Thursday, January 17, 2008

An outing with the Jesuits - Part 1

Every year, about this time, the Jesuit novices at Kingsmead Hall in Singapore are brought to Penang for a holiday and some R&R by their Master of Novices and his socius. They usually stay at the seminary as the term break is on.

During their stay here, I'll try to arrange an outing for them, to take them around the sights. Of course, others do this as well and they are often booked solid. The novices are in Singapore for a 2 year novitiate formation programme before being sent on as scholastics to the Phillipines and come from the countries in South East Asia such as Singapore, East Timor, Burma, Cambodia and Thailand.

Last year's events can be seen in these posts.

Last year's visit.

The Servers/Jesuits football match.

This year, we decided to do a city tour. Georgetown is an old city which is a melting pot of Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures. It also has many Churches, temples and mosques and we decided to see how much of it we can take in half a day.


Some members of our schola cantorum agreed to join me in this outing and we met at the seminary in the morning. (For those who said they would come and did not turn up, anathema sit.) From there, it was a short distance and a long wait before we boarded one of the rickety old public buses to go have breakfast. Breakfast was delicious and we had some of the local hawker fare in an old coffee shop which was packed to the rafters with the morning crowd. We had to wait for tables but the food was worth the wait. Unfortunately, hunger overcame blogging sense and no photos of the goof were taken.


Next, we made our first stop as the historic Church of St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary and Apostle to the East. It was founded much earlier, in the 1800's and rebuilt in the 1950's and 'renovated' later. Formerly mainly serving the Indian community, it might not look much from the outside but the inside is pretty cool.


The altar has a nice mosaic of the dead Christ and the tabernacle is in the centre of the Church.


Though it ain't Rheims, the stained glass is better than the modernistic ones one often finds in Churches these days.



Note the thatched roofing.


In the compound of the Church which is located in the inner city, several diocesan ministries are housed. The first one is called the Lighthouse, a drop in and feeding centre run by the Diocese. Basically, at 3PM daily, those who are homeless can come by to bathe, wash their clothes or clean up as volunteers prepare and cook food which is handed out to them at 5PM. It provides a space for those who find themselves in tough straits to appear presentable and clean so they can hold down a job, as well as get free hot meal.


The main entrance, above and the girls section, below.


The St. Joseph's Orphanage, one of the largest in Penang, is also housed within the compound. The Jesuit brothers visited it and had a great time with the kids there.


The novices with the kids.



We spent a couple of house here before moving on to our next destination, the former Cathedral of the Assumption, established when Captain Francis Light founded Penang in 1786.


The Cathedral was demoted when the Bishop moved his seat to the Church of the Holy Spirit due to demographic shifts which made it hard to maintain an active parish here.

It houses a great hand painted Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, known to the Eastern Catholics as Our Lady of the Passion.


We then moved on to the historic Light Street Convent, the earliest girls school in these parts which was started by the Infant Jesus sisters. More on that tomorrow.

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