Parishioners of the churches of St Ignatius (Singapore) and St Francis Xavier (Petaling Jaya) preparing to attend Mass within the ruins of St Paul’s Church in Malacca.

SINGAPORE – Parishioners from two Jesuit-founded churches in Malaysia and Singapore made a joint pilgrimage to Malacca recently to mark their churches’ 50th anniversary

Parishioners of the churches of St Ignatius (Singapore) and St Francis Xavier (Petaling Jaya, Malaysia), visited the Malaysian town on Aug 20-21 for a weekend of celebration, fellowship and prayer.

Their churches were founded by Irish Jesuit missionaries.

Malacca was chosen as the destination because although St Ignatius of Loyola never came to Asia, his good friend and co-founder of his order, St Francis Xavier, visited Malacca five times – from 1545 till his death in 1552.

In fact, when St Francis Xavier died on Dec 3, 1552, his incorrupt body was temporarily buried in Malacca on March 22, 1553 before he was finally laid to rest in Goa, India.

An open grave in St Paul’s Church in Malacca now marks the site of his burial.

In preparation for this pilgrimage, parishioners of St Ignatius Church gathered the weekend before for an afternoon of reflection and contemplation on the life of their patron saint.

In the early hours of Aug 20, about 145 parishioners from St Ignatius left for Malacca, accompanied by parish priest Fr Philip Heng and Fr Colin Tan, Jesuit Regional Superior for Singapore and Malaysia.

Upon arrival, the group celebrated Mass at St Francis Xavier Institution’s chapel (1880).

After lunch, pilgrims from both churches took part in a treasure hunt, Amazing-Race style, through Malacca’s heritage trail.

During dinner, the pilgrims paid tribute to the Jesuits who had served in Malaysia and Singapore for the past 50 years.

The highlight of the pilgrimage was Sunday Mass celebrated within the ruins of the famous St Paul’s Church on top of St Paul’s Hill. Jesuit Bishop Paul Tan of Melaka-Johor diocese, Fr Simon Yong from the Church of St Francis Xavier, Fr Philip Heng, and Fr Colin Tan celebrated the Mass.

By Regina Quek