Fr. Mari Arokiam served in the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur as a priest for 26 years. He was born on 9 October 1958 and was ordained as a priest on 8 September 1992, on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. His ordination theme: “My Soul Glorifies the Lord…” (LK 1:46). He was a charismatic preacher and a good singer. I came to know him when Fr. William Michael and I were seminarians, doing our one-month pastoral work in St Joseph’s Church, Sentul. He always motivated, encouraged and supported the young seminarians as well as the youngsters, who were aspirants into priesthood.
He celebrated his Silver Jubilee in 2017 and during his homily he said, “One day when I am dead and gone, I want to be remembered as a faithful priest who had compassion.” Indeed, he was a compassionate priest, especially towards the poor communities in the Felda Estates, when he was the Parish Priest of Church of John Marie Vianney in Tampin, Negeri Sembilan. I still remember how we travelled to rubber and oil palm estates in Palong, Getcho, Bahau (bordering Pahang), Kuala Pilah, Gemas, Gemenceh and Tampin. He mainly ministered to the poor communities working in estates, Indonesian migrants and army personnel from East Malaysia, who lived in rural areas. He travelled without any qualms for 40-150 kms almost three days a week. He had an intense passion to serve these small communities.
Fr. Mari was a Senator of Negeri Sembilan District from 2006 to 2011. I remember an incident in 2007, when Fr. Mari and I traveled to Getcho Estate (about 120 kms from Tampin town) to hear the confessions of the 20 people who were staying in that particular estate. It was a 2-hour drive on a drizzly day. While driving, a cow suddenly crossed the small rural road we were on, and our vehicle bumped into it. Fr. Mari stopped the car at once to check on the animal, and luckily, it just ran away unharmed. His car however, was slightly dented – but we were grateful to God that neither cow, nor vehicle or passengers, were hurt.
In these last five years, Fr. Mari has had some complications with his health, due to severe diabetes. He complained about pain, cramping and tiredness in his legs and feet, especially when walking and climbing stairs. There were several occasions when doctors had advised him to amputate his leg, due to the severity of his condition and the risk of onset of arterial disease. However, with much determination and prayer, he managed to make it through, without requiring amputation. I admired him for this because, despite his medical complications, he didn’t feel useless or irrelevant. He never failed to celebrate Mass at the Church of Assumption, Petaling Jaya (2016-2018) and in various other parishes, if there was a need.
Fr. Mari returned to the Lord on 15 September 2018, on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows at approximately 7.30 pm. Despite aches and pain – and like Our Lady of Sorrows, who pondered them in her heart – Fr. Mari too pondered them deep in his heart. These last few years, he was a quieter man, and often deep in prayer. Whenever he texted me, he always ended with “MMLU” (Mother Mary Loves You). He was very devoted to Our Lady, and his prayers mattered in his pain. His love for Mother Mary had given him much strength and will power to bear it patiently, and to go on in his priestly ministry to serve the Lord and His people, till his last breath.
“Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.” Amen.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy