KUCHING — The Archdiocese of Kuching has a lot to thank God for in the person of Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung Hoan Ting, who has given his entire life to serving the people of Sarawak. On 10 September, bishops, priests, the lay faithful and his family and friends, came together to celebrate the 90th birthday of Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung in a thanksgiving Mass.
The Archbishop Emeritus presided over at the Mass. In the homily, he recalled how God has shown him love throughout his life and priesthood. Expounding on the first reading (Hos 11:1-4), he said just as God rescued and brought the Israelites out of Egypt, cared and protected them throughout their journey to the promised land, in the same way God has fathered him.
“My father died six months before I was born, and my mother remarried after three years, thus I was left to the loving care of my grandmother and aunt, who were devout Christians. They gave me a good Christian upbringing, not so much through their words as through their devout lives and daily prayers,” he said.
“As I reflected on all these, I began to realise and believe that, God who called my father away, took the place of my father and provided me with great care and with fatherly love!” He continued.
His years in the seminary were “bad years”. Despite the outbreak of World War II and the great famine it caused, followed by the rise of communism in China, he persevered and completed his seminary formation in June 1954. He was sent to Sarawak on 21 August 1954 and ordained priest on 26 September that same year. His was the first ordination in the land of Sarawak. On 15 November 1970 he was ordained a bishop in Kota Kinabalu and was installed as Archbishop of Kuching on 26 November 1976.
“As I was looking back on those years in the seminaries, in the sacred ministries of priest and bishop, I realised again the exceedingly great love and care God has given me until this day,” he said.
Archbishop Emeritus Chung thanked the archbishops, priests, sisters and all lay people for their kind acceptance, cooperation and support. “I promise you, I will continue to pray for you and for the local Church. And I beg your continual remembrance of me in your prayer.”
Many asked if he was happy in his long years as a priest and bishop, to which he answered, “I frankly told them I have had many hard times, but I thank God for his fatherly love and care supported and encouraged me.”
The prelate shared the secret of his joy and strength: the Holy Mass and God’s word. He urged the congregation to do the same. “Make good effort to read, reflect and practise God’s word in the Bible, especially the words on the Beatitudes. You will surely find true happiness as Jesus promised.”
A birthday dinner was organised by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council the evening before at a local restaurant. It was attended by a thousand guests, consisting of bishops and priests, and the family members of Archbishop Emeritus Chung who came all the way from China.
It was an emotional moment when Archbishop Emeritus’ family members, all seven of them, together with Fr Peter Liew from China, presented him with birthday wishes in three set of Chinese scrolls. These wishes were handwritten in calligraphic Chinese, which mean: “May you be blessed with overflowing joy and a long life”. It was probably the best birthday gift the Archbishop Emeritus received – the presence of his loved ones on such an auspicious day as this.
The evening was made all the more special with various entertaining items presented from different parishes and lay organisations. A video featuring a typical day in the life of the retired archbishop produced by the Social Communications Committee was shown. Since his retirement in June 2003, Archbishop Emeritus Chung has never really ceased reaching out to the laity. Though no longer holding the episcopal office, he continues to administer to the people through daily celebration of the Eucharist, hearing confessions, giving formation, counselling and all forms of assistance he is able to give.
In her speech, Cecilia Chung, the niece of Archbishop Chung thanked all parishioners and clergy who have accompanied and supported him throughout his life. She requested everyone to continue that companionship and support they have offered him.
A thanksgiving message from Archbishop Emeritus Chung
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
To mark my 90th birthday, you have participated in my Thanksgiving Mass and held a grand dinner for me, and offered me many words of praise. While I thank all of you and appreciate for all you have done and manifested, I felt, truly, my unworthiness in receiving such great honour and glory. I humbly offer the honour and glory to God, because it was he who did not look down on my humbleness, but called me to become his priest and bishop to serve you, his Church and people here in this land.
Though my body is old, but my heart is not. Therefore, I will continue, with God’s blessing and help, to serve you through my prayer and sacred ministries. I beg you to remember me when you attend the mass and offer your prayers.
My special thanks and appreciation to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, to its Chairperson Perpetua and the Secretary Stephanie, for organising the Mass, dinner and the arrangements for the guests including my relatives from China. May God grant them a special blessing for the love shown me.
May almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless all of you, now and for ever. Amen
Archbishop Emeritus of Kuching.
Today’s Catholic Vol.30 No.7 October 2018
For news in Mandarin, see 古晉總教區隆重慶祝鍾萬庭榮休總主教九秩大壽.