By Joyce Gan
SINGAPORE - Father Matthias Tung, who celebrated his 80th birthday and 50th year of priesthood in February 2006, died on Nov 5.
He was bedridden in the Intensive Care Unit of Mt Alvernia Hospital, sometimes conscious, other times not, in the two months preceding his death.
In his early years, Father Tung made many contributions to Singapore education. Among them was the purchase of a school building for the primary classes of Holy Innocents' High School in the early 1970s. It was the first purchase of a school building by the church from the government. For these contributions, he received a Public Service Award, the only Catholic priest to have ever been so honoured by the state.
Among his other best-remembered accomplishments were the home missions he organized in 1973, 1975, 1979 and 1996 during which priests visited homes and celebrated Mass with families. The response was overwhelmingly favourable and many "lost sheep" returned to the Lord' fold.
Only God knows just how deeply he has touched the lives of those around him, said Father Paul Tong in his homily at the funeral Mass.
One can glean a little of Father Tung's influence on people and the affection of those touched by him from those who filled up the Church of St. Joseph (Bukit Timah), where he was assistant priest, on the day of his funeral. They came from the parishes of St. Joseph, Sacred Heart, Sts. Peter and Paul, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary - parishes where Father Tung served.
Some of Father Tung's ashes will be brought back to China, while the rest will be interred at the columbarium at St. Anne's Church.