Catholics in Sarawak mourn the passing of Fr John Chia

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Rev Fr John Chia Fu Hin (26 February 1971 – 31 March 2020)

By Ivy Chai

KUCHING — Today, the Archdiocese of Kuching received the obituary notice of Fr John Chia from Bishop Richard Ng, Bishop of Miri Diocese.

He wrote, “It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of Rev Fr John Chia Fu Hin on 31 March 2020 at 10:07am at Bintulu Hospital. He died of multiple organs failure.”

Fr John had been feeling unwell for the past two weeks. When his health did not improve after receiving treatment at the health clinic in Sg Asap, he was transferred to Bintulu Hospital on 29 March and diagnosed with severe pneumonia. He did not survive.

Fr John was born on 26 February 1971 in Kpg Medait, Limbang to Stephen Chia and Doreen anak Aba. The second of three boys, he was baptised on 26 August 1976. He entered the Miri Diocesan Seminary in 1990, after completing Form 5 in Limbang.

He was ordained deacon on 8 December 1996 in Bintulu, and ordained priest in Limbang by Bishop Anthony Lee on 1 May 1997.

Fr John served in St Michael’s Parish, Batu Niah from 1997 to 1999 and in St Edmund’s Parish, Limbang from 2000 to 2005. He was sent to Rome to study Liturgy at S. Anselmo Institute and graduated in 2008.

He headed the Liturgy Commission and was appointed to the following parishes on his return from Rome: St Anthony’s Parish, Bintulu from 2008 to 2012, St Edmund’s Parish, Limbang from 2013 to 2016 and Holy Cross Parish, Sg Asap, Belaga from 2016 up to the present.

“Fr John will be remembered as a hardworking and cheerful priest with a deep love for the people. He was constantly visiting the people in the longhouses and villages in the parishes he served to provide pastoral care and the sacraments. He was well versed in several languages and was close to the people. He was also popular with the youth and reached out to them through his motivational talks, songs and music,” added Bishop Richard.

“On behalf of the clergy, religious and faithful of the diocese, I offer my deepest condolence to the family of Fr John for their great loss. No words can adequately express our sorrow and shock at his sudden passing. May we draw consolation and strength from the reassuring words of Jesus to Martha in last Sunday’s gospel.

“’I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25-26). May he rest in peace,” wrote Bishop Richard.

Archbishop Simon Poh of the Archdiocese of Kuching also expressed his profound sadness on receiving the news.

He said, “Today we mourn and pray for the passing of one of our priests, Fr John Chia. From the youth events that we had organised, I have seen Fr John ministering and connecting to the young people with so much joy. I am sure that would have been how he had served and given his whole life to the people and parishes assigned. He will be greatly missed. 

“Kuching Archdiocese would like to extend our heartfelt condolence to Miri’s Bishop Richard Ng, priests, catechists, Catholics and especially the family of the late Fr John Chia.  

“May Christ the Good Shepherd lead Fr John safely home and grant him a place in the Father’s House as we comfort each other with the assurance of our faith until we all meet in Christ. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant… Come share your Master’s joy.’ (Mt 25:21).”

Among the overseas priests who knew Fr John Chia and sent their condolences were Fr Bernadus Boli from Indonesia who wrote, “RIP Dear Fr John Chia. You had been very kind to us. We miss you a lot. May you join the choirs in heaven participating forever in the heavenly liturgy with all the saints and angels. Pray for us. May God bless you.”

Other priests who sent condolences and prayers were: Fr Theo Asa Siri and Fr Petrus Tripomo from Indonesia, and Fr Peter Le from Vietnam.

Fr Almas Archangelus from Pakistan wrote, “I met him in Rome in 2006 and we were in Sant’ Anselmo for 2 years together. I found him a very pleasant, accommodating, friendly and caring person. Going to University together and stopping for a cup of coffee or glass of beer was fun. He was a brother to me. I wanted to meet him last month when I came to Malaysia, however it was not meant to be. I feel we all who have known him, have lost a genuine friend. We will miss you John, may our prayers lead you to enter eternal peace and pray for us from the heavenly realms.”

Fr Felix Au wrote from Taiwan, “I remember Fr John as a priest who seemed very happy in ministry. He would smile most of the time and had a special gift with young people – he was able to effectively connect and relate to them. The youths of Kuching were also privileged to have Fr John minister to them several times when he was invited as a speaker to our programmes. With his gifts, he blessed the young with the experience of God’s love for them. I am sure John will be sorely missed by all those who knew him.”

Fr John Chia Fu Hin died at the age of 49 years. May his soul rest in peace.

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