KOTA KINABALU – Retired Archbishop John Lee will mark 30 years of episcopal ministry, the last five years in retirement, come June 26.
In his address given at the golden jubilee celebration (priesthood) of Abp Emeritus Lee in December 2014, Archbishop John Wong paid tribute to his predecessor’s singular contribution to the local church.
“It is through his farsighted vision that we have now three dioceses in Sabah. This, by itself, is a sign of growth, empowerment and shared responsibility in the local Church,” he said.
Abp Wong added, “It needs someone who has vision, wisdom, humility and courage to do so. And this, to me, is what we have and are grateful to the Archbishop Emeritus for. It is through his guidance that we are where we are now as the local Church.”
Archbishop Lee’s tenure (1987-2012) saw creation of two dioceses–Keningau (1993) and Sandakan (2007)–in the state of Sabah. On 23 May 2008, Kota Kinabalu Diocese was raised to an archdiocese, with Bishop John Lee as its first Archbishop. After 23 years in the Episcopal ministry and 79 years old, he tendered his resignation and was succeeded by Archbishop Wong.
Archbishop Emeritus John Lee was born into the family of a traditional Chinese medicine doctor, Thomas Lee Yu Moi and Beatrice Ho Nyuk Kau on 5 October 1933 in then Jesselton, North Borneo. He is the sixth child of nine siblings.
Prior to entering St Francis Xavier’s Minor Seminary, Singapore in early 1956, he worked as a Health Inspector. Three years later, he went to College General Penang for his Philosophy and Theology. He was ordained deacon on 3 May 1964 and as a priest on 27 December 1964. After several years serving in the parishes around Sabah, he was sent to Urban University Rome for a three -year licentiate course in Canon Law. Upon completion of his study in 1983, he returned to Sabah and was appointed Rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral and made Vicar General of Kota Kinabalu Diocese. His episcopal ordination and installation as Bishop of Kota Kinabalu took place on 26 June 1987.