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Flashback: Bishop Fung installed as first bishop 40 years ago

File photo of Bishop Fung seated on his chair at the installation ceremony. The other prelates are (L-R): Abp Peter Chung of Kuching, Abp Moretti and Abp Dominic Vendargon of Kuala Lumpur, SHC, 19 May 1977.

PENAMPANG – The late Bishop Simon Fung was installed as first Bishop of Kota Kinabalu 40 years ago on 19 May 1977.

In his message for the occasion, he wrote:

If it were not the Spirit who moves where He wills, I don’t think the motto Fiat Voluntas Tua would make sense.  Small and simple as I am, I never expected to be chosen by the Merciful Father to head the Catholic Church in Sabah …  But it did happen, while many of you were praying for a bishop.  Please continue to remember your bishop in your prayers.  Thank you.

The recent canonical erection of the diocese is still fresh in our minds.  We have many reasons to rejoice and to be grateful to God, to His Holiness Pope Paul VI, to our apostolic delegate Archbishop Giovanni Moretti, to all our distinguished guests, to all friends and relatives.  To tell you the truth, I never expected so many ministers, government officials, consulates, archbishops, priests and pastors, sisters and representatives of our parishes to be present personally.  Yet they did come and surely it is a clear sign that we need a UNITED SPIRIT, no matter what our race or creed may be.  It is an opportune time to learn how we can live and work together to extend God’s Kingdom on earth and to fight united against the vices and injustices in the world.

My special thanks also to our Chief Minister YAB Datuk Harris Salleh and to our Yang DiPertua Negeri, Datuk Mohd Hamdan bin Abdullah for being so kind to grant us an audience during which we could share opinions as to how the diocese can work hand in hand with the government for greater progress in education and more assistance to the poor.  Only in doing so do we learn to respect each other and foster better understanding. (Catholic Sabah, June 1977, Vol XXI  No 6)

Born on 3 June 1931 in Sandakan, Fung entered the seminary in 1955 and was ordained a priest in 1963.  He served in Keningau (1964-1966), Tambunan (1966-1968), Kudat (1968-1970), Tandek/Tenom (1972-1975) before being appointed bishop of the new Diocese of Kota Kinabalu.

He was ordained bishop on 14 Nov 1975 at Sacred Heart Proto-Cathedral Kota Kinabalu.  The vicariate became a diocese in 1976 and his installation took place a year later.  Two days after his 10th anniversary as bishop, he died of stomach cancer in Melbourne Australia where he was undergoing treatment.

His body was flown back to Kota Kinabalu for burial at the Mile 4.5 Catholic Cemetery Jalan Penampang Lama on 22 Nov 1977.  It was exhumed and reburied at the memorial plot in front of the Sacred Heart Blessed Sacrament Chapel in 1987.

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