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Capuchin friars posing for photos with pilgrims after the Holy Mass at the St Pio Spirituality Center in Ulu Tiram, Johor, on Sept 25, 2022. (Photo from St Pio Ulu Tiram Johor Malaysia Facebook page)

Back-to-back feast day celebrations for Capuchins

Rev Fr Valentine Gompok entertaining the parishioners and pilgrims after the Holy Mass at St Francis of Assisi Church in Cheras, KL, on Oct 9, 2022.

OCT 15, 2022: Great food, a live band and people dancing. The venue was the St Francis of Assisi Church grounds, the band was made up of Catholic army personnel, and the guest singers were Capuchin friars who belted out old and not-so-old favourites, songs from the Land of the Wind, and there was one in Tagalog. This is how the St Francis of Assisi’s feast day celebration came to a close in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur last Sunday (Oct 9).

Rev Fr Valentine Gompok OFM Cap is usually the life of the party. The Custos (a religious superior in a Franciscan order) of Malaysia and Singapore got on to the stage after numerous requests to sing.

Then, tables and chairs in front of the stage were quickly cleared away and then the dancing started. The friars, including parish priest Rev Fr Paul Cheong, OFM Cap, and Rev Fr Gilbert James, and the main celebrant for that morning’s mass and speaker/ teacher Friar Jose Eduardo Mayo, OFM Cap (also known as Br Jeamboy).

Fr Gilber James with guests at the fellowship after the Holy Mass at St Francis of Assisi Church in Cheras on Oct 9.

For the last two weeks, the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (OFM Cap) has had back-to-back celebrations. Two weeks ago, it was the St Pio feast day celebration and last weekend was the feast day celebration of St Francis of Assisi, whom they follow and model after. In fact, the brown habit they wear to this day closely resembles the habit worn by the Italian saint.

From Sept 22 -25, the St Pio feast day celebration was held at this parish and also in Ulu Tiram, where the Padre Pio Spirituality Center is located. The celebration at the centre in Johor which is a friary, and a centre for retreat, formation and spirituality, is one which attracts more than 1,500 people each year. 

For the last two years, the feast day celebrations were not open to public due to the lockdown restrictions, but this year the faithful came in great numbers despite the downpour. One of the St Pio feast day banners at the St Pio Spirituality Center last month said “welcome back”.  And the pilgrims did. It is still one of the biggest feast day celebrations in the southern part of Malaysia and it constantly attracts the faithful not just from the northern states but also from Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak.

These events are there to show the larger Catholic community what the Capuchin philosophy and spirituality is all about. These are friars (from the Latin frater, meaning brothers) who wear dark brown robes with large hoods and who have dedicated themselves to a life of prayer and service of the poor.

“If anyone is interested to know more about us, they are most welcome to come and see our way of life in St Pio Friary in Johor or the Gethsemani Friary in Cheras. They can contact me personally,” says Rev Fr Valentine. He can be contacted at: valgompok1970@gmail.com or +60 16-714 2691.

The Capuchin friars praying before Mother Mary at the grotto at the St Pio Spiritual Center in Johor in March, 2022. A strong prayer life is one of the foundations of their order. (Photo from the St Pio Ulu Tiram Johor Malaysia Facebook page)

Previous stories on St Pio feast day
The Saint and His Glove (2018)
Feast Day of St Padre Pio in Johor (2019)
When Tissues and Wet Wipes are Treated as Padre Pio’s Third-Class Relics (2019)
St Padre Pio feast day in Cheras (2020)