Newly ordained Bishop wants to help Catholics love their faith

Auxiliary Bishop Murphy Pakiam wants to try and help people come back and see the richness of the Catholic faith that has not reached down to them.

Oct 28, 2020

PENANG: Auxiliary Bishop Murphy Pakiam wants to try and help people come back and see the richness of the Catholic faith that has not reached down to them.

“I want to help Catholics recognise this beauty and richness in the midst of so much confusion over religious matters,” said the Auxiliary Bishop, who was ordained to the bishopric on Oct 4 at Mass at the College General, Penang. The ordaining prelate was Archbishop Anthony Soter Fernandez, who was assisted by Bishop Antony Selvanayagam and Bishop James Chan.

“I want to let them benefit from these tested, long-standing traditions and practices of the Church,” he said.

“Modern Catholic teaching gives us a good orientation and the spiritual means to achieve unity among all races and religions. Besides, in Malaysia we have a tradition of respecting other religions.

“The Good News is that we are all children of God. Once we realise this, there will be harmony and acceptance of one another as brothers and sisters.”

He reconciles the sensitivities involved in living in a multi-religious society and the mission to spread the Good News very practically.

The Auxiliary Bishop was born in Tapah in 1938 on the feast of St Nicholas, received his early education in Sultan Yusuf School in Batu Gajah. After Form Five, he entered the seminary. He was ordained in 1964.

Upon his return in 1974 from Rome, where he completed his Master’s in Moral Theology, he was posted to College General, first as a lecturer for four years before assuming the Rector’s post. In 1989, he left for Manila to do a Master’s in Guidance and Counselling.

He sees it as his mission “to help the Arch bishop carry out his plans as the successor of the Apostles in the Malaysian Church, the person around whom the Church is built.”

Two things which are closest to his heart are family life and social justice.

In his homilies, he has condemned exploitative working conditions and has called for more humane treatment of foreign workers.

“People may think they are free but they are caught up in a system of materialism. They don’t have the time or energy to be reflective and to think about the deeper values in life,” he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Pakiam describes himself as a progressive in the sense of festina lente —hasten slowly — by moving forward, but taking into account all factors. 

He is a man for all seasons, who refuses to give up and defines a “saint” as a sinner who keeps on trying. This 57-year-old moral theologian draws inspiration from the struggle the brilliant St Augustine went through to become a humble servant of God.

His posting to a parish community, after 14 years at College General (11 as Rector), was somewhat of a “culture shock” to him and to the parishioners of the Church of the Nativity, Butterworth.

But with time the priest and the people overcame all their initial misgivings and grew close.

“Part of the problem was my temperament,” said Auxiliary Bishop Pakiam. “I saw my role like that of a father towards his family — when I’m angry I ‘fire’ them, when I’m happy, I laugh with them. When they cry, I cry with them. They accepted me as I am.”

Beyond the steely demeanour, the people gradually saw someone firm yet gentle; learned and well-read yet humble enough to laugh and mingle freely with children and adults alike. ––HERALD

Comments from Bishops
In welcoming Bishop Pakiam into the Episcopate, said he joins all of the Bishop’s relatives, friends and the Church in offering praise and thanks to the Lord.

He said the Episcopal Order confers on Bishop Pakiam the fullness of the priesthood, and makes him an authentic teacher of the faith and shepherd of God’s people.

Describing Bishop Pakiam, who was a former  rector of College General, as a bright and capable person, Archbishop Chung said, “I wish to offer the new Bishop my sincere congratulations and prayerful wishes. May the Lord bless him and make his Episcopal life and office fruitful, both for himself and for God’s people.

“With this I wholeheartedly welcome him into the Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia,
Singapore and Brunei, Archbishop Peter Chung

The diocese of Penang is sending one of its best priests to Kuala Lumpur.

“The Archdiocese, which is the capital of the country, needs a man of his calibre to help and support the Archbishop, who is facing many administrative, pastoral and personal challenges,” he said.

“I am very confident that the new Auxiliary Bishop will be a great comfort, help and consolation to Archbishop Anthony Soter Fernandez.”

Penang Bishop
Antony Selvanayagam

Bishop Pakiam’s elevation to the Episcopate as a good sign and a divine intervention.

“Malaysia, he said, is moving fast towards becoming an industrialised nation, with an increasingly high-tech lifestyle, and people will face the difficult choices between right and pseudo values, between truth and falsehood and between what is moral and immoral.

“Bishop Lee said that it is in situations such as these that the Church needs leaders who can defend and preserve the rights and higher values of life, to be the salt and light, and the voice  in the wilderness in order to build the Kingdom of God in our midst.

“With his vast experience as a moral theologian and a pastor who constantly advocates the need for the preservation of family values, I believe that the Lord has something wonderful in store for us,” he said.

“Together with the support of the rest of the clergy, the religious and laity, the Church in Kuala Lumpur is ready to face the challenges of an upcoming industrialised society, through the integrity of the new Auxiliary Bishop.

 Bishop John Lee of Kota Kinabalu

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