By Sibu SOCCOM

Feb 28 2024

SIBU — It is with a heavy heart that we bring you this sad news of the passing of Fr Thomas O’Connor, MHM who was called by the Lord at 3.30pm (Malaysian Time) on Feb 26, 2024 at St James’s Hospital, Ireland. Let us pray for the repose of his soul.

Mill Hill priest Rev Father Thomas O’Connor served 52 years in Sarawak, a place he called “the land of eternal summer”.

Fr O’Connor was the eldest among four siblings. He was ordained on Jul 7, 1963. Soon after, he was given a missionary appointment to Kuching Diocese (there was no Sibu or Miri Diocese yet).

He was first posted to Dalat in 1963 and after two years, he was appointed to the parish of Song, which then included Kapit and Belaga.

He spent 33 years in the vast hinterland of Borneo, during which he travelled to the farthest upper reaches of the Rajang River to minister to the Kayans, Kenyahs, Kejamans, Lahanas, Sekapans, Bukitans, Ukits, Punans and Penans in Belaga area.

Below is a short excerpt from an interview before his departure from Sibu in 2015:

He remembered the difficulties of travelling to the far interiors to reach the nomadic Penans; it was so far, he thought it was the end of the earth.

“I told the headman that ‘this is surely the farthest place on earth, the end of the world’, he said ‘No, this is the centre of the world’,” he said.

He also remembered going hunting for wild boar at a very large Kenyah settlement up the Balleh River.

“I was amongst the Amazons of Borneo,” he said.

In 1999, he was transferred to Sacred Heart Cathedral, Sibu, in which he felt like a fish out of water at first.

Message from the niece of the late Fr O’Connor:

"My dear friend, thank you so much for your lovely text, words and Mass celebrated! It was lovely to meet you last July. Your lovely country and people were a big part of what Fr Tom called family and he held you all so close to his heart! His eyes would light up when he was able to speak and think of you all - his heart never left you really! May he now rest in peace and be granted eternal rest! Thank you again for your kindness." - Michelle

Message from Sacred Heart Cathedral’s parishioner, Eta Ting, who attended Fr Thomas O’Connor’s 60th Priestly Ordination Anniversary on Jul 9, 2023:

"I thanked God that Fr O'Connor was so delighted to wait for me after 8.00 pm when I arrived in Dublin to attend his 60th Priestly Ordination Anniversary." - Eta Ting

Today’s Catholic

From the representative of Sacred Heart Cathedral, Eta Ting who attended Fr Thomas Connor 60th Priestly Ordination Anniversary on Jul 9, 2023