PENANG: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr Hilmi Yahaya attended the 150th anniversary dinner of the Church of Holy Name of Jesus at the Sacred Heart School in Balik Pulau here on Friday.
He also pledged RM30,000 towards the tarring of the church grounds, which were damaged when the churchs sacristy caught fire on Christmas Day and damaged all the sacred vestments, Bibles and prayer paraphernalia.
(A sacristy is a room in a church where sacred vessels and vestments are kept or where meetings are held.)
Dr Hilmi said Malaysians had amazed the world with their ability to co-exist in harmony.
We have astounded the world with our racial and religious tolerance and ability to co-exist as Malaysians despite coming from various religious backgrounds, he said.
The dinner saw performances by pupils from the Sacred Heart primary and secondary schools and English catechism class.
Also present were Archbishop of peninsular Malaysia Rev Murphy Pakiam, Bishop of Penang Rev Antony Selvanayagam, Church of Holy Name of Jesus parish priest Rev Fr Peter Shyu and parish pastoral council chairman Anthony Chin.
The Parish of the Holy Name of Jesus is by far one of the most beautiful churches in the diocese of Balik Pulau.
What would probably be its drawing factor is the nine stained glass windows imported from Bruges, Belgium. The stained glasses were based on designs submitted by its first parish priest, Rev Fr Ducotey.
The church, established in 1854 as a dependency of the Pulau Tikus parish, was only an attap house when Rev Ducotey opened it on Jan 4, 1854 and celebrated the first Eucharist (a Christian sacrament commemorating the Last Supper by consecrating bread and wine).
In 1884, another parish priest, Rev Fr Page, extended the church when it became too small for the fast-growing Catholic population in Balik Pulau.
He added the sanctuary and two wings to the former building using granite from nearby hills as material.
Then, he adorned the structure with an imposing granite altar and the nine stained glass windows.
Rev Page was the contractor, bricklayer and carpenter then, but the Catholic community there played a major role in the extension too, as they chipped in money and labour.
Huge blocks of granite from nearby hills were practically carried by the parish members and were cut into slabs to build the sanctuary and altar.
In 1917, Rev Fr Auriol became the parish priest. He carried on the work of his predecessors by placing a bell tower, which was the pride of Balik Pulau as the striking clock resounded the happy and sad times of the remote town.
Rev Auriol also put in the bell tower a tenor bell, which was cast in France at the famous bell foundry La Savoyarde, bearing the inscription Church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Chinese characters.
Subsequently, many other parish priests played their role in extending the church and building schools and doctrine houses.
Rev Fr Auguin, who took over the parish in 1924, built the present St Georges School and Convent School in 1925 and 1930 respectively.
The convent drew the pioneer Sisters of the Infant Jesus, Sr Genevieve, Sr Rose and Sr Francoise, who began a mission to teach poor children in Balik Pulau.
In 1940, during the Japanese occupation, the church was taken over by the Japanese and was used as Nippon Schools.
Throughout the 150 years, the church had gone through 28 parish priests and extensive renovations.
The present parish priest, Rev Shyu, who assumed the role in 1999, then formed various committees and groups to plan the latest renovation, when the ceiling was replaced and reinforced with additional steel pillars to prepare the church for its 150th anniversary celebration.
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