– On the occasion of his ruby jubilee celebration, Fr Thomas Makajil celebrated
a thanksgiving Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral here Nov 6, with Bishop Julius Gitom
as the main celebrant, and Msgr Nicholas Ong, who a month ago celebrated his
own ruby jubilee, and seven other priests as concelebrants.
Fr Thomas is the resident priest of Paitan Mission, the only
missionary area in the Diocese of Sandakan.
The jubilarian shared about his recent visit to Catholic
Sabah in Kota Kinabalu. He was there to see an old friend, and noticed the
tremendous changes and many new staff, one of whom recognized him and
exclaimed, “You are the ‘missionary’ in Paitan!”
The word “missionary” struck him and challenged him to the
core. He resonated deeply to the words of the Holy Father calling the clergy
and religious to move out of their comfort zone, and to be with the people,
tending to their needs. Clergy and religious are likened to shepherds living
with the smell of the sheep, leading the flocks with compassion and dedication,
Pope Francis underlines.
Fr Makajil shared his reflection drew him to recall Jesus’
mission as written in the prophet Isaiah “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to
proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set
liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
This, he maintained, is the core mission of the Church to which all, clergy and
lay, are called.
At the subscribed jubilee dinner celebrated at Hakka Hall
with 300 parishioners and invited guests, Bishop Gitom congratulated both Msgr
Ong and Fr Makajil on the joyous occasion of the 40th anniversary of their
To Fr Makajil, he spoke of the jubilarian’s steadfastness and
love for the Church, attesting him as “a true shepherd after the heart of
Christ” and “one always out on the road nurturing and leading the flock”.
He acknowledged that
the Diocese is indeed blessed to have a priest who is passionate, dedicated, generous
and whose main concern is for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.
Fr Thomas thanked and glorified God for all the blessings
showered on him throughout his 40 years of priestly ministry. He thanked Bishop
Gitom for the opportunity to serve in Paitan Mission.
He spoke of his dream of seeing “the empowerment of the laity
who made up 99% of the body of the Church alongside the clergy and the
religious, living the faith as best as they can. Both laity and clergy have
complementary roles in ministry and mission”.
Fr Makajil was ordained by Bishop Simon Fung in St Michael
Penampang on November 11, 1978. Born and
raised up a Penampang lad, he had his early education in Inobong and Penampang.
Interestingly, Makajil’s first appointment was to assist Fr
Thomas Sham in Holy Trinity Tawau (1977-1980).
He was next assigned to Sacred Heart Cathedral and St Michael Penampang
(1981-82), while at the same time serving as Associate Editor of Catholic Sabah
and editor of the Kadazandusun Section.
Other parishes where he has served included St Catherine
Inanam, St Valentine Beaufort, St Patrick Membakut, St Peter Bundu, St John
Sipitang, back to St Michael again, St Theresa Tambunan, Holy Cross Toboh, St
Joseph Papar, Holy Rosary Limbahau, and currently in the Diocese of Sandakan
On the occasion of his Silver Jubilee in 2003, Fr Makajil
said of himself “I have not achieved any spectacular achievements in terms
of building infrastructures. I must acknowledge that I am not a builder, but I
have reached out and have worked with the people. I rejoice knowing that I have
done my best to walk humbly with them and allowed them to feel that the Church
is a welcoming Church.”
In a nutshell, Fr Thomas Makajil fits Pope Francis’
description of “a shepherd living with the smell of the sheep”.
Makajil has admitted that he is most at home working with “simple rural and
non- sophisticated people”, and that is why he is grateful to his Bishop for
his current assignment in Paitan Mission. – DOSPO / CS