Article by Dallius LL
and photos by GBell
and photos by GBell
Sandakan: St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish celebrated its 132nd anniversary on 16th August 2015 with a 3-day program leading to the commemoration of the founding day. Spiritual preparation began on the eve of 13th August with a Taize prayer session led by the Franciscan Sisters, attended by more than 200 parishioners.
The first day, 14th August was a series of blessing rites and ground-breaking ceremonies of several religious structures at the Marian Rosary Corridor (the water feature at the Rosary Monument site, the Marian Spring garden, the Mill Hill dam, the site for the proposed Chapel, the site of the first station of the cross and the opening of St. Mary's Feast day exhibition).
The second day, 15th August was a 12-hour non-stop Rosary Rally at the Cathedral, followed by the open-air Assumption Mass. The Mass was presided over by Bishop Julius, con celebrated by Fr Thomas Makajil, the rector, Fr. Philip Muji and Fr. Sunny Chung, the assistant rectors and assisted by Deacon Stanley William Matakim.
The highlight of the 3-day Parish Feast Day was on Sunday, 16th August. It began with a tri-lingual Eucharistic celebration, presided over by the rector Fr. Thomas Makajil, concelebrated by Fr Sunny Chung and assisted by Deacon Stanley William Matakim.
Soon after mass at 10.00 am, the morning festivities continued with a fun-filled programs starting with the Marian Climbathon of which 10 teams competed in the challenging event. Each team consisted of 6 runners (3 female and 3 male) from 15 years to 40 years. The team that finished the race in the shortest time would be the winner. The team from the Paitan Mission emerged as the overall champion.
The 7-11 years children participated in the Marian colouring contest while those 12 years and above took part in the drawing contest. There was also a corner set up for the adults to display their drawing skill.
In the afternoon, girls aged 10-12, took part in a fashion show themed, 'Mary, Mother of Jesus.'
Parishioners had a wonderful time visiting the exhibition booths set up at the car park, others were viewing the bible panorama documentary displayed by the Parish SOCCOM Team. Many took the opportunity to have their morning coffee and breakfast at the Food Bazaar in the Parish Canteen.
In the evening, more than 700 parishioners came in solidarity for the Parish Feast Day pot-luck dinner fellowship and at the same time to celebrate the 5th sacerdotal anniversary of Fr. Sunny Chung. The guests of honours were the Bishop of Sandakan Diocese, Rt. Rev. Datuk Julius Dusin Gitom and all the past PPC Chairmen of St. Mary's Parish.
In his welcoming address, Pilis Malim the PPC chairman reminded everyone that today, we give thanks to God and commemorate this important day when 132 years ago Vatican decided to commission the Mill Hill congregation to set up their mission in this part of the world, hence the establishment of the St. Mary's Mission in Sandakan. He hoped that the missionary spirit of the founding missionaries will encourage others especially the parishioners of St. Mary in following their steps in the missionary work by bringing the Good News to others. He shared that it is timely for the parish to extend their mission to reach out, and one such practice of missionary work is through the Paitan mission. He called upon the parishioners to come forward to take up the challenge as missionaries in Paitan.
In his address, the Fr Thomas Makajil, the rector shared, “I can only re-echo the word of Mary's “Magnificat,” that is glory to God for the abundant blessing to this parish. I am delighted to see the attendance all of you for the 3-day event, and it is indeed rewarding to see the show of unity in making this feast day a success. Your cooperation and collaboration has made this celebration meaningful.” In the same note, Fr. Thomas congratulated Fr. Sunny for his 5th sacerdotal anniversary and acknowledged his contribution in this parish especially in working and uniting the many youth groupings in St. Mary. He hoped that Fr. Sunny will willingly extend his priestly service in this parish.
Fr Sunny Chung has this to share, “I thank God for the gift of calling. It has been 2 years now that I have served in this parish and the feeling was just like it was yesterday that I’ve come here. Similarly that 5th year in the vineyard of the lord seems that it was just like I am just newly ordained yesterday. As a priest, I do feel lonely sometime but with your encouragement and friendship, it has moved me and with God’s grace I am able to serve you better. In serving you, especially to the youth, perhaps I have disappointed you, I may have hurt you with my words and actions, I seek your forgiveness as my intention is for your own good and because I love you all. I seek your prayers to continue to pray for me and journey with me and to help me to serve you better.”
Apart from the sumptuous foods, the evening was filled with a range of entertainments and performances from the various communities of the parish. Prizes for the winners of the climbathon, fashion show, colouring and drawing contests as well as lucky draw were given out.
The final event of the celebration was the presentation of awards to four dedicated and committed individuals for their contribution to the Church. It is an acknowledgement of the value and importance of the role of the laity. It is also to express gratitude and appreciation to those who unselfishly give of themselves for the building of God's Kingdom.
The four recipients were Jerome Chen for his role in the Chinese Pastoral Community, Matius Sodomon, the Bahasa Malaysia Pastoral Community, Monica Loh, her contribution to the Youth Ministry and Datuk Alex Khoo for his fervent and continuous support to the Church.
Datuk Alex Khoo addressed the attendees, 'Each and everyone who preceded us held a baton, a baton of faith and they passed it on from generation to generation. The batons are now in our hands. Do not drop any of the baton because we have to pass on to those who come after us.'
He expressed his appreciation to Fr Thomas and his team for their untiring effort to reach out to the people in the Paitan missionary area. He called on the people to remember their toils, sweat and blood and for that he urged everyone to continue to support the mission.