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RANAU – St Peter Claver here celebrated Fr Francis Tsen’s 50 years of priestly ministry on 9 Jan 2016. In the celebration there was a mixture of native and Chinese traditions. As the jubilarian and his concelebrants processed toward the church for the thanksgiving Mass they were met by a group of Ranau Dusun dancers (from Fr Abel Madisang’s village) and two prancing lions in front of the church entrance. Archbishop John Wong presided over the Liturgy of the Word and the Dismissal Rite. The jubilarian took over from the homily onwards. Ten other priests concelebrated at the Mass including Fr Danny Matthews of Port Dickson, Fr Charles Chiew and Fr Joseph Gapitang from Keningau Diocese. Deacon Joshua Liew assisted at the altar.
After Mass, all present – from the three arch/dioceses and Port Dickson – adjourned to the school field of St Benedict for the reception. However, the jubilarian was carried on a golden sedan, symbolising perhaps his venerable age of 74 (lunar age of 75) and reaching the golden milestone of his priestly ministry, to the reception preceded again by the Ranau Dusun dancers and the two prancing lions.
In his message Abp Wong said: “When I look at him, the word that comes into my mind is ‘fidelity.’ For one to be able to stay faithful for 50 years in one’s vocation is indeed a sign of fidelity, a commitment that is tested over a span of time. Half a century is considered a long period within a normal life span of 70 or 75 years …. To be able to stay faithful to God as a priest over this long period is indeed an endurance that comes from the grace of God.”
In his turn, the jubilarian recalled how his vocation came through Fr Willibrord Smit while he was under his care as a young boy in Labuan. He said that since then he had never looked back.
Parish priest Fr Nicholas Stephen thanked the jubilarian for sharing his wisdom and experience over the many meals they have shared since the latter was assigned in Ranau in 2010.
The jubilarian is the youngest in a brood of six boys and two girls born to Tsen Sau Siong and Yap Siu Chin in Tuaran. His father, a clerk at Tuaran Rubber Estate Sg Damit was killed at Petagas in reprisal by the Japanese after the 1944 Double Ten Rebellion. His mother died shortly after. Thereafter, life was spent as a mission school boarder, first at Sacred Heart Primary School Jesselton, then at St Anthony Boys School Labuan, and later at the Minor Seminary Jesselton. In 1957 he entered the Minor Seminary in Singapore for three years, and then continued his theological studies at Penang College General for six years.
The jubilarian was ordained on 9 January 1966 at Sacred Heart Church Jesselton. After his ordination he served in Keningau 1966, Tenom 1967-1968, took up licentiate studies in biblical theology in Rome 1969-1973, lectured in Penang College General 1974-1979, served again in Tenom 1980-1988, Beaufort 1980, Tanjung Aru 1989, Tawau 1990-1997, Tanjung Aru 1999, Sandakan 2000-2004, took up a course in New Mexico USA Oct-Dec 2005, served in Port Dickson 2005-2009, and in Ranau since 2010.