FOR the first time in 41 years, a new Roman Catholic church is set to open its doors on Penang island. Scheduled for its official opening on Sept 29 2010, the Church of Divine Mercy, housed at the Christian Community Centre in Sungai Ara, was completed on July 31 2010. It stands on a 3,848 sq m site in Jalan Kenari and will be able to accommodate up to 900 people for religious services. It also has a four-storey annex building containing 15 classrooms, administrative offices, the priest’s residence and a meeting room.
Milestones to Church of Divine Mercy Penang
- On 1989 H. R. Watts, a parishioner of the then Church of Holy Spirit Penang donated a piece of land consisting of an area of 3848 square meters along Jalan Kenari, Sungai Ara, to the Roman Catholic Church to build a Christian Community Centre and a place of worship so as to promote ecumenism.
- On 27 November 1996 there was a meeting between Bishop Antony Selvanayagam, the Bishop of Penang, and Major and Mrs Barton (daughter of Mr Watts) as representatives of the land owner. At this meeting Mrs Barton reiterated her father’s wish that the land which was donated unconditionally was to be owned and managed by the Roman Catholic Church as a Christian facility.
- Subsequently the late Rev Fr Dr Paul Chin, Parish Priest of the then Church of the Holy Spirit (CHS), formed a pro tem committee to look into the feasibility of constructing such a facility. It was suggested that a four storey structure be built. This would include a hall on the ground floor as a place of worship, with other facilities to be located on the other floors. However the said plan did not materialise at this point in time.
- In June 2002 Bishop Selva wrote to Msgr Stephen Liew, the Parish Priest of CHS at that time, to look into the realisation of the project.
- A committee was formed in March 2003 and many meetings followed.
- In May 2004 the site plan was submitted, while the building plans were submitted in 2005. Matthe KH Tan was chosen as the architect.
- On 19 December 2004 the name – Divine Mercy – suggested by the majority of the parishioners of CHS, was announced as the chosen name for the church at the new facility.
- On 16 July 2005 Church of Divine Mercy / Sungai Ara Christian Community Centre was officially launched at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit by Fr Francis Anthony and Fr Henry Rajoo, the Parish Priests of CHS at that time. The Centre would incorporate the Church of Divine Mercy consisting of a sanctuary, gallery and a multi-purpose hall seating 918 people. Adjacent to the church would be a four-storey complex with meeting rooms, administrative office, priests’ residence and fifteen classrooms for catechism, formation sessions or functions.
- On 28 November 2007 the ground-breaking ceremony by His Lordship Bishop Antony Selvanayagam was held on the site of the proposed RM6.8 million Church of Divine Mercy/Christian Community Centre.
- Subsequently a Building Committee and a Fund Raising Committee took off at full speed, looking into raising money for the project as well as looking into the physical aspects of the project. The parishioners of CHS gave their whole-hearted support organising various fund raising projects both big and small.
- On Mar 15 2009, the people, together with Bishop Antony Selvanayagam, Fr Francis Anthony and Fr Henry Rajoo gathered to celebrate the topping-up-ceremony of the new church with Mass and fellowship.
- On 22 August 2010 the first mass was celebrated in the completed church.
- On 29 September 2010 the Church of Divine Mercy / Christian Community Centre Sungai Ara was blessed and officially declared open by the Bishop of Penang, Rt Rev Antony Selvanayagam.
Compiled by Gregory R Warrier