Singapore & Malaysia

Singapore

In 1935, Bishop Adrien Devals of Singapore asked for a permanent  Redemptorist foundation. He provided a house in Thomson Road and towards the end of 1935, Frs John Brennan, James Green, John Moran and Thomas
Borthistle, together with Brothers Denis and Felix, took up residence.

Singapore provided a base to extensive mission fields. The missioners in the first few years travelled as far afield as Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan, as well as through Burma, Malaya and Borneo. Everywhere they found English speaking communities to keep them occupied, preaching missions and giving retreats.

In order to extend the scope of their work, Frs Moran and Borthistle set themselves to learn Tamil, while Fr Green applied himself to the Mandarin. World War II cut across the accepted mission activity as it had in the Philippines.

During the anxious weeks of the Japanese advance down the Malay Peninsula, three of the priests from the Singapore community were away from home. Fr Green, who was in India, was instructed to go on to the Irish Fathers who had a house in Bangalore. Fr Carroll was in northern Burma and seemed to be trapped, but eventually he joined a large group of refugees escaping on foot from the Japanese. They crossed the mountains between Burma and Bengal.

Fr Cosgrave, the new superior of the Singapore community, was also in Burma and felt his duty was to return to Singapore. He eventually secured passage on a small trading boat, and on his arrival, found Singapore preparing for the final siege. He was interned in the Changi prisoner of war camp with Fr Moran and Br Cosmas. Fr John Kennedy worked
as a prisoner for years on the Burma railroad. He and other Redemptorists captured by the Japanese continued their mission among the prisoners, giving them hope and encouragement and receiving the same from the prisoners in return. Br Denis claimed the privileges of his Irish nationality and remained free throughout the occupation.

The three internees were released after the Japanese surrender, only to find themselves without a home. Reunited with Br Denis, they stayed with the bishop. The community house on Thomson Road had been extensively damaged. After a few weeks, a large vacant house was found a short distance away and they established themselves in a new house of St
Alphonsus, Thomson Road.

After the war there was much expansion in Singapore. In 1960, a new house was opened at Ipoh in Malaysia. A steady stream of local Singapore vocations ensued. It became necessary to make provision for the newcomers. A second house was founded in Singapore to accommodate young men wishing to prepare themselves for their novitiate, and a further
community of seminarians was established in Penang, Malaysia, where the students attended the major seminary.

Similar to the Philippines, the Perpetual Novena has been prominent in Singapore. The weekly devotions are built around a number of sessions to cater for the crowds who attend each Saturday. In Singapore, the address of the Thomson Road (Novena Church) is well known to all, so much so, that the local underground metro station is named Novena.

For many years, too, regular classes of religious instruction have been necessary for those drawn to the Catholic faith, particularly through the Novena.

Malaysia

Fr P. M. Lynch planted the mustard seed in what was then Malaya. From Malate in the Philippines, he launched a personal apostolate that ranged from Canton to Borneo. In 1921, he preached missions and retreats in the peninsula of Malaya ending in Singapore. Further campaigns were preached from Malate in 1926 and from Baclaran in 1934. It was this contact that led to the foundation in Singapore in 1935.

Singapore was the base for a wide ranging apostolate in Malaysia and Burma.

Frs Jim Wallace and Tom Creede gave a two week mission in the parish of Ipoh, 1959. Fr George Lee, who was parish priest at St Michael’s, Ipoh, showed the two Redemptorists a house for sale on Tambun Road. After much dialogue and consultation, permission was given on June 28, 1959 for purchase of the property.

It was April 9, 1960, when a two-car caravan carrying Frs Dobson, McGrath and Whiting, set out from Singapore bound for the new house in Ipoh. The first Mass was celebrated on April 22 and the first Novena on May 14.

The local work and the wider mission work unfolded through 1961 and 1962. It was constant missionary labour. Typically, the Novena flourished, drawing many Catholics and non-Christians. Much work was devoted to instructions in the faith for coverts from other faiths. To mark the one-hundredth day of the Novena, the bishop preached the devotions on April 28, 1962.

The region was elevated to the level of Vice-Province on May 30, 1967. Fr Jim Wallace, whilst remaining the local superior in Ipoh, was also named the first Vice-Provincial.

The Redemptorists were approached about moving from Tambun Road to establish a parish in the developing area of Ipoh Garden. Before things were finalised, there were long and sometimes agonising negotiations, working towards a contract with the diocese. It all worked out in the end.

The first public Mass in the new church at Ipoh Garden was celebrated on April 9, 1972, and on April 15, Archbishop Gregory Yong opened and blessed the shrine. The parish staff consisted of Fr Wallace (Parish Priest), with Fr Campos (responsible for Chinese work) and Fr John Martin (responsible for English and Tamil work). Later, Fr Brian Doro covered the Chinese work.

The adjoining community centre was opened in April 1978 and great work was done in building up the parish.

In 1986, the parish of Dalat in Sarawak, East Malaysia was accepted. The parish serves non-Malay tribes, many of whom are recent converts. There is a central church and ten outstations, most of which are accessible only by water. In recent times, it has become an international community with confreres from the Philippines and Indonesia assisting local Redemptorist Fr Pat Massang.

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