Franciscan Sisters paying their last respects to Carmelite Sr Conception before the funeral Mass, Carmelite Chapel, 13 June 2022. (Photo: John Lai)

By Ivy Chai

June 21 2022

At 2.30pm on June 11 2022, Catherine Yeo Choo Lian consecrated name Sister Conception of the Holy Family, returned to the Lord in the “home” of the Lord she had lived in for over 64 years, the Carmelite Monastery.

Sr Conception had been suffering from ill health for many years, confined to her wheelchair and her bed in the Carmelite Infirmary. Her Parkinson disease had caused her a lot of bodily pain, to the extent that she could be seen groaning from the excruciating pain and in her last days, she had difficulty swallowing her food.

Requiem Mass in the Carmelite Chapel

The funeral Mass was held on June 13 in the Carmelite Chapel, celebrated by Kuching Archbishop Simon Poh and concelebrated by Archbishop Emeritus John Ha, Fr Larry Tan SJ, and Fr Adrian Kho. It was also live streamed on the YouTube channel of the Archdiocese of Kuching.

In offering his condolences to Mother Prioress Margaret and the sisters of Carmel, family members and friends of Sr Conception, Archbishop Simon Poh said she “had lived the longest within the walls of the Carmelite Monastery.” She had lived there since she entered the monastery as a young girl of 17 years on January 12 1958, fresh from completing her MCE exams.

The Carmelite Chapel had been “the love and foundation of her spiritual life.” The Carmelite vocation was Sr Conception’s first and only love, and she had remained faithful to the Lord, “living behind the cloistered walls of this Monastery, receiving Holy Communion right to the very last days of her life,” the Archbishop disclosed.

The Lord had fulfilled Sr Conception’s only desire…that when the time comes, she would not die in hospital but in the Carmelite Monastery.

In his homily, Archbishop Simon said: “This verse is echoed in Psalm 27:4 ‘There is one thing I ask of the Lord, for this I long to live in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life.’ Today, St Paul assures us with the 2nd Letter to the Corinthians 5:1 ‘We know that when the tent we live in on earth is folded up, there is a house built by God for us, an everlasting home…in the heavens.’ Sr Conception lived by faith and surrendered herself totally into the hands of her Lord.”

Archbishop Simon said he would fulfill her wish “by burying her body in the cemetery in this very Carmelite Monastery, the only home that she had known, loved and lived.” He said by commending her body to the earth, “may the Lord open the gates to paradise to welcome his faithful Sister.”

Childhood & Vocation

Born in Kuala Belait, Brunei on January 13 1941 to Clementine Chua and Francis Yeo, Catherine was the “darling” of the family, being the first girl born after the birth of three older brothers. Another boy and two more girls were added to the Yeo siblings after her birth.

She was later transferred to St Teresa’s Secondary School in Kuching, which was then run by the Franciscan Sisters. Even as a young girl, Catherine and a couple of her friends had been inspired to join the religious order as Franciscan sisters or Carmelite nuns. She became a Carmelite nun, together with her friend Sr Mary John of the Cross (Apolina Chai). Their other friend became Sr Ignatius, a Franciscan Sister.

Profile

Religious Name : Sr Conception of the Holy Family, OCD
Secular Name : Catherine Yeo Choo Lian
Place of Birth : Kuala Belait, Brunei
Date of Birth : January 12 1941
Date of Baptism : January 30 1941 (St Mary’s Church, Seria, Brunei)
Date of Entrance : January 12 1958
Simple Profession : October 11 1959
Solemn Profession : October 11 1962
Date of Death : June 11 2022
Father : Francis Yeo
Mother : Clementine Chua
Siblings : Freddy Yeo/William Yeo/Simon Yeo/Rosie Yeo/Andrew Yeo and Anne Yeo
Office Held : Sub-prioress 1984/1987/1993/2002
:Prioress 1990/1996/2005/2011
:Formator in novitiate

Final Goodbye

Sr Conception of the Holy Family, aged 81, was buried in the Carmelite Monastery cemetery with only priests, altar servers, Carmelite sisters and Franciscan sisters allowed to accompany her to her final earthly resting place within the walls of the “home” she had lived in for over 60 years. May her soul rest in eternal peace.

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