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“ A CHURCH FOR THE TAMIL SPEAKING CATHOLIC COMMUNITY “

“THE FOUNDERS - PIONEER PRIESTS AND CONTRIBUTORS”


In 1883, there was an estimated 100 Indian Catholics in the state of Selangor. An official census taken 16 years later by the French Fathers (MEP) in 1899, showed an increase to 500 Indian Catholics. During this time, the Church of St. John in Bukit Nanas was the only places of worship for al the Catholics residing in the city or in the surrounding region.

1n 1903,the Church of the Holy Rosary in Brickfields was established to cater to the needs of the Chinese-speaking community. As a majority of the Indian Catholics were Tamil-speaking the Church of St. John became inadequate to cater to the needs of these people.

During this time, Fr. Louis Duvelle, MEP who was sent as a special assistant in charge of the Indians of Selangor discovered around 2,000 Indian Catholics in the state.

So steps were taken to have a special church for them.

In 1908, Fr. Victor Renard, MEP who was catering to the spiritual needs of the Tamil speaking parishioners living near the Railway central workshop in Sentul erected a chapel for them. But there was still a need for a spacious church for all the others within the centre of the city.

In 1909, a piece of land was acquired for a new church. Fr. Duvelle received permission from Bishop Marie-Luc-Alphonse-Emile Barillon, MEP to collect funds in Singapore and Penang to build a church for the India Catholics.

A year later, Fr. Duvelle was transferred to Penang. In January 1911, Fr. Francois Le Mahec, MEP was appointed as the first parish priest of the Indian Catholics in Kuala Lumpur. He continued to collect funds for the new church and work commenced in 1912.

Fr. Duvelle who received a substantial sum of money from his cousin in France, passed on the money to Fr. Le Mahec.

Neither the MEP mission nor the faithful were then in a position to pay towards the erection of the Church of St. Anthony. The parish which catered for the port and scattered Indian labourers in the estates of Selangor had to depend on the goodwill of generous benefactors for donations. Fr. Le Mahec mentioned that the Chinese community of Singapore contributed very generously to this project.

On Feb, 2, 1913, Bishop Barillon blessed the foundation stone of the Church of St. Anthony. The opening and blessing of the new church was done on Sept 21, 1913 by Fr. Louis Duvelle in recognition of all that he had done for the Indian community in Kuala Lumpur.

Although the church building was erected in 1913, the date of establishment of the parish is recorded as 1911 (i.e, following the official appointment of it’s first parish priest).

In 1922, Fr. Le Mahec obtained three beautiful bells for the Church of St. Anthony.

In 1923, he erected the new presbytery.

In 1926, Fr. Le Mahec was diagnosed with cancer of the throat and underwent surgery in Singapore. He lost his voice and found it difficult to take food. He had no sleep and could even lie on bed. Day and night he was sitting on a chair. Through it all, Fr Le Mahec displayed edifying patience and did not complain. He welcomed visitors with a smile.

After months of suffering Fr. Le Mahec passed away on May 10, 1927. At the time of his death, he was surrounded by Msgr. Perichon, Fr. Deredec and Fr. M. Olcomendy.

Fr. Le Mahec’s funeral mass was held in the church he built and it was packed to capacity. A timid and reserved priest, he had great spirit of faith and was loved by all.

During his tenure as parish priest, Fr. Le Mahec was assisted by Fr. Deredec (1912 – 1918); Fr. P. Baloche 91920 – 1923); Fr. J. Souhait (1920 – 1921); Fr. M. Seyres (1926);
Fr. Perrichon (1926); Fr. Duvelle (1926); Fr. M. Olcomendy (1926 – 1927) and Fr. L. Belet (1924 – 1925).
   
FR. HERMANN, A HARDWORKING AND THRIFTY PRIEST

The second parish priest of the Church of St. Anthony was Fr. Antoine Hermann, a hard working and thrifty priest. He is the most well-know and well remembered priest of the parish. Fr. Herman who had served at the Church of St. Louis in Taiping for 25 years, served at the Church of St. Anthony fro 23 years (1927 – 1957), his second and last posting among the Indian Catholics.

He became well known for his regular visits to all parishioners and for teaching Catechism in the two schools. He also organized a class for Catechumens interested in the Catholic religion.

But in 1932, the economic situation worsening, there was unemployment: the government repatriated workers and there were no new emigrants among either Indians or Chinese. The situation of the smallholders became worse so Fr. Hermann built a school for poor students.

The apostolic activities in Malaya had been slowed down in the diocese of Malacca during and after the World War in Europe (1914 – 192). Some of the French missionaries had been mobilised. There were still insufficient local clergy. During his long line of duty Fr. Hermann was assisted by many priests.

As time passed it was found that the church was rather too small to accommodate the ever increasing number of the Catholic population. Therefore in 1930, the main body of the church with its tower and belfry was annexed to the wings of the church.This ardous task was undertaken by a well-know architect, Mr. P.L.M.Nathan.

In 1929, Fr. Hermann built a church for those living in the railway quarters in Sentul. He later built a presbytery for the priests, so that it would become a parish by itself.