St. Michael’s Church is located in Donggongon, a town in the district of Penampang, about 15 to 18 kilometers from Kota Kinabalu, approximately 25-30 minutes drive away. It is the oldest church in the district of Penampang and the second oldest stone church in Sabah, after the Anglican St Michael’s and All Angels Church in Sandakan.
The history of the church started with the Mill Hill Missionaries who came to Penampang in 1886. The missionaries, led by Fr Alexander Prenger, set up a base in Kampung Inobong where a church now known as Sacred Heart Church currently stands. The missionaries then decided to establish a new base at Kg Dabak, Penampang, which is nearer to the sea, a river known as Moyog river and situated on a plain with rice fields with a low hill that is strategically located and suited for the building of a church. This location is rather strategic since the locals who used the river as a mode of transportation would alight at Kasigui which was then the only and first town in the District of Penampang from the coast en route to the interior.
In 1890, Fr Rientjes arrived in Penampang from Sandakan to help Fr Prenger and was put in charge of Penampang Mission. Around the same year, the wooden building of the first Penampang church began. In July 1890, Fr Prenger was called back to teach at Mill Hill College. Fr. Rientjes was left alone. He stayed at Penampang to work among the people in Penampang and visited Inobong on every other Sunday. After the death of both Fr Prenger and Fr Rientjes, other missionaries carried out the work in Penampang Mission.
In early 1920s, the number of Catholics increased in Penampang. The small church could no longer hold the growing number of Catholics. In February 1922, the Penampang Church was extended by 33 feet. The number of children attending Sunday school also increased. There were four schools in Penampang and the Mission works in Penampang increased and the number of Catholics also raised as more and more outstations were being opened.
By early 1930s, the building of the stone church began, initiated by Msgr August Wachter. As early as April 1929, Msgr Wachter already had the intention of building this church. The foundation stone for the new church was laid during a special ceremony on 29 September 1936, the Feast of St. Michael. Msgr Wachter had specially invited Brother Aegidius Leiter, the master builder, to be responsible for the building of the church. Nonetheless, the construction was postponed during the Second World War only to resume and complete in 1947.
How it acquired its name
According to oral tradition, the Missionaries were oppressed by the local territorial spirits. They would then say the rosary and call upon the Archangel Michael to defend and protect them. It was then that the priests decided to name the church as St Michael’s Church because the church was under the protection of St. Michael.
The church is located on a steep hill and is built with stones. The church also includes a cemetery, a bell tower, a grotto of Mary, the rectory, parish hall, and a religious centre.
The interior of the church.
The church consists of a nave and two aisles, each with a flat wooden ceiling. The side aisles and the upper sides of the nave are provided with arched windows that provide the interior with plenty of natural light. There is a gallery, which is accessible by a narrow spiral staircase to the entrance area. The church interior is equipped with wooden benches; about 20 double rows in the nave and 15 benches in the left aisle. The right aisle seats are reserved for choir and band. The chancel or altar is adorned with a scene of the Last Supper.
The bell tower was built after the war in the memory of Fr Wachter. It consists of a concrete structure in the form of a tripod, topped with a tetrahedron-shaped roof. At the peak of the roof is a cross. The three bells of the tower must be rung by hand. At the foot of the bell tower is a spherical time capsule made of concrete that was poured on 31 December 2000.
A grotto of Mary is located on the south side of the church square.
The cemetery consists of two parts. First is a small park-like ground, directly located to the left wing of the church. Only two tombs are located here, which are the grave of Rev Anthony Paul Michael, containing the bones of the priest recovered in Tenom and the grave of Datuk Peter Mojuntin, a minister of Sabah, who died in the Double Six Crash tragedy in 1976. The second part of the cemetery is below the hill behind the church. In addition to the traditional graves, there are also burials in clay jars, in accordance of the tradition of the Kadazan-Dusun.
SM St Michael, Penampang
The Catholic missionaries in Penampang began in 1888 with the education of the local population. The first school building was built at the foot of the hill was named St. Michael’s School. In 1924 Fr Verhoeven built a two-story school building that served as a church, a school, a boarding school and as a residence for priests simultaneously. This building was used until 1966 as a school. Today’s old block was built by Fr Michael Henselmans in 1958. In the 2000s, the school acquired its current name SM St Michael.
St Joseph’s Convent and Maternity Home
The St Joseph’s Convent was established by the Franciscan Missionaries of St Joseph (FMSJ) in September 1921 to carry out teaching and nursing. When the White Sisters’ permits were not renewed by the government in 1971, the running of the convent and maternity home was handed over to the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (FSIC). Later, the Sisters moved to the maternity home and the convent became the Penampang Parish Hall. The daycare centre was opened in 1978 at the request of some parishioners.
John Rooney: Khabar Gembira: History of the Catholic Church in East Malaysia and Brunei, 1880-1976, 1981, Burns and Oates Ltd Wellwood North Farm rd, Turnbridge Wells Kent, ISBN 978-0860121220
Fr. William Poilis: A Popular History of the Catholic Church in Sabah
Address: Jalan Dakata,
P.O. Box 110,
89507 Penampang Sabah
Tel: 088-711009, 088-715804
Parish Priest: Fr Wilfred Atin
Asst Parish Priest: Fr Gilbert Marcus
PCC Chairperson: Mr Lawrence Bisuil
Sat: 6:00pm (EN)
Sun: 7:30am (KD), 10:00am (BM)
Pastors Past & Present
Pre-War (World War II 1939-1945)
1890-1892 Fr Rientjes
1892-1893 Fr Prenger, Fr Reyfert
1893-1917 Fr Duxneuner (Founder of Penampang Mission)
1917-1945 Msgr August Wachter
1947-1962 Fr Anthonissen, Fr AG Lampe, Fr A Verhoeven, Fr Roetenberg
1962-1965 Fr Joseph Dapoz
1965-1968 Fr Willibrord Smit
1968-1969 Fr Terpstra
1969-1973 Fr Florian Jud
1973-1975 Fr Gerard Preyde, Fr Michael Henselmans
1975-1979 Fr Jan van Velzen
1977-1979 Fr Cosmas Lee
1978-1981 Fr Nicholas Ong
1979-1983 Fr Alexander Sipanul (local priest)
1981-1982 Fr Thomas Makajil
1982-1983 Fr Bede Anthonius
1983-1985 Fr Alexander Induku
1985-1989 Fr Primus Jouil
1986-1990 Fr Felix Chung
1989-1992 Fr Thomas Makajil
1990 Fr Peter Abas, Fr Patrick Erik Jerome
1990-1994 Fr Augustine Amandus
1992-1997 Msgr Primus Jouil
1996 Fr Marcellinus Pongking
1997-1999 Fr William Poilis
1999-2001 Fr Aloysius Fidelis
2001-2005 Fr Alexander Jimsy Julius
2001-2013 Fr Alexander Sipanul
2002 Fr Fundes Motiung
2006-2008 Fr Jasery Gabuk
2008 Fr Jalius Sading
2010 Fr Isidore Gilbert
2012 Fr Daniel Jomilong
2013 Fr Fundes Motiung, Fr Wiandigool Runsab
2017: Fr Wilfred Atin (9.7.2017), Fr Wiandigool Runsab
Sr Ignatia Gomez fsic (professed 1957)
Sr Michael Gondipon fsic (professed 1958)+
Sr Euphrasia Manson fsic (professed 1959)+
Sr Collete Kinajil fsic (professed 1972)
Sr Felicity Moduing fsic (professed 1974)
Sr Leonie Jokinin fsic (professed 1974)
Sr Keyna Ginibun fsic (professed 1978)+
Msgr Primus Jouil (ordained 1980)
Fr David Sham (ordained 1985)
Sr Clarice Jomitin fsic (professed 1985)
Fr John Mansul (ordained 1986)
Sr Martha Bojion fsic (professed 1987)+
Sr Evelyn Tivit fsic (professed 1988)
Sr Sandra Yapp fsic (professed 1988)
Sr Mathilda Gomuru fsic (professed 1991)
Sr Lounah Pulis fsic (professed 1992)
Fr Rayner Bisius (ordained 2009)
Sr Marysia Malating fsic (professed 2010)
Fr Daniel Jomilong (ordained 2012)
Fr Rhobby Aaron Mojolou (ordained 2014)
Fr Ned Columba Moujing osb (ordained 2014)
St Patrick Buayan
St Augustine Kinarut
St Theresa of the Child Jesus Kolopis
St Aloysius Limbanak
St Marcellinus Minintod
Assumption of Our Lady Sugud
St Benedict Timpangoh Laut Sugud
Divine Mercy Maang (2018)
St Padre Pio Labak (2018)