Bishop Ng (third left) hands over a memento with Papal blessing to Kuleh as (from left) Ting, Lee, Peter and Philip look on.
MIRI: Missionaries and churches such as those from the Roman Catholic (RC) Church have contributed immensely towards the development of Sarawak in all aspects particularly in education and uniting the people.
Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin remarked on this on Tuesday night.
“I can say that the missionaries, the churches and the Roman Catholic, they have done a lot in Sarawak especially in the early days in providing education.
“For example, many of our leaders here in Sarawak came from missionary schools. I am one of them; our four chief ministers – the late Tun Abdul Rahman Yaakob, the late Datuk Patinggi Adenan Satem, our present Head of State, Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and our present Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, they are all from St Joseph Secondary School – a missionary school in Kuching,” said Lee.
He was attending a dinner to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the priestly ordination of three local pioneers in the Miri Diocese.
They were Monsignor Francis Kuleh Usat, Vicar General of the Diocese, Rev Fr Peter Mering, both of whom were the first Kenyah priests in Malaysia, and Rev Fr Philip Empalah, the first Iban priest in Malaysia. Kuleh was also the first Kenyah to become Monsignor, a honorific title accorded by the Pope.
Lee congratulated the three priests for their dedication in serving the people in the Miri Diocese for 40 years.
“I would like to express heartfelt thanks and appreciation for their 40 years of dedicated and selfless service to the people and also to Sarawak and the country.
“We can see our missionary, our Fathers helped a lot especially in terms of education and also in uniting the people and promoting a harmonious society and mutual respect and understanding among our people from various communities and religions.
“That is why in Sarawak we can see that there is religious harmony and there is always mutual respect,” he said.
Miri Diocese, formed on May 31 1976, stretches from Belaga District to Bintulu, Miri and Limbang divisions, with a population of over 97,000. Miri alone has more than 12,000 Catholics.
Lee was among the 2,000 Catholics in the diocese attending the dinner held at one of the golf clubs here.
Among those present were were his wife Datin Christina Kong Shui Lin, Piasau assemblyman Datuk Sebastian Ting, Bishop Richard Ng and priests from the 11 parishes in the Miri Diocese, three missionary sisters (Mensa Domini Sisters) from the Philippines who are attached to the Miri Diocese, as well as family members of the three priests.