Hope and Away

26 December 2017

The Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang spreads Christmas cheer to the migrant community in Malaysia.

The Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, located along Jalan Tengku Kelana in the south of the royal city, was established in 1900, then built in 1928 – making the next year its 90th anniversary. Initially built to cater to the spiritual needs of Catholic residents and estate workers in Klang and surrounding districts – such as Banting, Meru, and Kuala Selangor – today, it caters also to another community besides its Chinese- and English-speaking local urbans: the migrant community.

Christmastime can be challenging for the migrant community in Malaysia, to be so far away from home during the holiday season. Fortunately, the church provides pastoral care, and with it, a social sense of belonging; every fourth Sunday, the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes holds a Vietnamese mass service for its growing Vietnamese Catholic following, as well as mass services in English, Malay and Tamil for its local, Indonesian and Myanmarese followers, followed by lunch and fellowship programmes. 

According to the church’s parish priest, the Reverend Father Frederick Joseph, the church has a diverse following: “About 200 Vietnamese Catholics come to the church; occasionally, we bring in Vietnamese priests to celebrate Christmas – as well as Easter – with the community. We have African and Filipino followers too. The bigger group is the Myanmarese Catholics who participate in the English service, but the biggest yet is the Indonesian Catholics.”

The church works to extend assistance to the migrant community and erase prejudice, through providing pastoral care to migrants in Malaysia. It sensitises local Christians to the plight of the migrants, to accept them as part of the church’s community.

As of June 2017, the Home Ministry records 1.7 million migrant workers in Malaysia, with a majority hailing from Indonesia. Problems continue to plague the migrant community, such as abuse, poverty, and welfare. The call for a better treatment of migrants in Malaysia extends far beyond this Christmas.

“In the Catholic community in Malaysia, pastoral care for migrants has been long-established since, I would say, the early ’90s. They are in need of spiritual upliftment, and services in their own languages,” says Joseph. “They are part of the parish community wherever they live. In many parishes, we have the BEC – Basic Ecclesial Communities – which functions like a cell group in their neighbourhoods; they gather for prayers, some fellowship, and all that.”

This Christmas, the church expects to celebrate with at least 700 people for the Bahasa Malaysia mass.

“We are Malaysians. As long as one lives in Malaysia, we consider him or her as our own brother and sister. They are here for work; for money and security; and we must show mercy and compassion,” says Joseph. “There should be no separation between us and them [migrants]; we must accept each other.”

Address: Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, 114 Jalan Tengku Kelana, 41000 Klang. For more information, contact 03 3371 3053 or visit www.archkl.com.

By Ng Su Ann
Photos by Wong Yok Teng

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