(Left to right) Archbishop Simon Poh joins Archbishops Emeriti Peter Chung and John Ha to cut the Golden Jubilee Cake, 30 Dec 2022. (Photo: Danison Manium)

By Ivy Chai

Jan 12 2022

KUCHING — The Archdiocese of Kuching Pastoral Council (APC) organised a Christmas & Golden Jubilee Dinner at the Grand Riverine Ballroom on 30 December 2022 to celebrate the 50th Episcopal Ordination Anniversary of Archbishop Emeritus Dato Sri Peter Chung, and the 50th Sacerdotal Ordination Anniversary of Archbishop Emeritus Dato John Ha.

Because of the pandemic, the celebration for Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung’s 50 years as a bishop (15 November 2020) had been postponed. Archbishop Emeritus John Ha was ordained a priest on 14 December 1972, and he celebrated his golden priestly ordination anniversary with a Mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral, Kuching, on 14 December 2022.

The ballroom was packed to capacity and the lively programme of song and dance created a festive and celebratory atmosphere that radiated joy and happiness.

Archbishop Simon Poh in welcoming everyone after APC Chairperson Christina Eng’s welcoming address, paid tribute to the two archbishops emeriti and started the ball rolling by inviting the community to join in the chorus as he sang the song written by Australian Roman Catholic priest Frank Andersen, (based on Paul’s letter to the Philippians) “I thank my God”…

I thank my God
Each time I think of you.
And when I pray for you,
I pray with joy.

The cake cutting ceremony to mark the Golden Jubilees of Archbishops Emeriti Peter and John took place on stage and they both received framed mosaic pictures of themselves, made up of minute profile photos of youths, digitally created by the Kuching Archdiocese Youth Commission.

In appreciation of their life-long commitments to the Catholic community, two short video clips highlighting the priestly journeys of the archbishops emeriti were screened at the dinner, as well as a video featuring tributes from the local community.

A marvellous call and a great blessing of God

In addressing the dinner guests, Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung opened with words spoken by the Blessed Mother Mary: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoice in God, my Saviour.”

He said: “My vocation to the priesthood and to the office of Bishop is a marvellous call and a great blessing of God which led me to come from the land thousands of miles away to this land of Borneo to serve God’s beloved people – a land I never heard of, and people I never knew before coming.”

Archbishop Peter arrived in Kuching as a deacon on 21 August 1954 and was ordained a priest by Bishop John Vos on 26 September. He was immediately sent to serve in the various parts of Sarawak and Brunei. He went from Brunei to Sabah in 1970 to succeed Bishop Buis and remained there for five years.

He was appointed to be the Apostolic Vicar of Kuching and later the Archbishop of Kuching in mid-March 1975. He served the Archdiocese until he retired on 22 June 2003.

Archbishop Peter confessed that both his “priestly and episcopal life and ministry” were not easy, hindered by lack of proficiency in the local languages. Nevertheless, he gave “thanks to God’s grace and help, I gave what I had and did what I could to (for) you, God’s beloved people. Indeed, God has blessed and used me. I thank God with all my heart and soul.” 

Archbishop Peter gave sincere thanks to Archbishops Simon and John, the clergy and religious and the community “for welcoming and accepting me to be with you, for your love, your guidance and support, your cooperation and help given to me for my priestly and episcopal life and ministries. For all these, I gratefully offer thanks and praise to God.”

He began his speech with the words of the Blessed Mother Mary, and also closed his speech with her words: “The Almighty has indeed worked marvels for me, Holy his name!”

50 years of priestly life and ministry – all God’s grace

Archbishop Emeritus John Ha expressed his thanks to Archbishop Simon and the APC for organising the celebrations for himself and Archbishop Emeritus Peter, whom he thanked with a wish that he “live to 100 and even beyond.” He shared that all three of the archbishops had “one thing in common”, they all shared the name “Peter”. He disclosed his confirmation name is Peter.

In doing away with the norm of a prepared speech, Archbishop John decided to articulate his sentiments through three songs. He had never walked alone in all his 50 years of priestly life and ministry, and he attributed this to God’s grace (video – You never walk alone).

“You have been praying for me, supporting me and been God’s instruments for me,” he said. “Jesus is our friend whom we can confidently call ‘My forever friend’” and he supported this affirmation with a video clip.

In Archbishop John’s third video that expressed “our faith and hope in Jesus”, he also asked the community to sing-along to the lyrics of the song “In Christ alone”.

He ended with a blessing prayer for everyone and informed that his collection of homilies which he had produced in a book, would be given out as a gift to dinner guests.

Not only will 30 December 2022 be forever etched in our hearts and minds as an Archdiocesan year-end thanksgiving celebration, but more so as a night when the Archbishops of the Archdiocese of Kuching, energised by the feeling of love, affection and support given to them, encouraged the community to sing-along to give praise to the Lord. And the two archbishops emeriti gifted every family, books authored by themselves! –Today’s Catholic