KUCHING – “As the Father has loved me so have I loved you. Remain in my love, says the Lord.” This Gospel acclamation was a fitting exhortation for the Eucharistic celebration in thanksgiving of the silver jubilees of Msgr William Sabang and Fr Joseph Chai on 19 May at St Joseph’s Cathedral. Concelebrated by Archbishop John Ha, Bishop Dominic Su of the Diocese of Sibu, and Bishop Cornelius Sim of the Brunei Vicariate and priests, the Mass was attended by many well-wishers from near and far.
In his homily, Archbishop Ha spoke of the love of God in Christ who was reconciling the world to himself. He added that in the same way, priests, who must themselves be reconciled to God, are called to reconcile human beings to God and be ambassadors for Christ. He congratulated the jubilarians and thanked God for the gift of priesthood and their dedicated service to the faith community.
The joyful occasion was further enhanced by lively singing from members of St Joseph’s Youth Ministry who captured the mood of the celebration with hymns of praise and thanksgiving.
Later that evening, the joint-sacerdotal silver jubilee celebration continued with a dinner at the Christian Ecumenical Worship Centre. This dinner was also held in conjunction with the Gawai Dayak celebration for the Dayak community in Sarawak. Over 900 people were present to witness the “triple celebration”, as Rector of St Joseph’s Cathedral, Fr Nicholas Ng, later dubbed it.
In Fr Nicholas Ng’s opening address, he congratulated Msgr William Sabang and Fr Joseph Chai on their 25 years as priests and the Dayak Community on the celebration of the new harvest. Archbishop Ha linked the idea of the native harvest festival with an opening prayer for vocations as the harvest is great but the labourers few.
“Gratitude and joy” were the two words Msgr William Sabang used to described his sentiments about his 25 years of priesthood. He shared that he was academically one of the weaker students in the Seminary, but he felt that God wanted him to be a priest and so a special programme was designed for him to enable him to continue with his priestly formation. This experience helped him to be more compassionate towards his students during his tenure as a Rector of St Peter’s College.
He also thanked Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung who ordained him 25 years ago and Bishop Dominic Su for taking good care of him as a young priest when he was “on loan” in the Sibu Diocese for five years.
His motto “Lord, here I am, I come to obey your will!”served as a reminder and sustained his priestly ministry. He also appealed to all parents to willingly give their sons to God and not be afraid of losing them. His personal experience with his family after his ordination was that of a closer relationship.
Fr Joseph Chai compared his own feeling after his ordination 25 years ago to that of the three apostles during the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ.
He also said that his motivation to serve in the priesthood was to make people happy and that he has discovered the image of God in the faces of the people around him whom he serves. He encouraged everyone, especially married people, to be selfless, have faith and pray constantly to see the image of God in one another in spite of mutual weaknesses.
The revelry continued with entertainment in the form of songs and dances from various lay groups including the Pertubuhan Penari Kebudayaan, St Mark’s Chinese group, the Ladies Guild of St Joseph’s Parish and Empowered Youth Dance, Music and Drama Ministries.
Stella Chin/VJ Lim