Fr Guido Gockel mhm returned to his first love, the people of the diocese of Miri, Malaysia, after more than thirty years of service elsewhere. Bishop Richard Ng asked him to take charge of the parish of St Dominic and the Rosary in the satellite town of Taman Tunku.
Philip Odhiambo Obaso mhm Philip Odhiambo Obaso mhm (Kenya) serves in the parish of Bintangor. During a recent visit I asked him his view of current pastoral and missionary priorities in this parish and in the diocese of Sibu as a whole.
Onesimus Kihokolho mhm Kanowit is the oldest mission in the Rejang river. The express-boat from Kapit took just two hours to reach Kanowit. Several catechists greeted us enthusiastically upon arrival. After a short drive we shook hands with Oniz Kihokholo mhm (Uganda) at the parish house. Oniz arrived here just over a year ago and is still perfecting his knowledge of the language. He is here as assistant to Fabian Kong, a Chinese priest.
It is not a question I ask lightly: " Are you happy and fulfilled here?" The answer comes at once and without hesitation: "Yes, I am!" Mathews Olili mhm from Kenya is one of a 'new breed' of Mill Hill missionaries working in Sarawak, Malaysia. He was the first African Mill Hill missionary to come to this region when he arrived four years ago. Several others from a variety of African and Asian countries have followed him since then.
I sat with the engineer from Basankusu Cathedral today at our celebration for a new brother taking his vows. The engineer says the cathedral will be finished "this year". Basankusu Cathedral was built by Mill Hill Missionaries in the 1940s, but has since been demolished and is being rebuilt. It was made of brick but is being rebuilt in reinforced concrete. It is the most substantial building in Basankusu - by a long chalk!
I climbed Mt Singai, the spiritual home of the Singai Bidayuh in Borneo. I had climbed it twice before, some years previously, but, this time the 1007 steps were almost too much for me and, at one point, I felt I might have to give up. However, my two seminarian companions urged me to stop and rest awhile and then together we finished the rest of the climb and reached the top. We were not alone in climbing the Singai – there were up to a thousand people altogether climbing with us – for we were climbing to remember and celebrate the 130th anniversary of the first Mill Hill Father to climb the mountain and begin the long process of bringing the Gospel to the Bidayuh, who lived there. As the Society Representative of Mill Hill in Malaysia, I was expected to take part, and so, drenched with sweat and out of breath as I was when I arrived, I was given a great welcome and was pleased to be there with them all at the place where the Gospel was first preached in that region.
For the Catholic diocese of Sibu in Sarawak, Malaysia, pilgrimage is the dominant theme for the celebration of The Jubilee Year of Mercy. The 'Road to Mercy' pilgrimage was launched on 8th December 2015 some hours even before - taking into account the time zone - Pope Francis opened the Holy Door at St Peter's in Rome! Starting at St Teresa's cathedral in Sibu a pilgrimage cross and icon of mercy will travel to the 12 parishes of the diocese and stay a month in each. During that month each parish in turn will become the central focus of the Road of Mercy, and prayer and activities will centre around the theme of mercy.
On New Years Day a refurbished hall and beautiful sculptural renderings of the Annunciation and Pietà were blessed and inaugurated by Fr Michael Sia, the parish priest of St Anthony's, Bintulu in grateful recognition of the work of the Mill Hill missionaries locally in Bintulu and the diocese of Miri in general. Several Mill Hill missionaries from Africa and Europe, including the local superior, Fr Terence Burke, were present at the occasion.