(From left) Father Lionel Thomas, Bishop Paul Tan, Father Moses Rayappan and Father Bartholomew K. C. Wong.

JOHOR BAHRU – Three men, Deacon Bartholomew K. C. Wong, Deacon Lionel Thomas and Deacon Moses Rayappan, were ordained to the priesthood on Jul 23 at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

Some 50 priests, seminarians and religious from the archdioceses in Malaysia and Singapore came to witness the ceremony. The congregation, from far and near and numbering more than 1,500 were part of this memorable multilingual celebration.

The ordaining prelate, Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing, SJ proceeded to the altar, together with Arch/bishops Emeriti Soter Fernandez and James Chan, Monsignor Sebastian Francis, Father Anthony Ng and Deacon Sherman Kuek.

In Deacon Wong’s case, age was no barrier. At 69 years, his is a late vocation but as he said “the love of God is not just unconditional but unceasing”.

At an age when most priests are already preparing for retirement, Deacon Wong is now taking the leap of faith into the Presbyterium.

Deacon Thomas’ 14-year immersion in the materialistic culture of the air travel industry could not “turn the promptings of the Holy Spirit into frail whispers”.

“With the Lord of the Greater Harvest, you do not tell Him when, where or how you plan to serve Him. He does it all,” said Deacon Thomas, who was an air steward with the national carrier.

If Deacon Thomas was drawn from aerospace, Deacon Rayappan was pulled, as befitting the biblical patriarch after whom he is named, from the watery deep. He worked for 11 years in the Singapore Port Authority.

During all that time, the early example of his St Joseph’s Sentul parish priest, Father Anthony Thomas, tugged at Rayappan’s heart and memory.

“His exemplary self in caring for his flock where he served and who did not think to be served, planted the seed of vocation in me,” he said.

In his homily, Bishop Tan urged the priests-elect to let the examples of their lives attract the followers of Christ, so that by word and action, they may build up the house, which is God’s Church.

He also called on them to channel their energies to the duty of teaching in the name of Christ and share with all what they have received with joy so the teaching may serve as true nourishment for the people.

“In the same way,” the bishop said, “you must carry out your mission of sanctifying in the power of Christ.”

He pointed out that their ministry will perfect the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful by uniting it to Christ’s sacrifice which is offered sacramentally through their hands.

The bishop concluded his homily by reminding the soon to be ordained priests “to always remember the example of the good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and to seek out and rescue those who were lost”.

After the homily, the ordination ceremony continued with the Examination of the Candidates, the Promise of Obedience, the Laying of Hands and the Kiss of Peace.

In brief remarks made to the congregation, all three ordinands spoke of their gratitude at having reached this point in their vocation journey. Father Wong said, “I thank each and everyone for making this day so memorable for us and continue to pray for us so that we can be good priests.”

Father Rayappan spoke in Tamil and English, expressing his gratitude to one and all who had come from far and near to witness this triple ordination.

Father Thomas surprised the congregation with remarks in Cristang, an archaic Portugese-Eurasian dialect of their community. Before that, he said it was a privilege to be a Catholic priest. “I thank my parents for all their sacrifices.”

After the ordination Mass, joyous relatives, friends and well-wishers joined the newly ordained, priests and Arch/bishops at the fellowship. The atmosphere was permeated by a sense of gratitude felt by all.

Father Thomas will serve at the Sacred Heart Cathedral while Father Rayappan is posted to St. Francis Xavier, Melaka. Father Wong will assist at the Church of Christ the King, Kulai.

By Vincent D’Silva

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