CHURCH PROFILE AND HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF ST. JUDE, RAWANG
In the 1950’s Rawang was only a small town with two roads. It was estimated that about 10 Catholic families lived in the vicinity of Rawang town and another 20 families in nearby estates. Priests came from St. Anthony’s Church, Pudu and St. Joseph’s Church, Sentul in Kuala Lumpur and visited the Catholic community once a month for pastoral care and Mass services in the houses of the local Christians .
The MEP (Society of the Paris Foreign Missions) priests played a vital role in Malaya (now known as Malaysia) from the late 19th Century to 1957. During this period , the MEP priests formed the majority among the priests in Malaya. They risked their lives travelling for hours and days on rough and muddy estates roads to visit the Christian community. They used bicycles, bullock-carts and in some places, on horsebacks to reach their destination.
Prior to the opening of the Church of St. Jude in Rawang in 1957, the Catholic community kept their faith alive and growing with the help of local elders who gathered them for evening prayers either daily, weekly or whenever convenient to proclaim God’s justice, love and mercy since priests’ visits were irregular then.
Bukit Munchong Estate clerk, Alphonse Gomez and his wife Emilyn had been childless for many years. During a visit to Kerala, India, they went to a church named after St. Jude who is the Patron Saint for desperate cases. They prayed in that church for a gift of a child. Since there was no chapel or church in Rawang, they vowed to work towards the building of a chapel in Rawang.
On return to Malaya, Gomez shared this thought with Rev. Fr. Noel Clement (a visiting Parish Priest from St. Anthony’s Church) who encouraged him to pursue his desire for a church in Rawang. It was also Fr. Clement’s dream to build a church in Rawang so as to bring the Catholic community together in one place for worship.
While waiting for his dream to come true, Fr. Clement went ahead with his earlier plans of having Mass in Rawang town in the various public places which were the Court House in the Police compound, Tamil school building, Clive Institution (only English school then in Rawang) and the Rawang International Club.
In the course of time, Emilyn Gomez conceived and gave birth to a baby boy and he was named Jude. Gomez resolved to work harder towards the fulfillment of his promise in India. He gathered all his friends and colleagues and instilled in them the zeal to build a church in Rawang. Fr. Clement gave his blessings to go ahead with their plans.
Fr. Clement convinced Rev. Fr. Dominic Vendargon (who later became the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur) on the need for a permanent place of worship in Rawang and Kuala Kubu Bahru. Fr. Vendargon applied to the government on 7th September 1953 for 1½ acres of land to build a church.
On 3rd December 1953, the Government allocated Lot No: 4, a piece of land situated on top of a hillock by the side of the main North-South trunk road. Although the land was small and in the midst of a dense jungle (the place was rumored to be haunted), it was accepted under protest and work on building the church and a parochial house started without any delay.
Under the leadership of Fr. Clement, a team of hardworking local parishioners led by Alphonse Gomez and his friends worked tirelessly to raise funds. The overwhelming support given by the locals was tremendous and encouraging. Even the staff and workers in the estates, companies and factories in the district also contributed generously. With the positive support received from people from all walks of life, both in Rawang and other parts of the country, the earlier plan for a chapel gave way for a proper church building. Even a company from France, through the initiative of local MEP priests donated the steel structures and many more local benefactors donated other building materials for this project. Volunteers from neighbouring estates came to lend a hand in the clearing of the jungle on the hillock and also during construction work.
Finally, the long awaited day came and the newly built church in Rawang, dedicated to ST. JUDE THADDEUS was inaugurated on 28th October 1957 by the Late His Most Rev. Bishop Dominic Vendargon, the Bishop of Kuala Lumpur Diocese.
It is appropriate to place on record that Re. Fr. Noel Clement, a farsighted priest, was also responsible for the building of two other churches in 1957, one in Kuala Kubu Baru and the other in Tampin,
A generous Singaporean paid for the building of St. Jude’s grotto in the center of the church compound, as a token of her thanksgiving to God and St. Jude for saving her life from a serious ailment.
Let us remember the many priests who served as Visiting Priests in this part of Selangor (not arranged Chronologically):
– Late Rev. Fr. Rene Maurice Vernois, MEP – Late Rev. Fr. Louis Guittat, MEP
– Late Rev. Fr. Georges Albert Moreau, MEP – Rev. Fr. Paul Wan Yee Tseng
– Late Rev. Fr. Laurent Le Guen, MEP – Late Rev. Fr. Ernest Belet, MEP
– Late Rev. Fr. Noel Clement – Late Rev. Fr. Gilbert Griffon, MEP
– Late Rev. Fr. Leon Diffon, MEP – Late Rev. Fr. Luciuos Su, CDD
– Fr. Peter Bretaudeau, MEP – Fr. Anthony Chan
– Late Rev. Fr. Philip So – Late Rev. Fr. A. Charvet, OMI
YOUNG CHRISTIAN WORKERS MOVEMENT
When this Church came under the care of St. Joseph’s Church in Sentul in the 1960’s, the priests from there came to Rawang. In the years between 1961 and 1967, the late Rev. Fr. Gilbert Griffon started the Youth Ministry by setting up the “Young Christian Workers” movement in Rawang with the assistance of volunteers from Sentul.
OUR FRIST RESIDENT PARISH PRIEST AND HIS PREDECESSORS
Our first resident parish priest was the Late Rev. Fr. Philip So. He was assisted by Rev. Fr. Paul Wan Yee Tseng in taking care of the Chinese community and the Late Rev. Fr. A. Charvet, who was well versed both in English and Tamil assisted the resident priest in taking care of the Tamil-speaking parishioners from Rawang to Tanjong Malim.
The Late Rev. Fr. Charvet was the parish priest of the Church of St. Jude from 1967 to 1977. He also covered the areas from Rawang to Tanjong Malim as there were no resident priest in Kuala Kubu Baru until the coming of Rev. Fr. Diffon. Fr. Charvet ability to converse in Tamil was an added advantage and he succeeded in establishing close relationship with all the people. Even after the coming of Rev. Fr. Diffon to Kuala Kubu Baru (KKB), Fr. Charvet continued to extend his pastoral care to KKB, especially among the Tamil-speaking parishioners.
In 1978, Rev. Fr. Anthony Naden, another dedicated, simple and compassionate priest took over as the parish priest of St. Jude. He, like his predecessors, covered the entire district of Ulu Selangor. In addition, he was the administrator of the parish of Tanjong Malim. He carried out his mission with great enthusiasm and dedication and was very close to the people. He had weekly prayer sessions with a group of volunteers. Many who had afflictions of various kinds; physical, mental and spiritual came from all parts of the country, seeking God’s intercession. A large number of devotees gained peace, good health and blessings. Fr. Naden introduced, for the first time in Rawang, the novena to St. Jude on every second Saturday of the month followed by Sunset Mass.
As the years passed, the Church of St. Jude became very popular among people of all walks of life, both Christians and non-Christians. It was not unusual for people who passed through Rawang town to stop at this church to either pray, leave prayer petitions, thanksgiving letters or make donations to the church. Many also came seeking counseling, prayers, healing and other forms of answers to their many problems from the Parish Priest.
Fr. Naden, from his early days of priestly life has a special concern for the orang Asli of this country. Despite obstacles, objections and threats, he did not hesitate to reach out to this forgotten and neglected community. He went as far as Sungai Bill, Tapah, Perak to attend to their needs. Today, he has dedicated his life and service fully to the Orang Asli community from his base in Negeri Sembilan.
On 28th October 1982, the Church of St. Jude celebrated grandly its Silver Jubilee. During this celebration, G. Alphonse Gomez was presented by His Grace Archbishop Dominic Vendargon with the “BENE MERENTI” medal, awarded by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, for his exemplary service to the Church of St. Jude, Rawang.
In 1984 Rev. Fr. A. Amalanathan took over from Fr. Naden. He was a priest of calm nature that endeared him to many people. Fr. Amala, as he was lovingly called, had his own way of dealing with people. He also carried out some minor changes, both inside and outside the church building, befitting the needs of that time. It was also during Fr. Amala’s tenure that the Government gave 5 acres of land in Rawang to be used as a “Christian Cemetery”.
Succeeding Fr. A. Amalanathan in 1991 was Rev. Fr. Jestus Pereira as Parish Priest and Rev. Fr. S. Stanislaus was Assistant Parish Priest. Later in 1994, Rev. Fr. S. Stanislaus became the Parish Priest of St. Jude. Both Rev. Fr. Jestus Pereira and Rev. Fr. S. Stanislaus brought the elderly and the youth closer to the Church by several means. One of them was introducing new English and Tamil hymns and musical instruments. Fr. Stanislaus initiated and organized an annual “Tamil Song Festival” and the first festival was held in Rawang in 1997 for parishes in Selangor and the surrounding States. He was assisted by Fr. Ferdinand Magimay.
During the tenure of Fr. Stanislaus, temporary approval was obtained for the use of the land surrounding Lot. No: 4. This approval facilitated more places for parking, replacement of the damaged community hall and addition of toilets. The grotto of St. Jude was re-sited giving way for more open space. A full sized badminton court with lighting replaced the previous one. The old quarters used by the Sisters was converted into a “Pilgrim House” for boarding purposes during the feast of St. Jude and other special occasions.
Rev. Fr. Peter Bretaudeau, MEP, who was once the visiting priest, became the parish Priest of the Church of St. Jude in 1998. His age and health was in no way a deterrent to his enthusiasm and willingness to serve both day and night and his ability to speak Tamil endeared him to the Tamil speaking community.
The year 2000 (Jubilee Year) is a memorable year in the history of the Church of St Jude when it was declared as one of the Pilgrim Churches in the Archdiocese. Thousands of people from all over the country made their pilgrimage to the Church of St. Jude, Rawang.
Church of St. Jude, Rawang, which was once known as a Tamil Parish, has today grown and become a multi-lingual church. The fast development in and around Rawang has led to an increase in the Catholic population.
Rev. Fr. Peter Bretaudeau was succeeded by Fr. Mitchel Joseph Anthony in 2001 and he was initially assisted by Fr. Simon Labrooy. In 2005, Rev. Fr. Leonard John who had served as a priest in many other parishes and ministries for more than 25 years became the Parish Priest. It is needless to state all the aforementioned priests who had served in Church of St. Jude, Rawang brought along with them their own talents, experiences and divine blessings. None of them were in any way less in their dedication or service to God and the Catholic community. To the contrary, each of them excelled in their own and unique ways.
On 31st August 2007, we celebrated joyfully the 50th Anniversary of Malaysia’s independence and our prayers went out to all those who dedicated their lives and service so that we may enjoy the freedom that we have today. Then on 28th October 2007, we celebrated the Golden Jubilee of our church’s dedication. In the course of our preparation for the Golden Jubilee celebrations, a hitherto mystery came to light. It is the Church Bell that has been here since 1957. On this bell are inscriptions indicating that it was cast in the year 1887 in a foundry in France. In addition, a picture of Mother Mary is also embossed on it. We are unable to establish how this 70 year old bell came to be in Rawang in the year 1957. This has raised important questions and left us pondering. Are we the first owners of this bell or was it given to us by another church in Malaya or from elsewhere in 1957????
Then in 2010 Rev. Fr. Leonard John was succeeded by Fr. Frederick Joseph who is the current Resident Parish Priest of the Church of St. Jude. Fr. Frederick has made some much needed improvements to the interior of the church as well as the beautification and modernization of the infra-structure of the church. For the convenience of the parishioners especially the elderly and wheelchair bound, the surrounding area has been cleared to create more parking space. Fr. Fred as he is lovingly called was also responsible for the planning, designing and renovation of the Priest residence which was old and termite infested and the building of a small kitchen run by volunteers to prepare meals for the devotees who attend the masses and novenas during the feast days and also cater for church functions.
Today, we have grown into a welcoming congregation of faith-filled people from all walks of life regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability or socio-economic conditions. We are a community church with vibrant worship, exciting music and great fellowship that are rooted in our common beliefs and respect for each other , and even in our differences, we are all one in Christ.
Our pilgrim Church is very popular among Catholics and non-Catholics worldwide and is one of the most venerated sites in Malaysia. Tens of thousands of pilgrims visit the Church / Shrine of St Jude, Rawang annually for special blessings, healings and also to fulfil their vows for the prayers answered. The highlight of the church is the St Jude’s feast which is grandly celebrated on 28th October every year with novenas and masses and food contributions by parishioners and well-wishers from all over Malaysia and Singapore.
RELOCATION OF THE CHURCH
Our church which was built 55 years ago on a hillock, has today become a prime land and has been marked by the Government for development of a new township called “Bandar Baru Rawang”. With the fast development taking place surrounding our present church land, there are indications that sooner or later we will be required to move to a new location. Our new Church of St. Jude building, Chapel and all its other amenities, furniture and fittings is estimated to cost around RM15Million. We would like to quote our former Late Rev. Fr. Leonard John who very often and rightly says: “The relocation of our Church is expected to cost a lot. The money is available but it is in your pockets. So, please contribute generously”.
We are earnestly trying to raise funds to finance the planning, designing and construction of:
(a) A new Church building and Chapel
(b) Multi-storey building for Offices, Classrooms for Sunday
School (catechism), Kindergarten / Pre-school, Function
Rooms for Meetings, Formation and Community Education Programmes –
Tailoring classes, Flower arrangement and other trade skills classes (c) Residence for Priests.
(d) Hostel for pilgrims,
(e) Accommodations for Abused Women and Children & Single mothers
(e) Multipurpose Hall with Kitchen facilities.
(f) Funeral parlour.
(g) Toilets – Male & Female with bathing facilities
(h) Landscaped gardens and Shrine/ Grotto of St. Jude for praying and
Our new Church will be able to accommodate the growing Catholic population and we look forward to it becoming the community’s focal point for a range of activities to guarantee a healthy environment, lively and thriving church and congregation. The Church facilities will be open to the congregation and general public for a wide variety of purposes during the week days and weekends to conduct skills training programs, motivational activities for the youths, and even recreational by using the badminton hall, basketball court as well as the other facilities available.
Ultimately, this will not only be a place for spiritual uplifting through worship but will also cater towards the social and economic needs of the community.