Archbishop John Wong blessing the new tabernacle at St Michael’s Church Penampang after celebrating the first Mass after reopening of Church July 11, concelebrated by parish priest Fr Wilfred Atin and assistants, Frs Gilbert Marcus and Jeffrey Gumu

By JJ/Soccom Penampang         

July 16 2020 

PENAMPANG – A magnificently handcrafted Tabernacle made of 100 percent heavy wood was blessed by Archbishop John Wong during the reopening of the first public Mass after MCO at St Michael’s Church, the oldest Church in the Penampang district Jul 11.

A rare privilege for Mass attendees, the blessing ritual of the new Tabernacle was made more poignant as the faithful returned to Mass after being deprived of it for almost four months.

The Tabernacle was built and installed during the period of CMCO when the church was closed to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. It took three weeks of intense work by a Filipino craftsman to complete the design work.

It is located in the sanctuary, at the back of the altar, readily visible to the faithful. The Tabernacle is a secure place in which to store the Eucharist for carrying to the sick who cannot participate in Mass or to serve as a focus for the prayers of those who visit the church. A light burns near the Tabernacle as a sign to the faithful of the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

The 73-year old original brass Tabernacle, which was part of the church interior, was built under the supervision of Msgr August Wachter in 1947. The decision to replace it with a bigger tabernacle was made under the authority of parish priest, Fr Wilfred Atin, who revealed that the antique key of the old Tabernacle had been malfunctioning and is irreplaceable.

“There were times when we had to force open it. That is actually the main reason why we are replacing it,” Fr Atin offered an explanation. It is now consigned to be preserved at the Penampang Gallery at St Michael’s Church.

The replacement of the tabernacle comes on the heels of a series of upgrading and refurbishment works on the colonial-styled church building embarked three years ago, All upgrading works, including the building of the new Tabernacle, came under the supervision of Catechist Ernest Mojikon, who is also the Parish Finance and Property Council chairman.

The Archbishop, referring to the Gospel on the Parable of the Sower, strongly urged the faithful to recommit themselves to be “the rich soil” and to really appreciate, welcome God’s Word and to respond. He touched on the keenly felt absence of the Eucharist in the life of the faithful during MCO, but with the return to the physical Eucharistic Presence, they could depend on His help to respond to His call to live a fruitful life based on His Word.

Meanwhile it has been a day of rejoicing for church goers in Penampang during their first reopened Mass, albeit having to observe strict standard operating procedures (SOP), namely social distancing, mandatory face mask, temperature check and recording, and contact tracking. Parishioners were generally cooperative and adhering well to the new norms.

Penampang zone community chairman Agil Bajarai, who was monitoring the whole process, explained that the one third capacity allowable is limited to about 400 people, while those over 70 and below 12 are prohibited from attending. Pre-registering prior to Mass is required at the church mission office and can be carried out through their kampung Catholic community chairpersons. 

The Mass schedules throughout the RMCO are fixed on Saturdays 6.00 pm (English), 8.30 pm (Korean), and on Sundays 7.30 am (Kadazan), 10.30 am (BM), 2.00 pm (Kadazan) and 5.00 pm (English).

The Church also provides live streaming for Korean Saturday Mass (8.30 pm) and Kadazan Sunday Mass (7.30 am) with ‘drive through Communion’ at 11.40 am-12.30 pm on Sundays provided strictly they had participated in the live streaming Masses. The unique service is aimed at offering Communion, especially to those above 70 and children below 12 but receiving Holy Communion.