DARK clouds and rain did not dampen the euphoric feeling at the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM) in Bayan Lepas, Penang, where over a thousand devotees gathered to witness the historic moment of the church being declared a parish.
All of the 918 seats available were taken up as many others stood outside to celebrate the significant event.
Rev Father Martin Andrews Arlando, 40, was ordained as the church’s first priest.
“This is a rare treat for parishioners to witness the establishment of CDM as a parish.
“Perhaps, none of us have witnessed a church being declared a parish in our lifetime,” said Father Martin after the ceremony on Sunday.
Among those in the congregation were Father Martin’s parents Arlando Arokiam, 74, and Vanakka Mary, 63, as well as his siblings, Stella Roseline and Celestine.
Raised in Seberang Prai, he grew up serving in the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Butterworth and was a deacon of St Anne’s Church in Bukit Mertajam.
Earlier, Bishop of the Penang Roman Catholic Diocese Bishop Sebastian Francis and Father Martin signed a document on the latter’s appointment as the parish priest.
Bishop Sebastian then handed over a mock key to Father Martin as a symbolic gesture to mark his appointment.
The church, located in Jalan Kenari, Sungai Ara, was built in 2010 at a cost of RM6,826,000 and came under the care of Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Tingkat Besi, Island Park, while awaiting papal appointment of a parish priest.
With the opening of CDM, there are now 14 Catholic churches in the state — nine on the island and five on the mainland. The Church of the Assumption in Farquhar Street, built in 1786, is the first Catholic church in Penang.
CDM also has a four-storey annexe building comprising 15 classrooms, administrative offices, the priest’s residence and a meeting room.
Bishop Emeritus Antony Selvanayagam, parish priest of Cathedral of the Holy Spirit Monsignor Bernard Paul and parish priest of St Anthony’s Church in Nibong Tebal Father Francis Anthony were also present at the celebration.