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Sandakan prelate blesses new chapel on Apas Road

Opening of the new chapel by unveiling the commemorative plaque after the Mass.
Opening of the new chapel by unveiling the commemorative plaque after the Mass.

TAWAU -BIshop Julius Gitom blessed a new chapel on Apas Road on 24 Oct 2015. It was named after St Francis of Assisi. Located at Mile 8 Apas Road, a mere 20-minute drive from the main parish, the former house-type chapel was built in 1997 on reserve land before relocating to the present site. The new chapel is built to accommodate 200-300 people.

The Rite of Blessing, officiated by Bishop Julius Gitom, was witnessed by some 500 parishioners from the nearby chapels of St Stephen Tass, St Paul Balung, St James Ranggu Tass as well as from the main parish. The people entered the new chapel, led by the prelate, who opened the doors of the chapel. The faithful joined in the first Eucharistic celebration of the chapel, presided by the prelate and concelebrated by Fr Johnny Raju.

In his speech after Mass, Bishop Julius expressed gratitude to the land donor, the late Francis Chia Su Len, who was represented by his sons, David and Charlie Chia. Inspired by the initiatives and spiritual activities conducted by the Catholic faithful next to his land, Chia donated a parcel of 0.6 acre land in 2004, where the new St Francis De Assisi stands today.

The history of St Francis De Asisi began with a small number of Catholic migrants who went from house to house reciting the rosary and celebrating the Word of God every weekend in a small cocoa factory in early 1992, led by Hermanus Erwai of Timorese descent. The activity came to the attention of the local priest, who was eager to share the faith. Fr Francis Tsen, the then parish priest of Holy Trinity Church, made a visit on 30 October 1992 and celebrated the first Mass with the increasing number of migrants. They named the place Basis Bosco.

The journey of this small community went through many challenges, particularly in securing a place for their gathering. In 1997 the cocoa factory was closed and their gatherings had to be carried out in a house belonging to Filipino migrant Elesperia Regidor, who willingly offered it for use by the community.

The increasing number of people necessitated the community to find another conducive place to accommodate their need. A reserve road area near  the Apas Road was later identified. In November 2004 a temporary house-type chapel was built and named after St Francis De Assisi. This temporary structure was used while they waited for the process of changing land title for Chia’s land to be finalised. The old chapel was later demolished to give way to the construction of the new chapel.

Bishop Gitom congratulated the people for their faithfulness to God and their unceasing hope of having a permanent chapel. He accorded appreciation to the main committee for their hard work and team work, without which the chapel would not be standing today.  He concluded by urging everyone to live out the will of God by faithfully partaking of the Word of God and the Sacraments.

Souvenirs were presented to Bishop Gitom and David and Charlie Chia. All adjourned to a fellowship lunch with performances by the youth from St Francis De Assisi and St Stephen Tass. – Julita Kantod

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