History Of SHC

1899 The Sibu Mission started way back in 1899 when Fr. Cornelius Keet first arrived. A small hut was built for the priest to stay on his travels to Bintangor and Sari (Sarikei). Although it was only a short stay, he managed to convert a few hundred persons to the Catholic faith before he was recalled to Kuching.

1902 Fr. Keet returned to Sibu and was assisted by Fr. Aloysius Hopfgartner. This was the first push in the Rejang District towards work among the Chinese. Education was of primary concern. Fr. Hopfgartner founded the Sacred Heart School and became its principal until he was transferred to Sandakan in 1908.

1906 Fr. Vincent Halder arrived in Sibu on 30 April 1906. He learned Foochow and worked along the Rejang among the Foochow Chinese and among the Ibans. He built the old Sacred Heart Church on stilts which served the Sibu catholic community until 1954. Fr. Halder is described as a most lovable character. He was extremely well-liked by his boys and by all the people in Sibu. A new convent school was opened in 1929 and 13 chuches were built in the lower Rejang area as the Mission was called. Fr. Halder left for Europe on 1st March 1931 and on his return, he fell ill and died in Singapore on 16 August 1936 at the age of 57. The catholics from Sibu had his body brought back and he was buried in the mission compound. When his body was exhumed 28 years later to make way for development, it was found to be incorrupt, so he was given a second funeral around Sibu town.

1931 Fr. William van Odijk took over from Fr. Halder and the mission continued to flourish, looking also after the Lower Rejang area. Since 1910 Sibu is mentioned as a separate mission. Fr. Odijk died in 1936. He was only 54 years old. Life must have been hard and tough.

1937 Fr John Vos arrived and was mainly involved in school work. His stay in Sibu was short before moving to Kuching. He was succeeded by Fr James Buis in 1938. As the Sacred Heart School grew, priests like Fr. Thomas Delaney (1933-1937), Fr. William Wagenaar (1935-1938), Fr. Gerard Bruggeman (1937-1940), Fr. Francis Hulsbosch (1938-1939), Fr. John Dekker (1940-1942) were assigned to take up teaching posts. Besides school work they were also engaged in pastoral work.

1942 In May 1942, the European priests were interned by the Japanese. Fr. Joseph Chin who was the only local priest in the whole of the Rejang region even had to go underground to carry out his priestly duties. He had to flee from house to house to offer Mass secretly. Twice he was caught and had to suffer the ordeal of flogging and being jailed. He was highly esteemed by all who know him. He was the builder of St Mary’s church and was its first Priest (1967-1968). He died of cancer in 1969.

1945 The Japanese surrendered in 1945. The interned priests were flown from Kuching to Labuan in August to recuperate for a short time. It was decided that some priests would go to Europe for long leave, others would start to re-open the mission stations. Fr. Buis returned to Sibu. So the mission revived and continued to flourish. Fr. Dekker revived the Sacred Heart School at the end of 1945. In a couple of years the schools and mission were back to a healthy growth. Fr. John Maher came in 1946 making use of his teaching abilities for 5 years in Sacred Heart School.

1947 Fr. James Buis was appointed Prefect for North Borneo (Sabah)on 18 January 1947. Frs. John Dekker and William Wagenaar were appointed acting rectors during 1947-1950. During those years we see new faces in Sibu with Fr. Clement Epping and Charles Reiterer doing pastoral as well as education work.

1950 Fr. Adrian de Vos became the new rector of Sibu Mission in January 1950. He also became the principal of Sacred Heart School now reaching 600 students. In 1954 the Mill Hill Fathers realised they could not cope with their missionary work and the school as well, so they invited de La Salle Brothers to take over the running of Sacred Heart School. Brother Fridolin (centre) became the principal.

1954 A new Sacred Heart Church was built with brick and cement. It was a fine building and admired by many. It served the needs of the catholic community till 1985 when the present cathedral was ready and consecrated on 30 July. The Church continued to grow during Fr. Adrian de Vos’ s time as rector. The chinese Catholic community continued to increase. There was a great need for native Chinese speaking priests. This need was answered on 19 July 1954 when 3 priests arrived from Hong Kong. Fr. James Che was posted to Sibu. It was a great boost to Sibu, finally to have a Mandarin speaking priest, who also introduced the Legion of Mary. Fr. De Vos died suddenly of a heart attack when cycling to St Mary’s convent. He passed away on 10 November 1962, aged 58.

1957 The priestly ordination of Fr. Anthony Lam (from China) was held on 7th July, 1957. He was the first priest to be ordained in Sacred Heart Church, Sibu.

1962 Fr. James Che become the rector but left for Korea during 1968 on medical grounds. He was succeeded by Fr. Joachim Phang. Fr. Henry Vollenberg also served in Sibu for 3 years (1965-1968) before moving to Mukah. By this time a trunk road was built from Kuching to Miri. The road cut through Iban territory and travelling to longhouses became easier. Selanggau along the Mukah river became a little township, when the road passed through. The Mission had acquired a piece of land next to the road, where a handsome church St Charles was built. The priests from Sibu looked after the Iban communities, who were previously served by Dalat and Mukah mission.

Fr. Dignum Marcus travelled extensively for 9 years visiting longhouses by boat, on foot or by car. Many longhouses embraced the faith. It was also mainly through him that an Than Parish Coun¬cil was formed to work together and get support to cover the large area. Some Mill Hill priests (Frs. James Tollan and John Bede Morgan) were put in charge of the youth. Fr. Morgan introduced the Boy Scouts and cared for the altar boys. They only stayed a couple of years. A Malaysian goverment’s ruling that only allowed a ten years stay for missionaries arriving after Malaysia Day (31 August, 1963) was taking its toll. Fr. Ferdinand Vergeer’s special skills for catechetics proved most use¬ful in Sibu, giving the Confraternity of Christian Doc¬trine (CCD) a lot of help in teaching young people from non mission schools catholic doctrine. Fr. Anthony van Vught travelled with Sibu as base to the remote areas of Selanggau.

Fr. Vincent Oates travelled both the Oya and Mukah ex¬tensively. There is hardly any longhouse in this vast area that he has not visited. He left before the cathedral was completed, but sold his steely hard beard for 30,000 to-wards the cost of the magnificent building. Fr. James Muhren had a special place for young people in his heart. He served in Sacred Heart for 5 years taking a great interest in the youth. Fr. John Ha served almost a year.

1968 Fr. Peter Ng, the first local priest, was ordained on 15th December 1968. Then came the 3 brother of Su’s family, i.e. Fr. Dominic Su, Fr. Francis Su and Fr. Philip Su were ordained on 4th December 1969, 15th April 1974 and 1st May 1979 respectively.

1980 Fr. Thomas Taam became rector in 1980. A very quiet soft spoken per¬son with a very big golden heart. Many Mill Hill members enjoyed his hospitality and company for almost 20 vears in Sacred Heart as rector.

1985 The big day had arrived for the solemn dedication of the Sacred Heart Church on 30 July 1985. It has become a splendid building worthy to be made a Cathedral. Fr. Michael Lee, also a local, was the first priest to be ordained in the new Church on 22nd October, 1985.

1986 The Rector, Fr. Taam, bought a semi detached house costing RMl00,000 at Rejang Park as a Catholic Centre.

1987 Fr. Dominic Su was ordained by Pope John Paul II as Bishop of Sibu on 6 January 1987 in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. Sibu became a new diocese. The circle is complete. Fr. David Bingham has worked hard for 14 years mostly in the Selanggau area. Selanggau has become a beautiful mission with a lot of development, not only in buildings but also the stations of the cross on hill slope. Fr. William Bos served Sibu Mission in looking after the Than Catholics in town, along the Oya and Igan. He also served the diocese as Vicar General since 1987. BEC was established in Sibu on 27th July 1987. They were divided into 5 zones.

1988 The priestly ordination of Fr. James Ting was held on 16th June 1988. Two building projects were constructed and completed in the year 1988, i.e. Sibu Diocesan Centre cum Bishop’s House at the cost of RM800,000 and St. Anna Chapel, Paradom of RM115,000. Rector, Fr. Taam, also bought a detached house for RM125,000 to be used as a Catholic Centre in Sukun Area.

1991 The construction of Wisma Katolik costing RM1.5 million and Catholic Centre, Belatok at RM300,000 were completed in 1991.

1993 Three boys from Sacred Heart Parish, Fr. Joseph Hii, Fr. Alphonsus Tang and Fr. Andrew Tan were ordained as priests together on 25th March 1993.

1994 Sacred Heart Minor Seminary costing RM2 million was completed on 3rd December 1994. His Lordship, Bishop Dominic Su, celebrated his Sarcedotal Silver Jubilee on the following day.

1996 The priestly ordination of Fr. Paul Chee was held on 1st January.

1998 The new Priests’ House costing RM700,000 was declared open by Rev. Bishop Dominic Su on 19th June 1998 on the Feast Day of Sacred Heart of Jesus.

1999 After many years in Kapit area, Fr. Thomas Connors was appointed to Sacred Heart Parish from this year to look after the Iban catholics. Fr. Thomas Taam has started a new life as rector of St. Teresa’s Church. Fr. James Ting took over from Fr. Taam. There is much to celebrate — 100 years of evangelization — for 100 years Mill Hill members had the privilege of serving the Sibu Mission — now we look forward to the next 100 years. — Let the Spirit blow —