Tuesday, December 25, 2007

History - Sarikei St Anthony's Catholic Church

Borneo, anyone? Bishop Henry Vaughan, the founder of St. Joseph's Society for Foreign Mission, Mill Hill, asked his students in 1878. He had heard from Rajah Charles Brooke that he would welcome Catholic missionaries to Borneo to pacify the locals to accept the Brooke government. On 11 Apr 1881, Father Edmund Dunn, Fr. Aloysius Goossens and Fr. Daniel Kilty became the pioneer batch of Mill Hill missionaries to Sarawak. Their superior, Fr Thomas Jackson joined them in Kuching on 24 Aug 1881.

Fr. Kilty was sent to Labuan (North Borneo), Fr Goosens to Upper Sarawak (Sarawak was the name of Kuching area then) and Fr. Dunn to the Lower Rejang. Charles Brooke wanted them to avoid conflict with the Anglican missionaries at Lower Sarawak and the 2nd Division. (Source: 1)

Father Edmund Dunn.
Born in Dublin, Ireland, 22 Nov 1857.
Source: Men of Sarawak, A. M. Cooper

The Resident of Sibu then, Hugh Brooke Low, advised Dunn to set up mission at Sari, an Iban area near the mouth of the Rejang River because the Ibans there were peaceful. The Iban chief at Sari, Apai Chibi, welcomed Dunn with a bamboo hut next to his longhouse. Charles Brooke wanted Dunn to move up the Rejang River to Kanowit or Kapit where the Ibans were more troublesome to his rule. The Sari Ibans were unhappy to see Dunn leave. Dunn travelled to Sarikei by boat and from Sarikei, it took 7 days to reach Kapit to set up a mission. (Source: 1)

Catholic Missions along the Rejang RiverThe big towns then were Sibu, Kanowit & Kapit.
Source: Men of Sarawak, A. M. Cooper

The Kapit Mission was transfered to Kanowit in Apr 1883 because Charles Brooke wanted Kanowit as the central location to monitor the Iban activities. Kanowit had a government fort and a number of Chinese shophouses then and served 20,000 Ibans from its hinterland. In Mar 1887, Dunn was promoted to the office of Prefect Apostolic to replace the ailing Fr. Jackson.

In 1895, Dunn asked permission to set up a mission amongst the Chinese in Sibu and by 1896, a small mission rest house was opened. (Source: 1). On 4 Jan 1899, Fr. C. Keet went to Sibu to preach. In Dec 1902, a hut was built along Rejang River as a church by Fr. Hopegartner and a free English Primary School (Sacred Heart) was set up. In 1906, Fr. Vincent Halder came to help Fr. Hopegartner. (Source: 2)

Old St Anthony's Church, 1974.Dr. Billings' Birth Control talk.Source: Anthonian 1974.

In 1911, Fr. Halder set up a church at "Salik" 沙立 (the current Sare) near Sarikei. In 1917, Fr. Halder established a church at "Lu Pok Kang" 蘆渤港, Sarikei and "Pu Yuk 普育 Primary School", Sarikei with the help of local educationists. (Source: 2). A reader commented before that a stream ran through the current Repok Road in the old days before Repok Road was paved.

Old St Anthony's Church, 1976.
Teacher Ms Yap's marriage to Mr (surname Ong?)

Source: Lam Lai Chee

Sarikei Methodist Church was established in 1916 and the old wooden church was built in 1921.

Old St Anthony's Church, 2007.The original bell attic has been boarded up.
Wooden windows has been replaced with glass panes.
A rain shelter has been added at the entrance.
Find the intricate ornate trimmings under the roof.

In 1927, Fr. Pui 牌, established a church and school in Binatang. A Chinese missionary, Fr. Chan Ting Huong 詹廷芳 administered the church work in Sarikei and established St. Anthony's School in 1934. (Source: 2)

The old wooden St. Anthony's Church was built in 1940.  In the old days, the old church was not locked during the day but now both the new and old churches are locked when there's no service. Sign of the times...

New St Anthony's Church, 2005.
Old church is at the right.

New St Anthony's Church, 2007.The Jesus & Mary statues were replaced by lambs.

In the early 2000s (actual date, anyone?), a new Catholic church was built next to the old one in Sarikei to accommodate the growing number of followers. Luckily, the old church is still preserved next to it. Unfortunately, the standalone quaint wooden church bell tower outside the old church had been demolished.

Kanowit's 1st Mission House cum St. Francis Xavier Church, 1887.Father Dunn (bearded) was in the middle.Source: Men of Sarawak, A. M. Cooper

Sarikei's Catholic Mission House, 2007

Sarikei's Catholic mission house is opposite the main entrances of the old and new Catholic Churches (along the road leading to St. Clement's Convent). It has been around at least since the 1960s (actual year anyone?). It is where the priests live and where the altar boys meet. Compare that to the Kanowit mission house in 1887, the Catholic mission has come a long way. Mission accomplished.

(1) Men of Sarawak, A.M. Cooper, 1968
(2) Sibu Chinese History Collection 詩巫華族史科集, 1992


Daniel Yiek said...

This History post is for all Christians and non Christians. Merry Xmas!

I put a placeholder for the surname 蟾 of the founder of St Anthony's School. Can someone send the Chinese character without the "worm" side character as I cant find it.

Kanga said...

The photo of the old church altar brings back memories. As a altar boy,I had to remember (not falling asleep) when to switch from the left side to the right...etc
The bell! at 5:00 pm (or was it 6:00pm?)On hearing the bell, all activities (basketball for me) stopped. The 3 consecutive strikes of the bell with short pauses in between,... finished up by the final 11 (or was it 12?) consecutive strikes. Good to see the old church still standing.

Ikan Sembilang said...

Here it is,詹.
Someone should have a photo of the old church before it was renovated. If you find one in your family album, why not send a copy to Daniel? We love to see it!

Daniel Yiek said...

Thanks Ikan Sembilang for the Chinese word.

Check out the 2007 Xmas parade at Sarikei's Jalan Masjid Lama. Pics taken from Ngiu Kee side.


Kong said...

It would be good to write about the Methodist churches as well. They are pretty dominant in central Sarawak. In fact, Methodist is almost synonymous with the Foochow.

Xp-Zheng said...

regarding the church door being locked, hope that you don't get the wrong idea that the church doesn't welcome the people in. actually at the side of the church, there's a small door which is open 24 hours (even at night) for anyone who wish to enter and pray or maybe just rest in the presence of God.

recently, guards have been employed to make sure that they don't use the church compound to do something illegal like stealing and underage smoking.

Anyway, it's a great blog and as a Youth in St. Anthony Church once, i am grateful.

Anonymous said...

Hello, can anyone furnish me with St Anthony's Church Parish contact number? I would appreciate that very much. Please email me at josephine_engyee@yahoo.com

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