A Brief History of the Church of the Holy Family Kajang
In 2001, the parish of
the Holy Family, Kajang, celebrated her centenary anniversary. 25 years later,
the parish is preparing for the celebration of the quasquicentennial anniversary which
will be held in the year 2026. It is right
to give thanks to the Lord for His divine direction over the years. We, the
church, can rightfully be pleased that we can commemorate 125 years in Kajang.
Early Catholics and Missionaries in Kajang (1899 –
In the late 19th century, a number of
Catholic populations outside of Kuala Lumpur began to grow due to the mining
workers and labourers who settled down in Kajang. His Lordship Bishop Rene Fee,
the then Bishop of Malacca, expressed his concern on the spiritual welfare of
these Catholics living outside of Kuala Lumpur. This led to the Paris Foreign
Missions (MEP) priests starting a Catholic Mission in Kajang to serve the
spiritual needs of the Catholic Community in the Ulu Langat district as well as
a centre for evangelisation. In 1899, Rev. Fr. Francios Terrien MEP was
assigned to Kajang. Fr. Terrien was able to construct a chapel that was a small
bungalow to celebrate Mass while travelling between Kajang and Kuala Lumpur
with the aid of a charitable Catholic man named Towkay Goh Ah Ngee. He
generously donated land to the church that included the current church
location, the Convent school, the Catholic centre, as well as the residential
flats opposite the church. Fr. Terrien had intentions to construct a church on
the given property as Kajang's population began to increase, and on March 19,
1900, His Lordship Bishop Rene Fee visited Kajang to lay the church's
cornerstone and dedicate it to the Holy Family. The church has a tall bell
tower and a gothic appearance. It was the first church in Kajang and the Ulu
Langat district. There were three stained glass windows in the church, each
showing a member of the Holy Family (the same stained-glass windows in the
church today). His Lordship Bishop Rene Fee dedicated the Church of the Holy
Family on February 24, 1901. Parishioners costumed in national costumes
attended Bishop Rene Fee's Pontifical High Mass. In 1901, there were 51
baptisms. On July 16, 1901, the first Confirmation and First Holy Communion
ceremonies were held. In 1901, there were already 150 Catholics in Kajang,
compared to only 12 in 1899.
Due to the rising Catholic community in Kajang and
Ulu Langat, Fr Terrien applied for a burial cemetery from the district office
on May 20, 1901. On March 26, 1903, the church was given a plot of land for a
burial site thanks to the generosity of Towkay Goh Ah Ngee (which is still in
existence). In 1904 Fr Terrien was assigned to the parish of the Holy Rosary in
Kuala Lumpur. Fr Etienne Brossard MEP became the Holy Family's second parish
priest, with Fr Jean Marie Vey MEP serving as the third. In 1910, Fr Etienne
established a girls' school. Due to the advent of World War I (1915 - 1918) in
Europe, many foreign missionaries were called back, and the parish has been
without a parish priest since Fr Etienne was relocated in 1914 until 1952.
The Holy Rosary parish provided pastoral care for
the parish. The frequency of priests' trips to Kajang depended on their
availability. There were 380 Catholics living in Kajang in 1923, although many
of them had a poor faith. The IJ sisters started offering religious instruction
in the 1930s, and eventually erected a school (the current Convent school) in
1939. Fr. Goyhenetche MEP celebrated masses during this time.
Second World War: A Time of Trials and
Tribulations (1941 – 1945)
The parish of Holy Family, Kajang, experienced
hardships in the early 1940s. The Japanese Imperial Army invaded Malaya at the
height of World War II, and on January 12, 1942, Japanese warplanes bombed the
school and church grounds. The three stained glass window panels amazingly only
sustained minor damage despite the church being severely damaged. Many people
rushed to the church as refugees because there was a lack of food and medicine,
and the IJ Sisters and a few Chinese catechists did their best to assist them. Because
the church was badly damaged and wasn’t safe for worship, a temporary chapel
was built. Rev. Fr. Rene Girard MEP from the church of Holy Rosary, Kuala Lumpur
cycled to Kajang every Tuesday to celebrate the Eucharist.
Midway through the Second World War, in 1944, a
malaria outbreak in Kajang led to a large number of fatalities, which made the
situation worse. Malaria was also contracted by Mother Martha IJ, who oversaw
the Convent school, and her fellow sisters, but it was caught early and was
able to recover. They were forced to leave Kajang owing to health concerns,
which turned out to be a blessing in disguise since the Japanese Imperial Army
subsequently took control of the Convent school. The British arrived back in
less than a month after the war ended in August 1945.
Rebuilding the Church (1946 – 1961)
Even though Kajang did not experience as much
damage as other areas did during the conflict, it was nevertheless a trying
time, especially for the parishioners of Holy Family. The Holy Family parish
began to be rebuilt in the 1950s. After 38 years (1914 – 1952), the parish was
fortunate to have a permanent parish priest when Rev. Fr. Etienne Mamet MEP was
appointed. On his motorcycle, Fr. Etienne began to visit every parishioner in
the Ulu Langat and Kajang districts. The IJ Sisters came back to Kajang, and
the Convent school was reopened. Fr. Ronald Brossard MEP, who Bishop Olcomendy
appointed as the Assistant Parish Priest, assisted Fr. Etienne. Catholics and
non-Christians alike knew Fr. Etienne and Fr. Ronald well. In Kajang town, they
used to preach in front of the public at night. Despite being Europeans, people
enjoyed hearing them speak "Hakka." Every Sunday, priests from Kuala
Lumpur would travel to Kajang to celebrate Holy Eucharist and perform
sacraments for the Tamil-speaking population. The priest Fr. Dominic Vendargon
was one of them (the late Archbishop Tan Sri Dominic Vendargon).
Parishioners and Fr. Etienne decided to construct
a permanent church, which commenced in 1953. A permanent church was built in
1955 with donations from parishioners from all around Malaya. Fr. Etienne
designed it in the shape of a triangle to honour the patronage of the Holy
Family. The installation of Bishop Dominic Vendargon as our first local bishop,
as well as the establishment of the Diocese of Kuala Lumpur, made 1955 a
watershed moment for all Catholics. On November 27, 1955, His Lordship Bishop
Dominic Vendargonon consecrated the new church, which was also the first church
he consecrated since being ordained bishop. Fr. Etienne was relocated, and Fr.
Jacques Dermigny MEP took over. The temporary chapel was converted into a
kindergarten and was known as a place for elementary education for children in
Kajang. Fr. Jacques built a grotto with a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. Fr.
Etienne served until January 1960 with 426 Catholics living in Kajang then.
Spirit of Vatican II and a New Way of Being a
Church (1962 – present)
The Roman Catholic Church underwent a significant
period of rejuvenation in the 1960s. His Holiness Pope John XXIII called the
Second Vatican Council in 1962, and His Holiness Pope Paul IV declared it to be
over in 1965. The Second Vatican Council reiterates the church's identity as
the "People of God." Laity were invited to take part in church events
and the apostolate to a greater extent. In order for the laity to comprehend
the liturgy better, Latin usage was eliminated and replaced with vernacular
Rev. Fr. Philip So took over as parish priest in
January 1960 and again in April 1973 while Rev. Fr. Anthony Chan served as the
parish priest in December 1967. Both of them had to cope with the changes and
challenges demanded by Vatican Council II. In 1973, the parish was divided into
12 zones – Happy Garden, Semenyih, Jalan Bukit, Jalan Reko, Bangi, Sungai Chua,
Town Area, Kajang Garden, Jalan Gereja, Suntex, Sungai Jeluk and Cheras. The
home communities started at the diocese level in 1974 but Kajang started it a
year earlier. In 1973, His Holiness Pope Paul IV elevated the Diocese of Kuala
Lumpur to Archdiocese and Bishop Rt. Rev. Dominic Vendargon was elevated as the
Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Kuala Lumpur.
The following decisions were made during the
Aggiornamento in 1976: a) creating Christ-centered communities (Basic Ecclesial
Communities, or BECs); b) fostering unity among bishops, priests, religious,
and laypeople; c) providing training for laypeople and young people; and d)
engaging in dialogue with other Christians and non-Christians. The Parish
Council, the parish's decision-making body, was established by the Holy Family
parish in 1976 and was comprised of delegates from zones and BECs. After his
arrival in July 1977, Rev. Fr. Antoine Henriot MEP increased parishioner
involvement in the liturgy and other aspects of the church.
As a result of the creation of numerous Federal
institution centres of higher education, Kajang's population began to increase
in the 1980s. The church hall was constructed on Fr. Henriot's proposal and was
given the go-ahead by the local council, and was blessed by His Grace
Archbishop Tan Sri Dominic Vendargon in July 1980. The two wings of the
previous triangular church were expanded as the population increased.
After 13 years as the parish priest in Kajang, Fr.
Henriot left to serve at the Good Shepherd parish in Setapak in 1991, and was
followed by Rev. Fr. Leo Chang. The Ministry of the Poor (MOP), Catholic
Charismatic Renewal, Family Life Commission, and the Rite of Christian
Initiation are just a few of the lay organisations that were founded in the
early 1990s (RCIA).
In 1995, the Parish of Holy Family established
three new organisations to take the place of the Parish Council. There were
three of them: a) the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC), b) the Parish Coordinating
Council (PCC), and c) the Parish Finance Committee (PFC). Holy Family was one
of the few parishes in the Archdiocese to establish three organisations. At the
Peninsular Malaysia Pastoral Convention II in 1996, a priority was established
to build the New Way of Being Church (NEWBEC), which is to transform parishes
into Communion of Communities.
In the 1990s, Kajang's Catholic population began
to expand, outstripping the capacity of the old church. As a result, the parish
priest and the lay leaders believed that a new church was desperately needed.
With Mr. John Khor serving as the project architect, work on the new church
plans got underway in 1992. Plans were submitted to the government in 1994, and
on October 15, 1997, they were eventually authorised. The same year, a Church
Building Fund Committee was formed to help with all the preparations for constructing
a new church.
The final mass in the old church was celebrated on
31 August 2000 morning by Fr. Leo Chang. Since September 2000, all liturgical
celebrations were held at the new church. The grotto that was built by Rev. Fr.
Dermingy MEP in 1958, was given a facelift. On December 31, 2000, a
thanksgiving and reunion luncheon was held to raise donations for the new
church and to greet the new year 2001. The new church, with a seating capacity
of about 3000 people, is the largest in Peninsular Malaysia. It is fully
air-conditioned, has computerised projection, and a fully equipped audio-visual
area. The Most Rev. Anthony Soter Fernandez, Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, consecrated
the Church of the Holy Family on May 26, 2001.