Fifty years ago today, this church building was officially blessed by the late Bishop James Buis. Tonight we are here to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this church.
Of course Stella Maris was made a parish more than 50 years ago. In January 1958, Bishop Buis divide Sacred Heart Parish into two. The area around Tanjong Aru up to Kinarut became a new parish. He transferred Fr George Lampe from Toboh to Stella Maris to be its first rector. But there was no church building yet. All Masses and liturgical services were celebrated at the Stella Maris School, and also at La Salle School on big occasions like Christmas and Easter. There was also no rectory for Fr Lampe. He had to stay somewhere on Harrington Road.
Through the connections of Fr Lampe, funds for a new church building and rectory were raised. Five years later, in 1963, Stella Maris Church was completed. You could imagine the joy of the parishioners in those days to finally have a proper parish church.
Now, 50 years later, you can see that the basic structure of this building still remains the same; but through the combined efforts of the priests who have served here, especially the late Fr Thomas Sham, and lay leaders, now we have a much bigger space to worship.
To us Catholics, a church building is a sacred place. It is a place where we assemble as people of God, to adore His presence, to listen to His word, and to be fed with the Bread of Life. It is a place where Christ is present in the Tabernacle in the form of the Blessed Sacrament.
If this is our belief and understanding of a church, then we need to protect its sacredness. Sadly, I have observed in some churches, the people turn them into a market place on some occasions. There is no reverence and respect at all.
In this Year of Faith, all Catholics are urged to put their faith into concrete practice. I suggest we start with the way we behave inside the church. If our faith convicts us that the church is a house of God, if we believe that Christ is truly present in the tabernacle, then let it be reflected in the way we act whenever we are inside the church. Let us seek the presence of God through silence, reverence and respect. Let us avoid unnecessary distractions and movements. In this way, non believers who see the way we behave will also be attracted to seek God in our churches.
As you celebrate the 50th anniversary of this church, it is my hope that you will make this a resolution.
Happy anniversary to you all! Thank you.