Good evening to you
My dear honourable Archbishop Emeritus Datuk John Lee
Distinguished guests, Tan Sri-Tan Sri, Datuk-datuk, Datin-datin
My beloved brother bishops, clergy and religious from all over this region
Dear friends, families, ladies and gentlemen
Today our focus in on Archbishop Emeritus John Lee. So it is good that I do not speak much so that we can have more time for him.
Exactly fifty years ago, on 27 December 1964, through the grace of God, Abp Emeritus John was ordained a priest at the old Sacred Heart Church. It was the time when the Second Vatican Council was still in progress, the time when Sabah had just been declared independent from colonial rule and Malaysia was barely one year old. It was also the time when we were still a vicariate, still depending on Rome to take care of the mission. At that time I was not even born yet! And there in the old Sacred Heart Church, Emeritus John Lee publicly said YES to God to serve Him as His priest; and later in 1987 as a bishop, and in 2008 as archbishop.
Today, 50 years later, we thank and praise God for the gift of Emeritus John Lee to us individually and as a local Church. We thank God for his perseverance and faithfulness as a priest, for his love of God and of the Church. We thank God that over the past five decades, he has patiently and diligently guided the local Church in Sabah into what it is today.
At one time, all the priests in Keningau were part of the clergy of KK Diocese; but in 1993 Keningau became a diocese and has its own bishop and pastoral administration. I come from Sandakan which was part of KK Diocese before. But in 2007 Sandakan was made a diocese with its own governance. All these were the results of the far-sighted vision of our Emeritus John, who initiated the move for better pastoral care of the People of God in this part of the world.
If you read the history of the Catholic Church in this region, you would agree with me that the past three decades have been the most eventful and fruitful years of our journey as a local Church in Sabah. You would notice that the number of baptisms has steadily increased, the number of priestly and religious vocations too was very encouraging. You would also see growth in community life either among parishes or lay movements. We really want to thank God for all these blessings. And I think this was partly because we have had a shepherd who constantly prayed for us before the Blessed Sacrament.
Personally, I owe Emeritus John so much. It was he who had accepted my application to enter the seminary. It was he who counselled me, guided me and moulded me in my priesthood. It was he who provided me the opportunity for further studies and prepared me to take up greater responsibilities. And it was he who persuaded me to say YES to my present office as his successor. For these, and for many other blessings that come to me through him, I am really grateful to God.
Dear friends, I always believe that God can work wonder in the life of a person who listens, obeys and carries out His holy will. We see good fruits in the priestly life of Archbishop Emeritus John because he has always submitted himself to the will of the God who called him to be a pastor and a shepherd after the heart of Jesus. And for that, we wish to glorify God for the gift of the priesthood of Emeritus John.
Let us continue to pray for him so that he will have many more years of peaceful, joyful and healthy retirement.
Congratulations to you, my dear Emeritus John. May God bless you abundantly in the years to come! Thank you.