By Bob Ho
SEPT 23, 2023: The St Ignatius Church in Petaling Jaya is living up to the Chinese saying, “when you drink water, remember its source”. It held a memorial mass for the church’s founding fathers on Aug 21, 2023.
Parishioners fondly remembered Irish Fr Edmund Sullivan, SJ, for planting the seed for a new church when he was the administrator of the Sungai Way Chapel (1972-75). He died in 1980.
Fr Francis Ng, CDD, who succeeded Fr Edmund when he fell ill in 1975, was often called the parish’s “builder” who nourished the seed Fr Edmund planted until fruition. On completion of the church in 1988, Fr Francis served as the first parish priest of St Ignatius Church until 1990.
Fr Francis Ng worked relentlessly, planning and raising funds for the new church built on land donated by the Congregatio Discipulorum Domini or Congregation of the Disciples of the Lord (CDD). He died in 2018.
Fr Joseph Chang, CDD, (parish priest from 1990 to1997) was remembered as a straightforward man who kept things moving, always reminding “meetings cannot be just talk – action is needed for the Parish to improve”. In 1996, he fell ill but continued serving faithfully until he was hospitalised the following year. He died in 1997.
Also remembered was Fr Joseph Mi, CDD, who assisted in 1990-1991. He died in 2020.
About 400 parishioners attended the bilingual mass (English and Mandarin) which began at 8pm.
Archbishop Julian Leow, the main celebrant, noted that the memorial mass was the brainchild of parish priest Fr Lawrence Ng, CDD. Perhaps, he said, other parishes could do likewise so that the services of past priests would not be forgotten long after their demise.
The prelate also spoke on people’s tendency to wait for something to happen before visiting loved ones and friends. People would bring baskets of fruits and goodies to friends in hospital who could not eat, he said.
“And they would drop everything for a wake or a funeral. We should be loving and caring for someone and shower praises on them when they are still alive and not only when they pass away,” he added.
CDD Superior General Fr Francis Chong, Provincial Superior (Malaysia) Fr Andrew Wong and five other CDD priests, including Fr Lawrence and assistant parish priest Fr Martin Then, as well as Fr Raymond Pereira, the parish priest of Our Lady of Guadapule Church, were concelebrants.
The Archbishop thanked CDD for its services in Malaysia, saying: “CDD priests are always needed to serve the Mandarin-speaking Catholics throughout the country.”
Fr Francis Chong noted that Frs Sullivan, Joseph Chang and Joseph Mi were missionaries who came to Malaysia. “This tells us of the importance of missionary work. Without it, we would have no churches,” he said, hoping that the youth would be inspired by them to be missionaries.
After mass, the clergy and the congregation bowed thrice as a sign of respect to the four priests.
Posters highlighting their deeds were placed at the church entrance. The text highlighted how they were fondly remembered by those who knew them.
Sr Pat, FMM, said of Fr Edmund: “What struck me most was his simplicity and the unabashed appearance of his attire and his witness in living in poverty … he was well loved for his cheerful way and Irish humour.”
Fr Lawrence described Fr Francis Ng as good shepherd. “He was a good shepherd and a father to me, never hesitating to reprimand me and the other brothers when we made mistakes.”
Fr Martin recalled Fr Joseph Chang was strict in following rules and serious in his pastoral work. “When I got to know him better, I saw a good priest, warm and endearing especially towards parishioners,” he said.
Fr Andrew saw Fr Joseph Mi as a strict, independent, and disciplined person. “He was a keen promoter of vocation. He inspired me in the way he carried himself as a priest.”
The four priests are gone but definitely not forgotten.