Reflecting on the Dedication of Divine Mercy Church, Skudai: A journey of 24 years in the making

The Church of Divine Mercy (CDM) was dedicated on Divine Mercy Sunday in a multi-lingual Mass at 10.40am, April 7, 2024, by Rt Rev Bernard Paul, Bishop of Malacca Johore.

May 03, 2024

Bishop Bernard Paul with Fr Dr Lawrence Ng and Fr James Rajendran.

By Fr Dr Lawrence Ng

The Church of Divine Mercy (CDM) was dedicated on Divine Mercy Sunday in a multi-lingual Mass at 10.40am, April 7, 2024, by Rt Rev Bernard Paul, Bishop of Malacca Johore.

About five hundred people attended the dedication. The bulk of the congregation was seated on the first floor where the main Church is located. The people on the ground floor followed the Mass via LED TVs and speakers that were connected to the main Church.

Background of the Divine Mercy Parish
The Divine Mercy parish is unique in the sense that it is the only shop house church in the Diocese of Malacca Johore. It is located near Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and started as a Skudai Catholic Centre of Students in June 2000.

The housing development of the Skudai area over the past decades has impacted the parish. Over the decade, hundreds of Catholics have moved into the Skudai area, including a great influx of Catholics from Sabah and Sarawak. Even as I write, hundreds of new houses are being built within a radius of 10 kilometres. Today, the parish comprises of four main language communities, that is, Tamil, Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese, and English.

One reason for the growth of the Skudai area is due to Catholics from all over arriving in Johor to seek employment in Singapore. It is also one of the reasons why, despite the number of Catholics amounting to over thousands, many find it difficult to contribute to the parish. There are also many parishioners who send their children for catechism but attend Mass mostly in the parishes in Johor Bahru. Many of them do not feel obliged to contribute or serve the parish in any way.

The Bahasa-speaking community from Sabah and Sarawak appears to be the largest community in the parish. However, many do not come regularly or have only just started practising their faith seriously. Efforts must be made in this area, including reaching out and re-evangelising them. Many of them identify themselves as Catholics but do not know what that means. They are the current sleeping giant of South Johor in the diocese.

Currently, there are less than a hundred students from UTM. The Campus Ministry is divided into Bahasa-English and Chinesespeaking students. There are about 20 Chinese-speaking and the rest mostly attend the Mass in English. They are the main contributors to the liturgical life for the liturgy in English, from music, servers, to lectors.

Renovations and preparation
The Skudai Catholic Centre was decreed a parish at the Feast of the Divine Mercy last year. Since then, the parish has been renovated before the dedication. Among the works were making more space at the multi-purpose hall for community gatherings, classrooms, and storerooms, including a small chapel for funerals, weekday Masses, and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The altar was upgraded to give it some beauty and in the works is a Divine Mercy Mosaic with St Pope John Paul II and St Faustina, and a wooden picture of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

Multilingual dedication Mass
During the dedication, Bishop Bernard impressed upon the people during his homily how God’s Mercy counters the world's philosophy that the human person is sufficient by themselves. Faith in God continues to empower us with hope and enriches our lives. Giving the acronym M.E.R.C.Y as Mighty Eternal Redeemer Carries You, Bishop Bernard tells the people that God carries us through the darkest times.

Bishop Bernard added that the Feast of Divine Mercy reminds us to carry others as God has carried us. We can do this by learning from the early Christian community by sharing to overcome selfishness. We can learn from nature to be giving. Nobody is so poor that they cannot share from the abundance that they have. Finally, learn from the risen Christ who has overcome darkness and death. This enables us to move forward in our life journey with faith and courage.

Not a word of thanks
As parish priest, I felt I should acknowledge a word of thanks for this day though I usually avoid giving speeches when possible. During my short speech, I did not say a word of thanks to the people behind the scenes. They include the Divine Mercy groups from each language community who practised their chants so that we could have multilingual chaplets during the nineday novena. I also skipped the people who came for the gotong-royong, the multilingual choir that made the dedication a truly vibrant Mass, and others who worked quietly behind the scenes. Nor did I thank the countless people who supported our building projects and fundraising.

Instead, I was also thinking about those who have always been faithful in building the community. Many worked quietly in the background and offered their service for the love of God without the need to be thanked. I do not think it even occurred to them. Dozens have contributed their time, money, and talents generously without counting the cost. This can be in liturgy, catechetics, BECs, youth, and so on. The humility I found in many of them humbles and inspires me.

What I did was talk about service, mission, and not being tired or giving up. This dedication was not an achievement or something that we should rest our laurels on. It is a continued call to serve and to mission, marked by the mercy of God. I have come to be convinced over the years that rot and decline happen when there is an absence of a sense of mission. Divine Mercy Parish Skudai, I pray that we will press on together in a spirit of communion, participation, and mission, while always reciting in our hearts, “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Total Comments:0