By Audrey J Ansibin
LIKAS, KOTA KINABALU — It was a one-of-a-kind feast day for the St Simon Catholic Church Likas community this year as they celebrated the 36th anniversary of the church during the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
To encourage more “virtual participation”, its rector Fr Cosmas Lee celebrated the feast of its patron saint, St Simon the Zealot, last Sunday (Oct 25) instead of Oct 28.
“Early this year, we have confirmed that we would celebrate the feast day (Sunday),” Fr Cosmas said in his opening remarks during the live-stream Mass.
“Archbishop John Wong confirmed he would join us and we were going to help our youngsters to receive First Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation. All that had been cancelled by the pandemic.”
The rector went on to say that there were four of them in the church and only one hymn, composed by the late Choir Master James Ansibin, to honour God and their patron saint.
“God has not changed. St Simon the Zealot has not changed. Let us ask our little-known patron to inspire and strengthen us to look at God.
“Not on the scale or the kind of celebration we have today — quiet. Not look for the glamour of it all. God and St Simon are attending to us with full attention.
“Let’s attend and pay attention to God and St Simon, blessing God, asking our patron saint for his intercession, especially in this difficult time of the pandemic and political uncertainties in Malaysia,” he said, and invited the viewers to prepare for the Mass and acknowledge their sins, “especially the evil of always seeking after popularity and fame”.
In his sermon, the rector said the first church was blessed and opened in November 14, 1984 by the late Bishop Simon Fung on the day of his ninth anniversary of his episcopal ordination. “We’re also going into the 13th year as a parish since June 2008.”
“Before the lockdown last March, about 2,000 would take part in our Sunday Masses every week. Though we are far from perfect, we should also be rightly proud and grateful because we have built a very well-bonded core community of a few hundred people.
“And as St Paul says, together in good and bad times, we have supported each other to grow in the faith so that we will no longer feel that we are aliens or foreign visitors but members of God’s own household.
“But the journey to grow in faith under the patronage of St Simon the Zealot continues, even in and through this challenging time of the pandemic or the political uncertainties in our country and beyond.”
Fr Cosmas went on to say that after studies were carried out, it was confirmed that the parish was named in honour of the baptismal name of the late Bishop Simon, who took the initiative to build the chapel of St Simon.
“It was he, who not only pushed for the building of St Simon, but also promoted it and gave what now has become well-known, the pseudonym of St Simon — the church of the ‘last chance-bah’,” he said, adding that in the early days, St Simon was the only church with an evening Mass in and around KK.
“The only church, therefore, that Catholics around here could fulfil their Sunday obligation if they had not gone there earlier for good or bad reason.”
In a way, he added, Bishop Fung was true to his Christian name. “Many of his priests and close friends used to call him ‘Simple Simon’ for his outstanding simplicity and lack of sophistication.”
Fr Cosmas said St Simon was chosen as an example for parishioners to imitate, “so that the patron’s unique way to holiness may be possessed by those who claim his patronage, so the people of St Simon Likas have saintly virtues and have the characteristics of St Simon the Zealot”.
At the end of the Mass, he also addressed the young people who were supposed to receive their First Holy Communion and Confirmation. “Be firm. Prepare yourself better and you’ll be receiving First Communion and Confirmation in the time the Lord will give you.”