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Stella Maris honours former shepherd

stella maris

TANJUNG ARU – Parishioners of Stella Maris here honoured their former shepherd by coming in a large group for his golden jubilee celebrated in Ranau on 9 Jan 2016.

“What do you see?”  Archbishop John Wong posed this question to the congregation during Fr Francis Tsen’s 50th anniversary Mass at St Peter Claver Ranau.

This writer described the jubilarian: “There stood a frail elderly man . . . his hair all white . . . his face wrinkled.  That was what we saw.  But when we see deeper we see a man of wisdom, a man who has gone through vast experiences in life, a man who carries his cross faithfully despite trials and temptations, a man who takes challenges as God’s given gifts, a man who grows with time and spends it wisely and patiently teaching God’s word wherever he is posted, a man who is obedient and serves widely in Malaysia, especially in Sabah.  Each parish Fr Tsen serves, he serves with passion.”

She added: “When I look at Fr Tsen, I look at a man who is fatherly . . . a soft-spoken father who listens, is calm and cool, and most all, when he gives advice . . . it’s a fatherly advice.”

For Neil Mah, Fr Tsen is a very caring person who attends to the needy and knows the importance of prayer and how to cultivate prayer among the people.

Stella Maris, says this writer, was blessed to have the opportunity to be shepherded by Fr Tsen.  While he was in Stella Maris, he initiated the daily evening Mass, he built the chapel, and inaugurated the 24-hour perpetual adoration.

“We are so grateful for this holy initiative of Fr Tsen,” concluded this writer. – Teresa Alberto

Ranau parish celebrates Fr Tsen’s 50 years of priestly ministry

The jubilation poses with Abp Wong and ten other concelebrants after the Mass.

The jubilarian poses with Abp Wong, Deacon Liew and ten other concelebrants after the Mass.

RANAU – St Peter Claver here celebrated Fr Francis Tsen’s 50 years of priestly ministry on 9 Jan 2016. In the celebration there was a mixture of native and Chinese traditions. As the jubilarian and his concelebrants processed toward the church for the thanksgiving Mass they were met by a group of Ranau Dusun dancers (from Fr Abel Madisang’s village) and two prancing lions in front of the church entrance. Archbishop John Wong presided over the Liturgy of the Word and the Dismissal Rite. The jubilarian took over from the homily onwards.  Ten other priests concelebrated at the Mass including Fr Danny Matthews of Port Dickson, Fr Charles Chiew and Fr Joseph Gapitang from Keningau Diocese.  Deacon Joshua Liew assisted at the altar.

After Mass, all present – from the three arch/dioceses and Port Dickson – adjourned to the school field of St Benedict for the reception. However, the jubilarian was carried on a golden sedan, symbolising perhaps his venerable age of 74 (lunar age of 75) and reaching the golden milestone of his priestly ministry, to the reception preceded again by the Ranau Dusun dancers and the two prancing lions.

In his message  Abp Wong said: “When I look at him, the word that comes into my mind is ‘fidelity.’ For one to be able to stay faithful for 50 years in one’s vocation is indeed a sign of fidelity, a commitment that is tested over a span of time. Half a century is considered a long period within a normal life span of 70 or 75 years …. To be able to stay faithful to God as a priest over this long period is indeed an endurance that comes from the grace of God.”

In his turn, the jubilarian recalled how his vocation came through Fr Willibrord Smit while he was under his care as a young boy in Labuan. He said that since then he had never looked back.

Parish priest Fr Nicholas Stephen thanked the jubilarian for sharing his wisdom and experience over the many meals they have shared since the latter was assigned in Ranau in 2010.

The jubilarian is the youngest in a brood of six boys and two girls born to Tsen Sau Siong and Yap Siu Chin in Tuaran. His father, a clerk at Tuaran Rubber Estate Sg Damit was killed at Petagas in reprisal by the Japanese after the 1944 Double Ten Rebellion. His mother died shortly after. Thereafter, life was spent as a mission school boarder, first at Sacred Heart Primary School Jesselton, then at St Anthony Boys School Labuan, and later at the Minor Seminary Jesselton. In 1957 he entered the Minor Seminary in Singapore for three years, and then continued his theological studies at Penang College General for six years.

The jubilarian was ordained on 9 January 1966 at Sacred Heart Church Jesselton. After his ordination he served in Keningau 1966, Tenom 1967-1968, took up licentiate studies in biblical theology in Rome 1969-1973, lectured in Penang College General 1974-1979, served again in Tenom 1980-1988, Beaufort 1980, Tanjung Aru 1989, Tawau 1990-1997, Tanjung Aru 1999, Sandakan 2000-2004, took up a course in New Mexico USA Oct-Dec 2005, served in Port Dickson 2005-2009, and in Ranau since 2010.

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