KUCHING: The Archdiocese of Kuching rejoiced as her first Archbishop, Most Rev Peter Chung, celebrated his 90th birthday with a solemn Thanksgiving Mass on the evening of Sep 10, 2018.
More than 2,000 parishioners thronged St Joseph’s Cathedral to thank the Lord for the gift of their shepherd, pastor and friend.
The Mass, which Archbishop Emeritus Chung presided, was concelebrated with 10 archbishops and bishops and priests from all over Malaysia. Also present were his relatives from China.
Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung has done a lot for the local Church in Kuching and Malaysia respectively. What matters most for the Archbishop Emeritus is the Church.
In all that Archbishop Emeritus has done as a priest, bishop and archbishop, and is still doing now as a retired archbishop, he wants to build the community up and make room for everyone in the community to play a role. This is clearly seen in the setting up of St Peter’s College by the Archbishop Emeritus to build up the local clergy and his effort to get the lay people involved in the life of the Church.
Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung was ordained as Coadjutor Bishop of Kota Kinabalu on Nov 15, 1970. He was appointed as Apostolic Vicar of Kota Kinabalu on Aug 1, 1972, and installed as first the Archbishop of Kuching on Nov 26, 1976. He retired in 2003 due to old age.
Archbishop Emeritus in his thanksgiving note pledged his obedience and allegiance to the Church authority. He also affirmed his continuing service to the Church for as long as God allows.
A thankgiving dinner was held on Sept 9 at Thian Court Restaurant, Crown Square Kuching.
A tribute to Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung
I take this opportunity to express our gratitude to you, especially for your ministry to the Catholic Church in both Sabah and Sarawak. You first served as the Vicar Apostolic of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah after your episcopal ordination in 1970. On 31st May 1976, you were then appointed as the first Archbishop of Kuching. Today, Sept 10, it is fitting that the bishops and priests of East Malaysia are here to celebrate your 90th Birthday.
In the 1980s, as altar servers, we remembered chatting with you in the Cathedral sacristy. You were also promoting priestly vocation. I still remembered a session during our YCS Formation Camp in St Lukas’ Centre at Mile 10. I was seated at the back of the Hall and you were inviting us to consider vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Although I did not have any intention at that time, you had sown the seeds of vocation. In a way, the Lord wrote in crooked straight line. Thus in January 1982, when I entered the Preparatory Year in St Peter’s College, Kuching, you were there to welcome me when I rang seminary bell. I thank you for making me feel at home right at the start of my seminary journey. You have also played an important part in my priestly ordination in July 1988 and recently my episcopal consecration in September 2015.
From your sharing, we have come to realise the struggle and hardships you had encountered when you left China and landed in Sarawak. You had to learn English from scratch. In the 1990s, you even studied Bahasa Malaysia in order to minister to the Catholics in the rural villages. You gave your heart and life to fully serve the Archdiocese and the Church in Malaysia until 2003, when you were succeeded by Archbishop John Ha. I saw your great humility of heart as you accord him your full support. You have deeply impressed upon me by your sincere love for the Church and obedience to our Holy Father.
As the Metropolitan Archbishop of Kuching from 1976-2003, the Lord had used your zeal, commitment and dedication to build up Kuching Archdiocese. In 1980, you boldly established St Peter’s College as the Archdiocesan Seminary for formation of local clergy. You were even committed to teach in those early days of the seminary. Today, your vision has borne fruits by providing priests and bishops for the whole of Malaysia. Your commitment towards the empowerment of lay leaders, catechists, formation of Parish Councils and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council has led to a church that has well-formed lay leaders who now work in collaboration with the clergy.
We are indeed indebted to you for setting the foundation of the local Church after taking over from the Mill Hill bishops in 1976. The task then was indeed daunting but you never lost focus. Today we are all here to celebrate with you the numerous works that the Lord has accomplished through you and is continuing to do so. — By Archbishop Simon Poh, Archbishop of Kuching
Important milestones in Archbishop’s life
Arcbbishop Emeritus Peter Chung was born on Sept 10, 1928 in Yunxi, Hubei Province in China.
At the age of 12, he joined the Junior Seminary of the Vicarite in Lauhekou and seven years later, joined the Regional Seminary in Hankow and Macao.
He completed his studies in 1954 and was sent to serve the Chinese Apostolate in Bau, Sarikei and Sibu in Sarawak.
On Sept 26, 1954, he was the first priest to be ordained in Sarawak.
In October 1963, he left for Rome for further studies.
Once he returned, he was appointed Rector of St Joseph’s Seminary, Miri in 1966.
On Nov 15, 1970, he was ordained Bishop Coadjutor of Kota Kinabalu and in August 1972, he was appointed Apostolic Vicar of Kota Kinabalu.
In Feb 1975, he was officially transferred to Kuching and on Mar 14, 1975, he was installed as the Apostolic Vicar of Kuching.
On Nov 26, 1976 he was installed as the first Archbishop of Kuching at St Joseph’s Cathedral.
He was instrumental in setting the foundation of the local Church after taking over from the Mill Hill bishops in 1976.
He issued his first pastoral letter, “Our Task and Responsibility,” in which he set the direction for the faithful in various areas of life
He took the role of the laity in the Church seriously and instructed parish councils to be formed throughout the Archdiocese. The First Parish Council Convention was held on Nov 10, 1979.
He was the driving force for a seminary in the Archdicoese and St Peter’s College was opened on July 21, 1986.
He was even committed to teach in those early days of the Seminary. and today, his vision has borne fruits, providing priests and bishops for the whole of Malaysia.
He saw the importance of dividing the territorially large Archdiocese into two dioceses in order to promote faster growth of the local Church here.
To this end, the Diocese of Sibu was carved out of the Archdiocese on Dec 22, 1986.
He was awarded the title Datuk on July 7, 1987 by the Chief Minister of Sarawak.
He issued his last pastoral letter, “We are the Church — Salt of the Earth and Light of the World” on Oct 19, 2002 and on June 22, 2003 he retired as the Archbishop of Kuching.
His commitment towards the empowerment of lay leaders, catechists, formation of Parish Councils and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council has led to a Church that has well-formed lay leaders who now work in collaboration with the clergy.
Formation of the laity was an essential part of his pastoral endeavours to enable and empower them to serve as leaders.
The local Sisters also drew his attention and resource persons were invited to give formation to them.
A retired Archbishop has plenty to do
“Friends are admiring my age and health, and asking me the secret to live to such an age in good health. I usually answer them frankly: “I have never paid attention to my health and age. My daily diet is simple and my physical exercise consists in short but frequent walks around the house. My daily routine includes much time at my desk and computer (not for searching for useless entertainment), reading good books, receiving people coming to visit me.
“In my years of retirement, I have not taken even a short leave away from Kuching. I have kept a disciplined life in my daily routine for prayer, for work (some people call me workaholic!) for meals, for walks and for a cold shower immediately after I rise in the early morning.
“Nowadays, people seem to like coming to see me for all kinds of reasons. I have always kept my door open, except at night, to receive people, most of whom do not let me know before they come. They come for some spiritual help, for counselling or seeking advice, or to talk about their family problems. I have always shown them my welcome.
“During the last six years, I have given religious instructions to people (mostly of senior age or professionals, like lawyers, doctors), and prepared them for the sacraments of initiation.
“Usually, I spend five to six months for such instruction. Besides all these, I have spontaneously offered my priestly service to help in parish churches every Sunday. I am very happy I can continue to exercise my priestly ministry for the local Church.
“This is basically how I have spent my retirement in the past fifteen years.
“Looking back on my 16 years in the priestly ministry (5 years in Sabah) and 27 years in Kuching in the episcopal ministry, I gratefully acknowledge the great blessings the Lord has showered upon me and upon others through my priestly and episcopal ministries. As I had little time to pay attention to myself in those active years, the Lord is so graciously granting me years of retirement so that I can give him and also myself more time as, I should.
“The words of the Apostle Paul, “The love of Christ urges us” (2 Corinthians 5:14) have much encouraged me to persevere in my long ministries as priest and bishop to serve the Lord and his people in the local Church. These holy words likely have been “the secret” that have kept me in good health and long life.
“I thank God for having given me, up to now, fifteen years of retirement. I must acknowledge this retirement is a privileged time the Lord has granted me to take good care of myself, not so much of my body as of my soul. I am really happy and thank God and also thank the Archbishop for arranging for me to live in the retirement home with good accommodation, good care, good environment and good everything.
“One thing I wish to put down here. I hope I will be remembered by our beloved priests in the Mass and by our beloved people in their prayers after my death. So that through their generous and prayerful remembrance, I will not remain for long time in purgatory.”
Article reproduced from Herald Malaysia online