Category Archives: Catholic Sabah

Tribute to the builder of CMI

Fr Thomas Sham

On the blessed occasion of Silver Jubilee celebration of CMI Church, it would not be complete without a dedication to its founder.  As an honour to his memory and contribution, here is a tribute to CMI builder, Fr. Thomas Sham (1920-2004):

Born on 15 Feb 1920 in Putatan, Thomas was the fifth child in a brood of three boys and four girls born to Lucas Sham Koi Yun and Helen Lee Kyun Yin.  The elder Sham was from China who sought his fortune in Borneo and later settled down in Putatan with a local girl.  He was converted to the Catholic Faith by Thomas Lee (Father of Abp Emeritus John Lee) who founded the Putatan Chinese School.

Thomas studied at the Putatan Chinese School from 1928-1932.  With his mother’s blessing he entered the Jesselton Minor Seminary.

Thomas attributed his vocation to a “man in white.”

When he was nine, he was walking with his brother to school when he saw a man in white clothing. “I was awestruck and attracted by the way the man was dressed up, especially in white.  Somehow, something happened and I wanted to dress like him when I grew up,” Thomas said. He asked his brother who the man was and was told that he was a priest (Fr. Joseph Felix Shek).

Baptised in 1932, Thomas was sent to the Major Regional Seminary in Hong Kong with Francis, the brother of Abp Emeritus Lee. He was ordained on 16 July 1946 in Canton China. Back in Borneo by ship in October 1946, Father Thomas served in Tawau, Papar, Kudat, Jesselton, Sandakan, Telipok, Kota Kinabalu, and Tanjung Aru.

Fr. Thomas decided to stay in Tanjung Aru after retiring from active ministry in 2000. Despite failing health, he continued to concelebrate Mass with his successor Father Fundes Motiung. He died on 17 Nov 2004 at the Sabah Medical Centre, Likas where he had been admitted since Nov 6.  He was 84. He was buried at the Mile 4.5 Catholic Cemetery Penampang Road by his nephew Father David Sham.

Well-known as a builder, Thomas acquired mission lands for construction or extension of church and school buildings, one of which is the Church of Mary Immaculate Bukit Padang.

Architect’s impression of CMI Extension (Right Angle)

Going back in history … how it all began

CMI was officiated and blessed by then Bishop John Lee on 31 October 1993.  It was a grand affair with  ribbon cutting and Eucharistic celebration in English and Chinese. But this is only a part of the church’s history.

As we go back further, the story started in 1990 as extracted from the archive of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu:

It came about when Fr Thomas Sham, who was then the pastor of the Sacred Heart Cathedral (1987-1988), noticed the way parishioners literally had to force their way into the church compound for services, which parishioners who were leaving had to undergo a similar ordeal.  That was when he remembered that the church owned a 2.2 acre piece of property in Bukit Padang.

After consultation with Bishop John Lee, Fr Sham approached the state finance ministry officials to explore the possibility of government assistance to put up a new church on that property.  He was met with positive response.

Within three months of coming to serve at SHC, Fr Sham put into motion a plan to build a new church.   CMI also underwent two changes of names before the present name was finally agreed upon.  The previous names were “Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace” and “Church of Mary Immaculate Conception”- CMI SOCCOM

Remembering the beginnings of 25-year old Church and those who built her

Church of Mary Immaculate, with its unique hands-clasped bell tower, Bukit Padang

BUKIT PADANG – When a momentous occasion such as a Silver Jubilee approaches, the first thing that everyone would be looking forward to is a celebration to commemorate the occasion.

When it comes to a church such as Church of Mary Immaculate (CMI), not only is it momentous but it is also a historical event for many people over 25 years and beyond that.

Although the celebration would be looked forward to, but it is the past that we have to go back to so that we are reminded of how God had worked through these individuals, both religious and lay people, who were chosen to build a church, where the communities have grown bit by bit over the years, and now has become one family.

This is reflected in the theme of CMI’s 25 years dedication: “Celebrating Our Journey Together as a Family of Faith”.

The Uniqueness of CMI

CMI is a triangular-shaped building with a 60-ft hands-clasped-in-prayer bell tower equipped with an electric chime.

The concept of the unique bell tower came from retired Town and Regional Planning Department Director, Datuk Thasius Joeman, a member of the building committee in 1990.

This was disclosed in an interview with him by the Silver Jubilee Committee at the church canteen on 8 April 2018 in conjunction with CMI’s 25 years of dedication. Present also was Thomas Koh, a PWD senior officer who was the treasurer of the building committee.

Joeman said he proposed the concept to founder Father Thomas Sham who in turn brought him to see Bishop John Lee.  It is utterly unique as Joeman said, he has not seen that design during his years of travel around the globe.

Joeman said he was thankful that the bishop accepted the proposal just as he did the idea of having a church on the ground and not having a hall beneath the church.  Earlier, the original design by Paul Chong to have a hall beneath the church had been approved by the bishop.

The retired director said he related to the bishop his experience in Sibu when he attended a Mass in a church that has a hall beneath the church.  He could not concentrate on the Mass because of the noise coming from the basement hall.  He also highlighted the point that it might be difficult to climb the stairs to enter the church as one ages.

After 25 years, the praying hands bell tower with electric chime is still unique and has become a landmark in the suburban area of Bukit Padang.

The Dedication

For the Silver Jubilee celebration, an organizing committee was formed to plan and carry out the jubilee activities from May 2018 onwards. It began with the monthly movie nights featuring “Mary of Nazareth”, “Lourdes” and “Fatima” from May to July; Parish Pilgrimage to the Church of Divine Mercy KKIP in August;  Exhibition by Ministries/Groups in September; Triduum leading to the Thanksgiving Mass and dinner on Sunday Oct 28.  As a weekly preparation until October, a Jubilee prayer was recited during Saturday and Sunday Masses as well as petition for specific groups/ministries in the Prayer of the Faithful.  A souvenir magazine and some souvenir items have been on sale as well.

The Future of the Church is the Community

Now that the construction of the building of the Church of Mary, Immaculate is completed, it is important that we proceed with the community building.  A Church without a community is not a Church. A Church’s community is a Christian Community. A Christian Community is a believing and evangelizing community and, a community in dialogue with God and at the service of others.” (Message from Bishop John Lee on the occasion of the Blessing of the Church of Mary Immaculate on 31 October 1993).

The church community has been steadily growing and now is in need of better facilities. With this in mind, an approval was given by Archbishop John Wong to proceed with the extension of CMI.

This extension will see the construction of a multipurpose hall, classrooms, additional toilets, canteen and rectory. An unveiling of this extension was done alongside the launching of the Silver Jubilee Exhibition in September.

In his message, parish priest Fr Paul Lo said the building of the multipurpose hall will provide facilities for the church activities, especially catechetical ministries and youth programs.  He added that he believed that this building project would mark the beginning of the establishment of this church as a parish in the near future. – Sources: Silver Jubilee Committee (Sr Anna Yap) / CMI SOCCOM / CMI Building Committee

Catholic Nurses Guild Malaysia hosts CICIAMS 20th World Congress

KUCHING – The “pioneering spirit” of the Church and early missionaries contributed to Sarawak’s social and human development, says Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah.

He said the missionaries had ventured into the jungles of Borneo to help the rural population by setting up schools for education and small clinics for health-care.

“I am one of the beneficiaries of such a school. If it had not been set up, I might not be standing here today,” the guest-of-honour said when opening the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medico-Social Assistants’ (CICIAMS) 20th World Congress here on 5 Sept 2018.

Uggah added that the clinics set up by the missionaries, which were staffed by Sisters and laypersons trained as nurses and midwives, became the backbone and foundation of government medical clinics as the state developed.

The congress, which takes place once in four years, was held at the Riverside Majestic Hotel  from 4-7 Sept 2018.

Also present at the global event, which was hosted by Catholic Nurses Guild Malaysia, were Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect for the Dicastery for promoting Integral Human Development; Archbishop Joseph Salvador Marino, Papal Nuncio; Bishop Cornelius Sim, Episcopal President of the Commission of Pastoral Healthcare of the Bishop’s Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei; and Archbishop Simon Poh of the Archdiocese of Kuching.

The four-day congress, held for the first time here, attracted about 300 delegates from Malaysia and 18 from other countries.

On the congress, Uggah said its focus on issues affecting children, youth and the elderly would provide tools for education, sustaining life and promoting human development through the nursing and healthcare profession.

Cardinal Turkson reminded Catholic nurses that they are “ministers of life, and that sustainable care was done by Jesus Christ.”   Referring to the theme of the congress, the Cardinal urged Catholic nurses to “educate, provide sustainable care and respect life”.

CICIAMS, through the congress, aims to provide a forum for its members to share experience on issues of education for sustainable health, engaging development and respecting life across the human life cycle.

In line with this year’s theme: Education for Sustainable Health: Engaging Development, Respecting Life, the congress hoped to achieve the objectives of 1) Improving and developing skills and expertise in the nursing profession in the context of the Catholic faith; 2) Sharing of global, regional and countries’ evidence for the development of tools to educate, sustain life and promote health for all and to enable each person to live with dignity; and 3) Equipping delegates with strategies to assist individuals and communities to live life with meaning and purpose through the life cycle of the human person.

Delegates returning home were strongly recommended to promote the Social teachings of the Church, to reach out to the needy, to see Christ in every person and ‘may they see Christ in us’. The church does not wait for the wounded to knock on her doors; she looks for them in the streets, she gathers them in, she embraces them, and she makes them feel loved in the name of God in Mercy.

Catholic Nurses were urged to upgrade their nursing development via continuous education and engagement with research in evidence based learning.

The congress concluded with the statement that the Church considers service to people who are sick and suffering an integral part of the Church mission.

At the same time, the congress has affirmed that CICIAMS will promote the scientific and pastoral response of the Holy See to questions relating to Human Dignity, Migration, Health Care, Charitable works and care of creation. – Francisca Malantin, thestar, and others

Vietnam pilgrimage an eye-opener to Sandakan BEC

SANDAKAN – The BEC of St Teresa of Calcutta, Sandakan was formed in 2010 with some 30 active families. Since its inception, the members have made two local pilgrimages (Diocese of Keningau and St Anne, Bukit Mertajam, Penang) and an overseas pilgrimage to Manila, the Philippines. This year, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam was selected as their destination with assistance from the Vietnam IFFAsia Alumni (Institute of Formation Fondacio).

Over the course of five days, we visited seven Catholic pilgrimage sites, churches, Saigon Archbishop’s Residence and Pastoral Centres with significant historical and architectural values.

We were particularly impressed by Vietnam Catholics in forming the faith of their young.

In another parish, we witnessed how the International Young Catholic Students organized children faith formation by giving catecheses accompanied with activities.

The faith and religious practice among the Vietnamese believers is very much alive. This could be seen from the attendance of the faithful during the morning Mass in Notre Dame Cathedral.

Apart from the spiritual pilgrimage, we also took the opportunity to understand the Vietnamese way of life, culture and history by visiting places like the Mekong Delta, War Remnant Museum and the Presidential Palace. For many of us, we know little about Vietnam.  We knew Vietnam as a war-trodden country but after setting our foot here, we realized that Vietnam is a fast developing country. Coming to Vietnam, we saw it as a place where the Christian faith is flourishing, as can be seen in their efforts in nurturing a strong faith among the young.  We have come to see Vietnam as a place where God’s love reaches out to many and the people responding with faith and zeal. – Dalius LL  

Kuching emeritus celebrates 90 years of God’s faithful love in his life and priesthood

KUCHING – The Archdiocese of Kuching has a lot to thank God for the gift of Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung Hoan Ting, who has given his entire life to serving the people of Sarawak.

On 10 September 2018, bishops, priests, the lay faithful and his family and friends, came together to celebrate the 90th birthday of Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung at his thanksgiving Mass.

The Archbishop Emeritus presided the Mass, which was concelebrated with 10 archbishops and bishops and priests from all over Malaysia.

He recalled how God has shown him love throughout his life and priesthood “My father died six months before I was born, and my mother remarried after three years, thus I was left to the loving care of my grandmother and aunt, who were devout Christians, and gave me a good Christian upbringing,” he said.

Despite the outbreak of World War II and the great famine it caused, followed by the rise of communism in China, he persevered and completed his seminary formation in June 1954.

He was sent to Sarawak on 21 August 1954 and ordained priest on 26 September that same year. His was the first ordination in the land of Sarawak. On 15 November 1970 he was ordained Coadjutor Bishop of Kota Kinabalu and was installed as Archbishop of Kuching on 26 November 1976.

Archbishop Emeritus Chung thanked the archbishops, priests, sisters and all lay people for their kind acceptance, cooperation and support “I promise you, I will continue to pray for you and for the local Church. And I beg your continual remembrance of me in your prayer,” he pledged.

The prelate shared the secret of his joy and strength, that is, the Holy Mass and God’s word. He urged the congregation to do the same. “Make good effort to read, reflect and practise God’s word in the Bible, especially the Beatitudes. You will surely find true happiness as Jesus has promised.”

A birthday dinner was organized by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council the evening before at a local restaurant, attended by a thousand guests, including his relatives from China.

A video featuring a typical day in the life of the retired archbishop, which was produced by the Social Communications Committee, was shown.

Since his retirement in June 2003, Archbishop Emeritus Chung has not ceased to serve the laity. He continues to minister to the people through daily celebration of the Eucharist, hearing confessions, giving formation, counseling and other assistance.

Cecilia Chung, the niece of Archbishop Chung, thanked all present for having accompanied and supported the archbishop emeritus throughout his life. She requested that they continue to offer him the same loving companionship and support. – Today’s Catholic



St Mary’s Cathedral honours Mary, Mother of Hope

SANDAKAN – Parishioners of St Mary’s Cathedral prepared for the celebration of the parish 134th  anniversary with a nine-day novena, culminating in the Eucharistic Celebration of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 15 Aug 2018.

Prior to Mass, the 500-crowd gathered in front of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre to pray the Rosary, which concluded with the blessing of Mary’s statue by Bishop Julius Gitom before processing to the Cathedral.

At Mass, Bishop Gitom highlighted three words, “struggle”, “resurrection” and “hope” which were the essence of the day’s liturgical readings.

Referring to Mary, the Mother of Jesus in the first reading, Bishop Julius underlined that she always accompanies us in our struggles, and sustains us in our fight against evil. In praying the Rosary, we invite Mary to pray with us and to journey together with us, remembering that in our struggling together as a community, we become stronger because we, the people of God, have come together as a community of faith.

Referring to the second reading, the prelate reiterated the Church’s truth that “Christ has truly resurrected from the dead”. Mary shared the pain of Jesus’ cross and was given the gift of resurrection.

He concluded, the feast of Assumption expresses a fervent hope that our faith in the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven makes our faith in our own resurrection firmer. Though in heaven, she continues to be with us in the struggles of everyday life and strengthens our hope to live out the parish’s vision of a “Christ-centered community serving one another with love”. – Wendy Yong


Holy Trinity parish introduces pastoral care for the sick

TAWAU – A total of 258 parishioners attended a talk facilitated by Xavier Chung on Pastoral Care for The Sick: How to offer healing and peace of Jesus Christ at Holy Trinity here on 11 Aug in English and on 12 Aug 2018 in BM.

The participants consisted of Sunday School children aged 13 years above, parents and adults from various ministries in the parish.

The speaker, Xavier Chung is from St Francis Major Seminary in Singapore. He majored in Clinical Pastoral Care from the University of New South Wales in Australia and is currently providing pastoral care in hospitals and hospices in Singapore.

Chung reminded the listeners that it is the mission of every Catholic to spread the Good News of Christ’s salvation, and that it is not exclusively to those who are healthy but also it includes those who are sick.

In the church’s catechism No. 1500 “The illness/sickness afflicting a person causes the person to experience helplessness, to feel limited in life and to feel tied down. This in turn can cause anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also lead a person to be more mature in the sense that the afflicted person is able to discern what is more important in life. Often, an experience of glimpsing death provokes a search and return to God.”

Chung singled out the main difference between care-giving by NGOs and care-giving by the church in that care-giving by the church acknowledges the afflicted as a child of God, created in His image and that Christ knows him/her personally.

For Christian care-giving, the need to understand and emphatize with the sick is accentuated. The afflicted will have a myriad of feelings. He may feel anger, despair, hopelessness. While some may be able to smile and joke in the face of their illness, some may be numb and unable to show any feelings about what they are going through.

He explained why the afflicted reacts the way that they do. From his experience, he shared that the sick experiences pain, regrets in life, unfinished businesses, thoughts about death, of unreached expectations and some are overwhelmed by the surrounding happenings.

Chung then shared some tools that care-givers should have.  Using the five stages of grief based on the Kubler-Ross model, he identified the stages the patient goes through in his sickness. The first being denial, followed by anger, then depression which then develops into bargaining and the final stage being acceptance of the condition he is in.

Highlighting on the four basic needs that humans require in life: 1) to have meaning and purpose; 2) the need to give love; 3) the need to receive love; and 4) the need for hope and forgiveness; the speaker said that a person afflicted by serious sickness will experience regret with respect to these four needs.

Chung also introduced the attendees to the Spiritual Screening Tool where the attendees were taught to communicate effectively and personally with the afflicted person.

A series of exercises were done to help the attendees to understand more their role as care-giver. The main aim was to get to know the person more closely so as to facilitate the encounter to be more positive with the goal to have the afflicted know that God is with them in whatever condition they are in.

Feedback from the attendees was positive: the participants have acquired the knowledge and understanding how to provide better care for the sick. They were also now more aware and appreciative of their roles as care-givers. – James Joseph

Celebrating the elderly priests, “a patrimony of wisdom and faith”

MANGGATAL – The Therapy Community of Bukit Harapan, together with its residents and staff, benefactors and friends, celebrated the 77th and 81st birthday of Father Francis Tsen and Father Felix Chung respectively on 20 Sept 2018 at the shelter home for disabled children and abused women here.

From the beginning of his papacy, forging bonds with the elderly has been a special concern for Pope Francis.

He said “The elderly are the future of a people. A people has a future if it goes forward with both elements: with the young, who have the strength, and things move forward because they do the carrying; and with the elderly because they are the ones who give life’s wisdom.” (The Holy Father was speaking to Italian Catholic youth of the Catholic Action movement last December.)

On the happy occasion of their birthdays, after celebrating Mass in the presence of those who were gathered with them, both priests shared with Catholic Sabah the wisdom of their years.

Fr Tsen reflected how alarmingly fast time seems to fly by for him.

He spoke of the need to use time more effectively and the need to curtail the “wasting of time” with more awareness.

For Fr Chung, there was every reason to thank God for blessing him with long life.  He reflected pensively “God has kept me alive and well that I may remain faithful to my priestly ministerial services purely out of His goodness.”

A man of vision, Fr Chung looked towards the coming of the glorious Jubilee year of the Lord’s Resurrection in 2033 – Catholic Sabah 

Building ecological citizens

PURAK, Papar – About 130 people signed up for the Season of Creation celebration held at Pace Bene Retreat Centre on 17 Sept 2018.

The first-ever Archdiocesan level celebration was organized by the newly formed Creation Justice Commission (CJC) in conjunction with the global annual Season of Creation which ran from 01 Sept to  04 Oct 2018.

The participants, who came from various parishes in the archdiocese, as well as the Franciscan Sisters, enjoyed the environmental awareness presentations by speakers from Sabah Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and practical activities by Kivatu Nature Farm, Penampang.

It was a day of gathering knowledge and awareness on the earth’s condition through talks as well as practical knowledge on organic composting. At the same time, it was a day of prayer and action to protect creation.

Daisy Aloysius, Assistant Director of Development from EPD, expounded on Climate Change where she said the phenomenon has caused changes around the world, particularly global warming, and has affected decision-making by policy makers worldwide.

The cause of global warming is carbon dioxide;  Malaysia, for example, has made a significant decision to reduce its greenhouse gas emission by 45 percent by 2030, said Aloysius.

Responding to the commission’s objective to build ecological citizens and green living pathways, Aloysius enlightened the people with a list of ‘green’ steps to care for our common home.

These small steps can go a long way: switch to energy saving light bulb; turn off electrical power when not in use; reduce emission of carbon monoxide by choosing to walk, bike or taking public transport instead of driving personal cars; recycle – glass, paper, fabric, and metal; say a firm no to usage of plastic bag; reduce usage of papers, for example, print on double-sided or not at all; avoid wasting food by buying only what you need; and create green living area.

Professor Dr Justin Sentian from UMS, who is also a member of CJC, said the choice is ours whether to care for this common home or not; which we risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life if we do not. But if we do, then, fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions and ways of living.

The participants enjoyed the practical presentation by Kivatu Nature Farm, which was led by Phillip Lasimbang and his sister, Maria, together with two students from College Guas Koposizon, a college run by the Lasimbangs.

Among other home-made products which they have produced, they showed the attendees how to make home-made turmeric pills and salted eggs for personal consumption, thus reducing spending of money externally.

Kivatu Nature Farm also taught the participants how to produce organic fertilizers through the composting process of ‘bokashi’ mixed with vegetable waste. Some enthusiastic participants received a portion of ‘bokashi’ mix to make their own organic fertilizers at home.

The event concluded with a prayer and a song to honour God Creator. Linda Edward


Divine Mercy retreat helps devotees grow in deeper trust and intimacy with Jesus

BUNDU TUHAN – The recent Sabah Divine Mercy retreat held at the retreat centre here on Sep 8-9 attracted 130 participants.  They were mainly Divine Mercy devotees from the Sacred Heart Cathedral parish while some came from nearby parishes.

The two-day retreat, which was complemented with another half-day talk on Sep 11 at the Sacred Heart Parish Centre, was facilitated by Fr Dariusz Drzewlecki MIC.

Fr Drzewlecki is the Superior of the Asian Vicariate of the Marian Fathers of Immaculate Conception based in Davao, Philippines.  In 2015, he was chosen as a Missionary of Mercy and sent by Pope Francis during the Jubilee Year of Mercy to preach about mercy and to hear confessions.

The retreatants benefited from his ‘ministry of mercy’ which has deepened their understanding on the Divine Mercy devotion as a way of life.

Drawing mainly from the numerous Divine Mercy messages from the Diary of St Faustina, the retreat master delivered his talks which was useful for the devotees to enrich their devotion, and informative for other parishioners who were keen to know more about Divine Mercy devotion.

Sharing from his own experiences, Fr Drzewlecki dwelt on his involvement in the works of mercy for victims of typhoons that struck Mindanao and the Visayan Islands, particularly the construction of low cost houses for the victims.  In the swift response of aid to the victims, Fr Drzewlecki underlined that God’s mercy has been enlightened to the sufferers.

In line with “mercy”, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy were incorporated in his talks. – Henry Liew


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