every man as Appu, and I am sure he must have called many priests and religious the same, not out of disrespect but on the contrary, with the utmost respect. I am certain too, that even the former Nuncio, Archbishop Joseph Marino, or former and present Arch/bishop(s), Paul Tan SJ, late Anthony Soter Cardinal Fernandez, Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam or Archbishop Julian Leow have been addressed as Appu.
Just as he referred to all men as Appu, he respectfully addressed the women as Amma and I am sure, many of them who knew him would testify to this whole-heartedly.
Uncle Soosay was a great honourable ambassador of Christ, a total and humble servant of our Lord, and an adored member of the SFX PJ Family. To me personally, he is a church royalty – the guru of the Hospitality Ministry and the master-sifu of Sunday Fellowship of SFX PJ.
He had a great devotion towards Mother Mary. Often, during the trips, Uncle Soosay would be seen clasping and praying the rosary. It was very much part and parcel of his trip-itinerary for the group to pray the rosary.
The sudden passing of Uncle Soosay will continue to impact many of us, his family and all those who shared this earthly journey with him. We will honour him and his legacy will live long in the hearts of all who knew him. I can say with full conviction that in our hearts and mind, we will love him and remember him forever.
Uncle Soosay, in all of his simplicity, taught us to be humble, to respect each other and to honour Mother Mary and to love Christ whole-heartedly.
Our lives have been enriched and blessed as we shared this earthly life with Uncle Soosay.
We thank God for all the joy Uncle Soosay brought to our lives, and we await the day when we shall be reunited with him in paradise. What a joyful moment it will be to hear him call out to each of us, in that all-familiar word, Appu or Amma.
Requiescat in pace, Uncle Soosay! Our loss is heaven’s gain!
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
We at Journey With Us – Asia offer our condolences to Uncle Soosay’s loved ones. May his soul rest in peace.