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His ardent love for Sabah and the faithful people of God whom he had served for nine years from 1951-1960 has drawn him insistently back several times before. This time round, it was his wish to celebrate with the people whom he loves his 90th birthday.
Accompanying him is a young man from his parish in the Isle of Wight, by name of Christy, who has kindly consented to assist him in his travelling.
To celebrate his birthday, a group of friends and some senior students got together at a well-known restaurant in town to say “Happy birthday”. Still within the traditional period of Chinese New Year celebration, he was given Ang Pows by many who were at the party.
Also present for the occasion were Archbishop John Wong, Archbishop Emeritus John Lee, Bro Charles and Bro Ben, Msgr Primus, Fr Aloysius Tung, Fr Francis Tsen and Fr Jeffri.
In his welcoming address, Gregory Chong gave a brief history of Fr Coogan’s stint in Sabah. He referred to him as the Hakka Sin Fu (Hakka priest) because he could speak Hakka fluently, even now!
In his turn, Fr Coogan delighted his audience with stories of his days in Borneo. He credited his knowledge of the Hakka language to Fr Yong and Fr Sham. From them he learned all his Chinese poetry in Hakka, which he graciously obliged a few at the party and had the crowd in stitches!
For the rest of his stay, Fr Coogan, together with Christy, were invited to Sandakan for a week at the pleasure of Vincent Pang and family.
Besides Kota Kinabalu and Papar, Fr Coogan has also taught in St Mary’s Sandakan during his time in Borneo.
While Fr Coogan was busy catching up with old friends and students, Christy took the opportunity to climb Mt Kinabalu Feb 16, the highest peak in South East Asia.
Both Fr Coogan and Christy would return to England on Feb 20. – FChong