The ‘Baruk Friar’ Fr Gerard Victor leaves Sarawak
KOTA PADAWAN — The presence of the former rector of St Ann’s Church, Padawan at the celebration of the Feast of St Ann, 26-28 July, brought great joy to her parishioners. It has been three months since the parishioners of St Ann’s Church bade a fond farewell to their beloved Friar Gerard Victor, OFM.
In a Facebook post dated 8 May, Friar Gerard expressed his love and gratitude to the parishioners of St Ann.
“I am amazed at how fast time has flown (14 years) and it is time to go back home. [I am] always thankful to the Lord who sent me to St Ann’s Parish and eventually became more Sarawakian,” he wrote.
“I have always wanted to be known as the ‘people’s friar’ because it was always good to be at the ground level and to share our joys, love and hope as people of St Ann,” wrote the Singaporean friar.
Friar Gerard first set foot in St Ann’s Mission in May 2005, and was the assistant priest to Friar Joseph Goh. In December 2007, Friar Joseph Goh handed over the rectorship to Friar Gerard. Since then, many development projects were carried out, bringing St Ann’s Parish from one milestone to another, physically as well as spiritually.
In the special video interview broadcast live on St Ann’s Church Facebook page a week before his departure, Friar Gerard shared his thoughts and memories of his 14 years serving in St Ann’s Parish.
He revealed that the most unforgettable memories included the building project of the new St Ann’s Church; the visit of the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Mohammad Najib bin Abdul Razak and the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Datuk Patinggi Abang Haji Abdul Rahman Zohari to the new St Ann’s Church site; and the successful celebration of the 50th Anniversary of St Ann, a four-in-one event. He felt that these are once-in-a-lifetime events.
No goodbyes have ever been easy, especially to those close to the heart. When the news of his departure was made known, many parishioners approached Friar Gerard and expressed their sadness. It was then that he realised that his hard works have come to fruition.
“Over the past few months, I realised how I have touched the lives of the people here in St Ann, and they are finding it difficult to let me go back to Singapore,” he said in the interview.
When the interviewer commended him for his important contributions to the parish, Fr Gerard said he only wanted to be remembered as the ‘Baruk Friar’ (means, ‘the people’s friar’). .
“I don’t want to be remembered as the rector who built St Ann’s Parish. I like you to remember me as the people’s friar, a friar who is always with his people and walk together with them,” he said.
Asked what was the greatest challenge he experienced in St Ann, he said it was none other than the lack of cooperation of certain individuals “with the parish and with me as the Rector.” “Sometimes, these people become obstacles to the growth of the parish,” he shared.
At the end of the interview, Fr Gerard urged the people of St Ann to always “be united, work with each other, see the positives in each other, and build up this community.” He emphasised that the Dayak’s ‘Rami’ (means ‘togetherness’) is an important factor in the life of the local people and the Catholic community of St Ann.
“It took a long time [for us] to reach where we are at [today]. For the next ten years or so, let’s work together, care for each other, and most importantly put Jesus at the centre of your lives. Without Jesus at the centre of our lives and worship, a lot of things will fall apart,” he said.
On 11 November 2018, Friar Gerard handed over the rectorship of the parish to Friar William Lee, OFM. In his thank you speech, he encouraged the parishioners to support the new parish team comprising Friar William Lee, Friar Don Don Ramerez and Friar David Au. A thanksgiving Mass was celebrated to thank the Lord for the gift of Friar Gerard on 21 February. Over the months leading up to his departure, many farewell and thanksgiving dinners were also thrown by parishioners of the kampung churches in the different Zones as a sign of their appreciation for their beloved friar.
On 9 May, many parishioners and friends saw him and Friar Kenny Anthonysamy, OFM off at Kuching International Airport.
Since moving back to Singapore, Friar Gerard Victor now serves the parishioners of the Church of the Holy Cross. He will be coming back to Kuching again in September for the opening of the new St Michael’s Church, Teng Bukap.
For the video interview, go to: https://web.facebook.com/stann10kotapadawan/videos/328748724483347/