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In the early 50’s, Petaling Jaya was a new township off the Old Klang Road. At that time, the handful of Catholic families who lived there came under the care of the Holy Rosary Church in Brickfields, the parish priest of which was a certain Fr. Edouard Giraud, MEP. When the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary arrived in 1954 – with more faith than material resources no less – they brought life to this town, especially to its Catholic community. One that opened its hearts and homes to each other and on Sundays for the next two years, its members joined the Sisters for Mass in the Convent chapel which was celebrated by its chaplain, Fr. Noel Maury, MEP. It was the beginning of a parish community even without a church building.
Two years later, a committee headed by the Town Engineer, Frank McWilliams, raised funds and helped build the Petaling Jaya Catholic Chapel where the parish house now stands. For certain, a parish was beginning to take shape. There was daily mass at the chapel. It had a sacritan and altar servers who were retired men volunteering their services. The parish was beginning to take shape.
The first church organisation, a presidium of the Legion of Mary was formed. Called “Queen of the Assumption”, it provided a much-needed avenue for reaching out to the people. Bishop Vendargon foresaw that life was moving fast and the Catholic community would soon outgrow the chapel.
It needed a proper church.
God provided the land and Bishop Vendargon bought it. To Fr. Giraud, the Bishop entrusted the responsibility of raising funds for a new building on the half-acre plot beside the Assunta Foundation. It was Fr. Giraud’s first building fund experience and his enthusiasm was infectious. He assembled a committee and they quickly set to work on this mission. “It was still the period of the pioneering spirit, “ Fr. Giraud wrote 25 years later, “and what pioneers we had!…as for me it was one of the best times of my life.” A census of the Catholic community was taken, a lottery organised and monthly contributions, pledged by Catholic families. R.B Pereira, the architect for St. John’s Cathedral, and (the later) SFX Church in PJ, was commissioned to design the Church.
On 15 August, 1959, Bishop Vendargon laid the foundation stone and on 24 January, 1960, he blessed the church, dedicated it to Mary and called it the “Church of the Assumption”. Fr John Wang was appointed the parish priest. He had the early task of gathering God’s people. The Legion of Mary got started by setting up a girls’ junior praesidium. Sweeping the church on Saturdays was one of their duties. Some older ladies initiated the Altar Ladies Society. Meanwhile, not to be left behind, the men served as wardens in the SVDP and in any way they could. All this time, the FMM’s and the La Salle Brothers Schools provided for the secular and faith education of children. The Daughters of St Paul also set up a convent in the town.After Fr. Wang, came other priests, each with his own charisma, to help the people blossom in faith and community. Among these are Fr. Leon Diffon, MEP and Frs. Brian Kelly, Patrick Grogan and Harris, gifted priests who have brought with them and strengthened the traditions of the Faith. We acknowledge the dedication and quality of thee “foundation fathers”; it is not easy to emulate their spirit and zeal.
In the wake of Vatican Council 2, Fr. Stephen Tsao had the unprecedented task of gathering the people. The full impact of the Council would take years to be felt but he prepared the people for change. The sanctuary was renovated, the altar replaced, and priest and people faced each other at Mass. It was time, too, for the organ and choir to descend from the gallery.
Then began a month-long community-building mission conducted by the Redemptorist priests. Following this, area-based prayer groups were organised with the help of Sr. Paulinus. After the Aggiornamento in 1976, these evolved into BCC’s and later, what we now know as BEC’s. Committees too were formed for the different needs of the parish. And the various parish groups were brought together under the Parish Council.
In the midst of all this excitement, Fr. Tsao died of a heart attack. In his replacement was a genteel and quiet Fr. Daniel Lim who wasted no time in consolidating the work of his predecessor. Thanks to his practical approach to life and problem-solving skills, the faith life grew as did the numbers of the parish. It was during Fr. Daniel Lim’s tenure that BEC’s took root. His assistant, Fr. Philip So, became the much-needed pastor for the Mandarin speaking people.
Fr. Andrew Volle, MEP, literally and spiritually built up and brightened the church. He re-vamped the sound system, put in stained glass windows, gave the parish a more meaningful and picturesque altar and created more seating space in the gallery for the growing worshipping congregations. During this time, the Assumption Family House was built. He saw it as a much needed facility for parish events and functions and he was proven right.
Many other priests have since contributed to the liveliness and solidarity of the parish. Fr. Gilbert Griffon, MEP, became known as the priest for all times and for all peoples. Frs. Clarence Dass and Simon Labrooy – while young in age and ministry – have proven to be priests who can carry the church into the new millennium. Under the stewardship of Frs. Dass and LaBrooy, a new church of a new generation has evolved, ready to worship in the new era of the digital divide. Other pastors who have served in the parish are Fr. Franc Servajean, Fr. Bernard Vrignaud MEP’s, Deacon Felix Declores & Father Albert Arokiasamy.
Rev Phillips Muthu, the current parish priest since 2003 is working towards building the BECs and to implement the Vision and Mission jointly finalised by the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, the Diocese of Penang and the Diocese of Melaka-Johor for the churches in Peninsula Malaysia during the Second Peninsular Malaysia Pastoral Convention (PMPC II) held from 30 Aug. to 2 Sept. 1996.
The Assumption Parish has had its share of momentous milestones and has, from its earliest days, been blessed by God with many faithful and fruitful sons and daughters. Among the blessings are the many vocations to the Priesthood and religious life. We pray that the Loving Father will continue to bless the Parish through Mary our Mother and provide for it, whatever challenges the new millennium may bring.