SERIAN – To mark 80 years of the Catholic faith in Serian, St Theresa’s Parish ran events and celebrations throughout 2007, which culminated on 30 December with a thanksgiving Mass at St Theresa’s Church, followed by a dinner at the Dewan Masyarakat Serian.
At the celebration of the Eucharist, which coincided with the Feast of the Holy Family, during the homily, Fr Felix Au reminded the parishioners of the sacrifice of the missionaries and the lay leaders who had given much to bring the Gospel message. However, every Christian, by virtue of his/her baptism, is also to bear witness to Jesus. The Holy Family is a model for all Christian families, including the parish family – they show us the way of faith and obedience, and the example of a communion of love.
At the anniversary dinner, attended by nearly 800 guests, Chairman of the Parish Council, Dennis Sung spoke passionately about the need for young men and women to respond to God’s call to labour in his harvest. In spite of the growth of the Catholic faith in Serian, the fact remains that Serian has the service of four priests to look after a population of over 40,000.
Rector of the Parish, Fr Augustine Jepy stressed the importance of learning from the examples of the early missionaries. He warned against the tendency for second and third generation Catholics in the Parish to take their faith for granted. He urged ministers and leaders of the Parish to undertake bold and innovative pastoral strategies to meet present and future challenges with their focus fixed on Jesus.
Finally, Archbishop John Ha offered thanks to God for his act of divine grace in Serian over the 80 years. While it is human beings who are God’s instruments to sow the seed of faith, it is the Spirit that makes faith grow and sprout forth into a large Christian community. “A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know” (Mk 4:26-27).
In line with the pastoral Focus on the Family, the Archbishop also urged parishioners to pay special attention to the building up of their families. He concluded by congratulating the faithful of St Theresa on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of their Parish and asked God to shower his choicest blessings on all.
The Catholic faith arrived in Serian via the Mill Hill Missionaries. In 1927, Fr Jan Staal was appointed to become the first rector of the Sadong mission which covered the Serian and Simunjan administrative districts. Settling originally in Tebakang in 1928, Fr Staal eventually established the mission headquarters in Serian in 1933. In 1941, Fr Staal was imprisoned by the Japanese Army. He died in the Batu Lintang Detention Camp three years later.
Fr Felix Au