Bishop Julius blessed the remain of Fr Marcellinus at the burial ground

By Evelyn Jock

Jan 2 2024

SANDAKAN – Beloved Fr Marcellinus Pongking has passed away after a long illness, at age 64. He was called to eternal rest with the Lord at 3:00 am on 8 Dec 2023 at the local hospital in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

A prayer vigil and Mass were held from Dec 8-9 at St Dominic’s Church in Lahad Datu for the parishioners to pay homage to him. His remain was later brought to St Mary’s Cathedral, Sandakan where the wake was held. The bell toll was slowly sounded several times to mark the passing of Fr Marcellinus at the Requiem Mass on Dec 11. In view that he had served for many years in the Sandakan Diocese, he was lay to rest at the Catholic cemetery at Sibuga, Sandakan.

Sandakan Diocese bid final farewell to the priest who has fulfilled his ministry in quiet fidelity and love. The requiem Mass saw over 600 people from various communities in St Mary’s Cathedral Parish, religious sisters and parishioners from Lahad Datu, Kunak, Tawau, Tuaran, Papar, Kudat, Kota Marudu, Beluran and Telupid came in solidarity to pray for the repose of the soul of Fr Marcellinus and also extended their comfort and support to the late’s family.

Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom celebrated the requiem Mass and concelebrated by priests from various parishes within the Diocese. Also present was Monsignor Nicholas Stephen representing the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu.

Parishioners who came to the Requiem Mass on Dec 11, 2023

Bishop Julius’ homily was endearing and heartfelt. He expressed that it was a very sad day for all especially for the family of the late Fr Marcellinus who had been attending to him in his long illness. The prelate thanked the community of Kunak and Lahad Datu for the love and undivided attention that they had shown him.

Bishop Julius shared that the late priest was a person who was filial to his priesthood ministry and passionate about manifesting God’s love first above his health. Even when his health was failing, the deceased continued to serve outstation to administer the sacraments to the parishioners. The prelate had advised him not to go outstation anymore but to look after his health, but Fr Marcellinus was adamant and continued administering his priestly duties, “Saya masih boleh bah, Uskup,” he said.

The prelate deduced that amongst the many sacrifices of the deceased as a priest was his zeal to continue to serve even in his prolonged illness. Sixteen years ago, when the Diocese of Sandakan was first established, the late priest was among the many priests who had volunteered to serve here. His passing was greatly felt by Bishop Julius and his fellow clergies. In the words of Bishop Julius, he was a virtuous priest who could never be replaced, one who was committed, dedicated, and good.

Fr Marcellinus hails from Kg Raganan, Kiulu in the Tamparuli District about 48 km from Kota Kinabalu. He was born on 13 Jul 1959, ordained as a deacon on 1 May 1994 and later installed as a priest on 17 Feb 1997. He has served in various parishes in the Sandakan Diocese, and the longest in St Dominic’s Church, Lahad Datu. The priest came from a family of 11 and was the eldest among nine siblings. He had never expected to be a priest as he had always wished to be a teacher. As a young man, he loved hunting, fishing, and playing football. He started his seminarian year in 1988. The dearly departed is survived by his mother of 86 years and eight siblings, nephews and nieces.

Family of the late Fr Marcellinus

One of Fr Marcellinus’ sisters related that, as the eldest, he took great care of his parents and siblings. A fellow priest described him as friendly, down to earth, and always close to the parishioners. He was also very committed and passionate about his priestly ministry.

Even though we mourned the loss of Fr Marcellinus, as Catholics living out our faith, we believe that there is life after death, a life that will never end. In our sadness we believe that the departed died to be born again to everlasting life for this is the mystery of life and death. Life is not ended but changed. We shall rejoice knowing that the beloved priest’s life will changed for the better so that he could live in eternal rest with God.

Fr Marcel experienced a lot of pain and suffering in his later stage of life but we know that through this suffering we come to realise the meaning of carrying the cross of Christ. Just as God had not left Jesus, so too we know that He will not leave us and neither will He leave Fr Marcellinus alone. God will send His angels to accompany the dearly departed towards his everlasting life. The life of Fr Marcellinus is not wasted for we know that God had prepared him for his life that has changed.