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KOTA BELUD – Despite heavy rain, some 1,000 lay faithful gathered with joy and oneness of heart at the Thanksgiving Mass to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the priestly ordination of Fr Ambrose Atang at St Edmund’s Church Feb 16. The Mass was presided by Fr Ambrose himself, and at the altar with him were Archbishop John Wong, Msgr Primus Jouil, Msgr Gilbert Engan, Fr Bruno Yasun, Fr Cosmas Lee, and 14 other priests from parishes around the Arch/dioceses of Kota Kinabalu and Keningau.
The actual date of his anniversary was Nov 21, 2014. However Fr Ambrose requested to have the thanksgiving celebration after his return from Jerusalem as the spiritual director for a local entourage, in which the Archbishop said in his speech that “it was a good choice for I believe the visit to Jerusalem has freshened his calling and service as a priest”.
In his homily, Fr Ambrose emphasized the significance of priestly service is manifested in the people’s relationship with Jesus Christ. Fr Ambrose said, “St Paul believes that through his service, the Corinthians received grace from God when he said – ‘I always thank my God for you because of the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus.’ The people accepted Christ through the teachings and service of St Paul himself.” He then acknowledged that “Throughout 25 years of service in the Lord’s vineyard and to his people, I could not judge myself and my service whether I have effectively shared God’s love to all people in all the parishes that I have served.” Fr Ambrose previously served in St John Tuaran, St Dominic Lahad Datu, Holy Trinity Tawau, St Catherine Inanam and St Pius X BunduTuhan.
Quoting the Gospel of Luke, Fr Ambrose humbly asked for forgiveness from the people if he has failed to help them spiritually, “If I have not helped you enough to have hope in God and hope that your name stands written in heaven, please forgive me.” He also reminded the people that their lives should also be a service to God because God has given them various talents. Talents should be harnessed and unfolded so as to be an encouragement to progress in our spiritual, social, and physical life.
With an eye to the future, he affirmed that an effective priestly service should accept the paradigm shift to learn new things and have a new mind set in response to today’s worldly issues. He said a reluctant heart to accept changes will hurt the people and reprove their own service.
In concluding, Fr Ambrose thanked God for being the source of strength in his priestly service, “God strengthens me and he does not allow the evil one to ruin his priests”. His hope is for everyone to continue to pray for him, and for priestly service as a whole, in that the people be helped to receive strength and confidence that their name would be written in heaven.
After the Mass and photograph session, Archbishop John Wong gave his speech affirming that this Silver Jubilee is a time to be thankful and to praise God for his love towards Fr Ambrose. God’s love has sustained him and his priestly service. Archbishop John said, “Priestly calling is mysterious. Because of one person’s response to the calling, the Church receives God’s graces. Through priesthood, the grace of God is able to be channelled to the people through the sacraments celebrated by the priest.”
He added that this priestly calling must be guarded and strengthened not only by the priest but also by cooperation with the people. Prayer, discipline and awareness of our identity would ensure the priestly calling to always carry graces to the church. He ended by congratulating Fr Ambrose and affirmed his prayer for him.
The celebration continued with dinner in the parish hall where a welcoming program was specially prepared for Fr Ambrose and guests. A special slide presentation on his 25 years’ service in God’s vineyard was shown, followed by stage performances by Fr Ambrose himself and various groups from Kota Belud and Bundu Tuhan. Parishioners from Bundu Tuhan, Tuaran, Inanam and Papar are among the people present. – Linda Edward