8 December 2020. Sr Mary John with her Diamond Jubilee Cake. (Photo: Ambrose Kon)

By Ivy Chai

Dec 17 2020

KUCHING — The Carmelite Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Religious Profession of Sister Mary John of the Cross on 8 December 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic had limited the Diamond Jubilee celebration to the attendance of only a small group of family members, relatives and close friends of Sr Mary John.

The Thanksgiving Mass celebrated at the Carmelite Chapel coincided with the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was presided over by Kuching Archbishop Simon Poh, with Archbishop Emeritus John Ha and Fr Larry Tan concelebrating.

Archbishop Simon described Carmelite nuns as religious sisters committing their lives to God to the very end. They live a life of obedience, poverty, chastity; living and dying within the walls of the monastery. He called on the congregation to pray for Sr Mary John and all the Sisters in Carmel, adding “they also pray for us.”

The prelate acknowledged and thanked Sr Mary John’s late parents, Simon and Anna, and her siblings present at the ceremony, for the gift of two (2) religious sisters in the persons of Sr Mary John and Sr Dominica of the Blessed Trinity.

God made me to know Him, to love and serve Him here on earth and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven. – Sr Mary John of the Cross

This is her story 

Sr Mary John grew up as an active and rather mischievous child. When asked who she would like as a life partner, she responded, “Oh, he must be the most handsome and rich prince, able to build a high lasting castle for us to live together for ever.” She was chided for her reply.

Little did she know then that she was describing the “Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ”. At five years of age, her “stupid” choice of a life partner … “the most handsome and rich prince” turned out to be Jesus.

It was a defining moment for her when she realised this on her First Profession on 8 December 1960. Sr Mary John experienced a feeling of happiness and triumph through the knowledge that she was created not for a worldly life, but for a consecrated life.

Her journey of religious consecration …

  • 1 January 1959 – at the tender age of 16 years, she entered the Carmelite Monastery.
  • 2 July 1959 – Received the Carmelite Habit.
  • 8 December 1960 – First Profession.
  • 8 December 1963 – Solemn Profession. Happily served her community as Portress, Baker of Altar bread, Sacristan and Wardrober.
  • 1984 – 1985 – Made Assistant Mistress.
  • 1985 – 1987 – Mistress of Novices.
  • 1993 – 1996 – Elected Prioress.
  • 1996 – 1999 – Mistress of Novices and 1st Councillor.
  • 1999 – 2002 – Elected Prioress.
  • 2002 – 2005 – Re-elected Prioress.
  • 2005 – 2008 – Elected 1st Councillor.
  • 2008 – 2011 – Elected Prioress.
  • 2014 – 2017 – Elected Prioress.

When asked how she felt on renewing her religious profession after 60 years, Sr Mary John looked radiant and with a huge smile responded: “I feel very happy and calm.” – Today’s Catholic