A Century Old Church In Sentul Opens Its Doors To The Needy Who Are Far From Home
Malaysian Digest spoke to Father George Packiasamy, the Parish Priest of the St. Joseph Church who has served since June 2014.
Our readers might be surprised to learn that tucked in the heart of Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, a century-old church has provided Christmas services not only for Malaysians, but for a large group of Burmese immigrants as well.
“The church will be celebrating its 110th anniversary this coming January. Back in 1908, it started as a church for the Central Railway Workshop workers, which mainly consisted of Indian immigrants as well as Malaysian Indians,” he said.
Now, the church provides masses in three languages: Tamil, English, as well as Burmese for the large Burmese community who make up a large portion of the church’s congregation.
“These Burmese people are mainly from the Catholic Zomi ethnicity, which is one of the many ethnic groups native to Myanmar.”
Being far away from their homeland, the Burmese community in Sentul have found happiness in celebrating Christmas together in the Sentul church.
Father George explained that the church will host a special Christmas Day mass catering to their Bumese congregation which will be given in their language, followed by a lunch feast and entertainment by a live band.
He said many of the Burmese who attend the church are the hardcore poor, hence the church is doing the best they can to provide a joyful time for those whose daily life is filled with hardship.
“We are expecting around 1,000 to 1,500 Burmese attendees during the day, consisting of those who reside in Klang, Kajang, Kepong, Sentul, Gombak and Kuala Lumpur.” The lunch will be sponsored by the church themselves, and keeping with decades-old tradition practised in this historic setting, the Burmese churchgoers can look forward to singing Christmas carols and hymns together, all in their own native tongue.
For many of them, they have left their families back home but they still have a sense of community among themselves. They regular congregate at the church and know each other very well. “We consider the Burmese people as part of our family. They are very helpful and the church cares for them deeply.
“Aside from the Burmese community, we are also expecting those from the Philippines and the African continent like Nigeria, in which they are welcomed to join the English masses during Christmas, as well as churchgoers from Sri Lanka and India who will attend the Tamil masses. “Some of the Filipino maids come to the church by following the families they are serving to attend church,” Father George explained.
For many Malaysians who are celebrating Christmas with their families today, don’t forget that some may not be able to enjoy it with their loved ones. Hence, take this day to express our appreciation to those who are dear to us, and to always make time for them while we are still able to do so.
(This is an excerpt from the article “A Malaysian Christmas Story” by malaysiandigest.com on 25/12/17)
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