On 3 December 2018, after the morning Mass, I received a text message from my Clergy group about the demise of Rev. Fr. Ignatius Huan Kin Kwang, a priest from the Melaka-Johor Diocese of Malaysia. I was saddened by the news, but I understood that he was cancer stricken and suffered very much as a result, for the past year, and now his suffering has ended. He returned to the Lord at 3.28 am on 3 December 2018, which is also the feast of Saint Francis Xavier.
Fr. Ignatius was born on 23 November 1941. Prior to joining the seminary, he was a Science teacher in secondary schools in Segamat and Kulai, Johor. He joined the seminary when he was 35 years old, and was ordained a priest on 28 March 1985. After serving for a couple of years in the Melaka-Johor Diocese, he was sent to further his studies, in Rome.
Upon completing his Licentiate in Sacred Theology in Rome, Fr. Ignatius was assigned to teach Spirituality and Psycho-Spirituality at the College General Major Seminary, Penang in 1995. He was also appointed as an Initiation Year Director (1st Year) for my class, during my first year in the seminary. He was a professor and Spiritual Director of College General Major Seminary in Penang (1995-2007) and St Francis Xavier Major Seminary in Singapore (2008-2010).
During my seminary life, I had a personal Spiritual Father, but I met with Fr. Ignatius for spiritual direction and advice, at least two or three times a month. While I was completing my eight-year journey in the seminary, we established a relationship of mutual respect and appreciation, especially as I was the only one who survived the 1995 batch, while four other classmates dropped out within the first three years. Fr Ignatius was a source of guidance, as he mentored in the seminary.
When I was ministering in Kuantan and Terengganu, I was going through a tough time in my priesthood. I drove to Penang to seek spiritual direction from Fr Ignatius. I spent three days in silent retreat staying in the College General. Fr Ignatius told me that I was facing a mid-life crisis and he assisted and enlightened my priesthood and my life’s journey. He also recommended books for my spiritual reading and these were really helpful in my soul-searching.
The last time I met Fr. Ignatius was during our Malaysian Clergy Convention in Plentong, Johor in July 2018. During this convention I purchased a copy of his book “The Mass: We Remember, We Celebrate, We Believe” published in 2018. Eventhough I have not started reading it, the book is precious to me because Fr Ignatius signed and wrote on it, “Dear George Packia, Shalom, by Huan”, dated 18 July 2018.
Fr. Ignatius always showed special affection for people. Everyone looked up to him because of his simplicity. He spent most of his time praying, reading, preparing lectures, sessions and formations. He valued time and spent most of his priestly ministry lecturing in the seminaries, moulding priests. He also directed many priests, religious, seminarians and lay people through retreats and formations. He was always available for anyone who wanted to meet him for spiritual guidance. He was a great preacher.
There were almost 60 bishops and priests from Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore who attended his funeral on Wednesday, 5 December 2018 at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Johor Bharu. He will be missed dearly and he will never be forgotten. May God rest his soul in peace.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy