I attended the usual Monday evening Mass at the Seminary when I noticed a large number of priests present. Suddenly, I heard the voice of the Bishop of Penang. Hmmm.... I thought. Interesting. I wonder what's going on. Then, a seminarian came over and passed me this ->
Aha... it was Archbishop Emeritus Anthony Soter Fernandez of Kuala Lumpur's 75th birthday and the Fathers and seminarians of College General where His Grace currently resides have decided to hold a thanksgiving Mass to celebrate the joyous occasion.
His Grace's birthday had actually fallen on the Sunday and they had all travelled to his home parish of Christ the King in Sungai Petani, Kedah to celebrate a thanksgiving Mass there. The parish had also hosted a dinner in appreciation of its most illustrious son.
I then realized that I had forgotten to bring my camera along. Crap. Luckily, the resident photographer at the seminary was kind enough to share these pictures with us.
Besides the Fathers and the Bishop, several priests from the island also attended and concelebrated the Mass, with the Archbishop as the main celebrant.
By the way, in case you were wondering, that's the open sky outside the doors of the chapel. The seminary chapel of the Sacred Heart is sited on a hill overlooking the sea. Too bad a building is being constructed, blocking it's view.
The attendees included Fr. Henry Rajoo, assistant priest at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Fr. Francis Anthony, Administrator of the Cathedral and former Rector of the seminary. Both Fr. Francis Anthony and His Grace the Archbishop celebrated the 40th anniversary of their sacerdotal ordination earlier this year. Also in attendance were Fr. Marshall my parish priest and Fr. Mark, his assistant, Fr. Decroix, MEP, Fr. Paul Cheong, OFM Cap, Fr. Jude Miranda, Fr. Charles Chin as well as Fr. Gerard and Fr. Edwin Paul, the Rector.
Fr. Gerard gave the homily and paid tribute to the Archbishop who had ordained him to the priesthood. His Grace then used the Roman Canon of the Mass. Great!
After the Mass, a reception was held in honour of Archbishop Soter where he was presented with a birthday cake in the shape of a mitre. Talk about eating your own hat! =)
The seminarians then serenaded His Grace. Seen in the photo below is seminarian Gregory who had kindly forwarded the photos for this post.
Do keep Archbishop Soter in your prayers as he lives out his retirement. His Grace is the very epitome of humility and a paragon of obedience. He does not complain and refuses to trouble people, even going to the extent of taking a public bus home because he does not want to bother anyone. And it's quite a long walk from the bus stop to the seminary! He has now put himself under obedience to the Rector of the Seminary whom he had ordained to the priesthood and the Bishop of Penang, whom he had ordained to the episcopate and who succeeded him as Bishop of Penang. He is also a caring person who had recently travelled all the way to Kathmandu, in Nepal to witness the ordination of his friend, Bishop Anthony Francis Sharma SJ, the Vicar Apostolic of Nepal, to the episcopacy.
His fidelity to God, to prayer and to the Church also inspires me to try to follow him in my own journey to God. His Grace also radiates joy. Perhaps that's what helps him maintain his youthful appearance which belies his 75 years.
His Grace was also the first priest to ask me about considering a vocation. And he was the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur! Not a single priest from my own diocese was bothered. Sigh...
May God bless the Church with more priests after this own heart. St. John Mary Vianney, pray for us!