Tanjung Aru is a sub-district of Kota Kinabalu. Its main feature is its beach called Tanjung Aru Beach which stretches to over two kilometres long. It also has its own township called Pekan Tanjung Aru. Other notable features include the Stella Maris Secondary School, La Salle Secondary School, several primary schools, the Kinabalu Golf Club, the Kinabalu Yacht Club, Terminal 2 of Kota Kinabalu International Airport, and the Tanjung Aru railway station for Sabah State Railway.
The church was erected by the Catholics of Jesselton and Tanjung Aru in honour of Our Lady Star of the Sea. It was solemnly consecrated by the Bishop James Buis, CBE, Vicar Apostolic of Jesselton on 25 May 1963. The stained glass window above the high altar was donated to the first rector Father AG Lampe in remembrance of the 25th anniversary of his ordination.
Stella Maris became a parish in January 1958. Hitherto it was part of Sacred Heart Parish Jesselton. The split coincided with the arrival of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (De La Salle Brothers). The arrival of the pioneer Brothers – Raphael Egan, Charles Michael O’Leary, Thomas Carney – was a watershed for Tanjung Aru because Bishop James Buis, Vicar Apostolic of North Borneo, thought it fitting that Sacred Heart Parish be divided and a new parish formed from the area to the right of the Sikh Temple up to Kinarut. In his wisdom he thought it better that new pastor other than any of those involved in the school (Sacred Heart Secondary School now La Salle Secondary School) – Frs Arthur Crowther, Alfred McCarthy, Brian Coogan – be appointed to head the new parish. Possibly, he did this to ensure that the Brothers had a free hand to administer the school. It was a wise decision and he chose the right person in the person of Fr George Lampe the parish priest of Toboh Tambunan to be new parish priest. Fr Lampe was a true friend of the school and those who administered it, a willing collaborator in matters personal and spiritual, and a generous benefactor in times of need. He rarely missed an important function in the school. He readily participated in matters concerning his mission such as the teaching of Religious Knowledge daily, going from class to class, as was his wont.
There was no church at Stella Maris until 1963. All services took place either at Stella Maris Primary School on ordinary Sundays, Christmas and Easter at La Salle.
Fr Lampe had no house in the parish; he stayed at quarters in Harrington Road. His first task was then to build a church and parochial house, a task which he set about doing at once. He came from a well-to-do Dutch-German background. His people were of the merchant class and funds for Fr Lampe’s mission at Tanjung Aru would be at hand to bail him out in times of need. Wherever the money came from, and money was hard to come by locally in those post war-ravaged years in North Borneo, the parish church of Stella Maris and the adjacent priest’s house blotted the skyline in a matter of few years, five years to be exact.
Vatican II brought in many changes to the universal church, changes in the language and form of the liturgy, changes in worship, changes in attitudes towards the world, towards people of other religions, towards the word of God as revealed in the scriptures, changes in our understanding of the Mass and the Sacraments and in moral and sexual mores. It swept away cobwebs and buried some of the sacred cows that for centuries reduced religion to sacred platitudes and external rituals with no depth or substance. It did away with a clerical/religious-dominated church and introduced the era of the laity. Parish councils were to be set up in all parishes and pastoral councils in all dioceses to share with the bishops and priests in the administration of the parishes and dioceses.
The process of change and renewal in Stella Maris was in tandem with those of the Vicariate. A parish council was set up and the late Datuk Fong Peng Loi was the first chairman. But trouble was brewing that soon began to rock the Bark of Peter in the newly named State of Sabah and this soon was felt in Stella Maris. In 1963 Sabah ceased to be a British Colony and became independent under the Federation of Malaysia. This brought about a paradigm shift politically, economically and in religious affairs in the State. There was political unease and uncertainty in the wake of independence till the first elections and this election brought Mustapha into power and the Mustapha regime into force. His policy was Islamisation of Sabah and he set about doing it systematically by all manner and means at his disposal. Forced mass conversion ceremonies to Islam was the order of the day. The Christian Churches were targeted because of their work in evangelising the rural people; Christian schools which over the years had provided an all round education to the youth were harassed and their Christian staff depleted; Christian missionaries were jailed and deported. Most of the Mill Hill Missionaries and Stella Maris parish priest were victims of Mustapha’s policy.
Fr Lampe was a big loss to the parish. He was replaced by Fr Peter Ma and after his tenure of office came a succession of pastors and assistant pastors each contributing his share but in limited ways because of the short duration of their stays. One of these was Fr Cornelius Piong, now Bishop of Keningau Diocese. He succeeded in building the long-awaited parish hall. They had scarcely started some projects when for one reason or another they were transferred and the replacement generally set off on a different course of action, renewal or what have you. It was only with the arrival and pastorship of Fr Thomas Sham (1988-2004) that the parish regained some of its original life, spirit and stability and serious efforts were put in place to bring about liturgical renewal.
Fr Sham extended the church, provided and furnished a room for the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and built the Stella Maris Catechetical Sunday School which is named after him. He decided to spend his retirement in Stella Maris until his death in 2004. – Br Charles M O’Leary fsc, “Reminiscenses of Stella Maris Parish,” Stella Maris Magazine, 2002.
The Sisters convent was opened in July 1950, sold by the Mission to the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Convent for $4,000.00. It was named Stella Maris Convent by Bishop James Buis.
Address: Jalan Tanjung Aru, Kg Baru,
P.O. Box 10533,
88806 Kota Kinabalu Sabah
website: Stella Maris Tg Aru
Parish Priest: Fr Jeffri Gumu
Asst Parish Priests: Fr Primus Jouil, Fr Peter Abas , Fr. Peter Chung
PPC Chairperson: Charles Bisius (2023-2026)
Secretary: Paulyne Imbayan (2023-2026)
Mon, Wed, Fri: 6:00pm (EN)
Tue, Thu, Sat: 6:00am (EN)
Sat: 6:00pm (EN)
Sun: 7:30am (EN), 10:00am (BM)
Subparish: St Thomas Kepayan
Pastors Past & Present
Fr AG Lampe mhm 1958-1969
Fr Aloysius Tung
Fr Vivian De Souza
Fr Joseph Dapoz mhm
Fr Willibrord Smit mhm
Fr J Goedhart mhm
Fr Peter Ma
Fr John Baptist Yong
Fr Nicholas Ong
Fr Cornelius Piong
Fr Thomas Sham 1988-2004
Fr Francis Tsen 1999
Fr Moses Lui 1999-2003
Fr Fundes Motiung 2003-2014
Fr Tony Mojiwat 2008-2017
Fr Aloysius Fidelis 2014-2015
Msgr Primus Jouil 2014
Fr Johny Raju 2016
Fr Peter Abas 18.3.2017
Fr Ambrose Atang (1.10.2022) Fr. Jeffri Gomu (1.3.2023 -), Fr. Peter Chung (1.12.2023 -)
Fr Patrick Ryan (ordained 1982 UK)
Fr James Chia odeM (ordained 2012 USA)
Fr Francisco Basnayake ofm (ordained 2016 Singapore)
Fr Robin Lomangkok cssr (ordained 2016 Singapore)