TANJUNG BUNGAH, Penang – Hundreds of alumni, friends and faithful gathered at College General on 2 October to mark the 200th anniversary of the College in Penang. Among the alumni present were Archbishops, Bishops, priests, religious and seminarians from the region as well as former priests, former seminarians and their families.
The Apostolic Delegate to Malaysia, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, and YB Chow Kon Yeow who represented the Chief Minister of Penang, were also present.
The bicentennial celebration themed ‘Celebrating Faithfulness and Thanksgiving’ started with the Eucharist presided by the President of College General, Bishop Antony Selvanayagam of Penang Diocese. He was joined by 11 Archbishops, Bishops and well over 100 priests.
The preacher was Archbishop John Ha. He started by tracing the history of the College.
The College was established by the Paris Foreign Missions (MEP Fathers) in 1665 in Ayuthia, Siam (Modern-day Thailand) to serve the Churches in East Asia. Due to political instability and persecution, it was moved to Vietnam and to India in 1770.
The College moved again to Penang in 1808 and took in students from Thailand, Burma, Malaya, Singapore, Borneo, Indo-China, China and some other countries in Asia.
The Archbishop said the College was also known as the College of Martyrs because it produced many martyrs from among its alumni and professors; over 40 of whom have been beatified and canonised. These included martyrs from Korea, Vietnam, Siam and Cambodia.
“It is a great privilege to be formed for the priesthood in a College sanctified by the blood of her martyrs and with them as models,” he said. “Clearly, the College had inculcated in her students a profound faith in Christ and total commitment to him.”
Archbishop Ha said the theme of the celebration – Celebrating Faithfulness and Thanksgiving – “captures what the College is about and how all of us feel about her.” He explained, “Fidelity is the underpinning virtue that keeps the College going till now and that fidelity is also the virtue that she passes on to all her students.”
“We thank God for the College and we thank the College for the formation we have been privileged to receive from her,” he added.
He spoke of the “lasting fruit borne by the College through her sacrifice.” The Archbishop was referring to the seminaries in Thailand, Kuching and Singapore which can be considered the offspring of College General in that many of those responsible for running them were her former students.
“Through these alumni, the spirit of the College inspired and continues to inspire the formation given in these seminaries, so that one could correctly call these latter ‘daughters’ of the College,” he added.
The Archbishop concluded his homily by praying, “In today’s unclear and uncertain times, may the College continue to follow the Lord’s guidance and form holy, faithful and zealous priests for the third millennium.”
After the final blessing, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio was invited to present gifts of appreciation to some individuals. He also read out a message from the Holy Father for the occasion.
The Rector of College General, Fr Edwin Paul, thanked all those who had contributed to the growth of the College, both past and present. He also thanked the many people who have worked hard to prepare for the celebration.
Bishop Antony Selvanayagam also shared a few stories about his memories of the College before the concluding hymn was sung and the guests adjourned for lunch fellowship.
In the evening, there was an informal dinner fellowship in which the alumni and their families had a lot of fun recalling fond memories of their days in College General.
Fr Richard Ng