MELAKA (Herald Malaysia): For Fr Joseph Hung, a long time parochial vicar in Singapore, around the Melaka-Johore Diocese and presently a priest in residence at the Gajah Berang parish of St. Theresa, the words from Scripture: “It is a good idea to keep a King’s secret, but what God does, should be told everywhere, so that He may be praised and honoured.” (Tobit 12:7) always held cherished and very close to his heart and mind.
These words were brought into sharp focus on the day before Chap Goh Mei, the last day of the Lunar New Year of the Snake festive celebrations (February 23) when the always cheerful China-born cleric commemorated his 88th birthday and 58th sacerdotal anniversary.
Feted to a grand dinner attended by over 700 people including Bishop Paul Tan, priests and religious from the southern district and outstation at the Bachang Chinese Primary School Hall, Fr. Hung still holding a steady gait and looking hale and hearty, held sway with much friendly banter to one and all.
He said, “The choice words from the Scriptures denote my praise and thanks to God for His care and love for me. Also, for the youths and young adults, if God calls you to serve Him in a special way, you should feel happy and honoured while bravely accepting the ‘privilege’ to be priests, brothers or sisters.
“In other words, everyone who leaves home for the Lord’s sake, will receive a hundred times more and will be given eternal life. That is, do not worry about food, clothes or lodging as all necessities of life will be provided for.
“This is my personal testimony. Being a priest for over fifty years and coming all the way from China, I have never been in want of money, never worn torn clothes and I have travelled everywhere both in Malaysia and overseas. All because the Good Lord provides everything and more importantly, eternal life in heaven.”
Born on February 23, 1925 in Semong in Sichuan Province, he received confirmation at the age of eleven and was repeatedly told by his catechism teacher (his uncle) that he would be a priest, a thought that sank into the young Fr Hung’s mind with much fervour.
Despite much resistance from his father, Fr Hung received the family blessings on Easter Sunday 1937, to join the preparatory seminary of Yah Au. Then came nine years of formal priestly studies at the minor and major seminaries at Pak Luh before joining seven other counterparts in making it to Penang’s College General in late 1949 to pursue Dogmatic and Moral Theology, Holy Scripture, Canon Law, Liturgy and Church History, all in Latin.
Recalled Fr Hung, “In 1954 after completion of studies at College-General, I was sent to Muar’s St Andrew to learn English and the Teo Chiew dialect. Then, on December 4, 1955, I was ordained as a priest by the late Archbishop Michael Olcomendy at Singapore’s Good Shepherd Cathedral.”
At the end of December 1958 after tenures in Singapore churches, Fr Hung moved to Segamat’s St Philip’s and then to St Francis Xavier’s in Malacca before being transferred to Gajah Berang’s St Theresa in June 1959 and subsequently to Ayer Salak’s St. Mary’s in 1964.
Then came his long leave with travels to Australia, USA, Hong Kong, Canada, Thailand and China before ‘retiring’ at St.Theresa’s in Malacca in 1992 where his time and service related to the aged faithful, Legion of Mary, fund raising committees, Chinese choir and prayer groups, catechism classes for adults and writing books where a dozen or so in Mandarin-English styled efforts have been authored.
In summing up Fr Hung’s half century plus faithfulness in the Vineyard, the words of Mother Theresa are most apt:
“The Lord is not calling us to be successful, the Lord is calling us to be faithful. Success is the game of the world, faithfulness is the call of the Gospel. I can stumble and fall, and I can falter and fail and still get up and strive to be faithful to my God, myself, others and my commitment.” -- By Percy D’Cruz