History of St Jude's church

In the 1950s, Rawang was only a small town with two roads. It was estimated that about 10 Catholic families lived in the vicinity of Rawang town and another 20 families in nearby estates. Priests came from St. Anthony’s Church in Pudu and St. Joseph’s Church in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, to visit the Catholic community once a month for pastoral care and to celebrate Mass in the houses of the local Christians.

The MEP (Society of the Paris Foreign Missions) priests played a vital role in the then Malaya from the late 19th century to 1957. During this period, the MEP priests formed the majority among the priests in Malaya. They risked their lives travelling for hours and days on rough and muddy estates roads to visit the Christian community. They used bicycles, bullock carts and in some places, on horsebacks, to reach their destinations.

Since priests’ visits were irregular prior to the building of a church in Rawang, the local Catholic community kept their faith alive and growing with the help of elders who gathered them for evening prayers, either daily, weekly or whenever convenient, to proclaim God’s justice, love and mercy.

In 1953, a chapel, dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, was built in Bukit Munchong Estate (about 22km north of Rawang town) with contributions from the local community and the estate management.

Bukit Munchong Estate clerk Alphonse Gomez and his wife Emilyn had been childless for many years. During a visit to Kerala, India, they went to a church named after St. Jude, who is the patron saint for desperate cases. They prayed in that church for a gift of a child. Since there was no chapel or church in Rawang, they vowed to work towards the building of a chapel or church in the town.

On return to Malaya, Gomez shared this thought with Rev. Fr. Noel Clement (a visiting parish priest from St. Anthony’s Church) who encouraged him to pursue his desire to build a chapel in Rawang.  It was also Fr. Clement’s dream to build a chapel in Rawang so as to bring the Catholic community together in one place for worship.

In the meanwhile, Fr. Clement went ahead with his earlier plans to celebrate Mass in Rawang town in various public places such as the courthouse in the police compound, Tamil school building, Clive Institution (the only English school then in Rawang) and the Rawang International Club.

In the course of time, Emilyn Gomez conceived and gave birth to a baby boy and he was named Jude.  Gomez resolved to work harder towards the fulfilment of his promise to build a chapel in Rawang. He gathered all his friends and colleagues and instilled in them the zeal to build the chapel.  Fr. Clement gave his blessings to go ahead with their plans.

The priest convinced Rev. Fr. Dominic Vendargon (who later became the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur) on the need for a permanent place of worship in Rawang and Kuala Kubu Bahru.  Fr. Vendargon applied to the state government on 7th September 1953 for 1½ acres of land to build a chapel in Rawang.

On 3rd December 1953, the state government allocated Lot No. 4, a piece of land situated on top of a hillock by the side of the main North-South trunk road in Rawang. Although the land was small and in the midst of a dense jungle (the place was rumoured to be haunted), it was accepted under protest and work on building the chapel and a parochial house started without any delay.

Under the leadership of Fr. Clement, a team of hardworking local parishioners, led by Alphonse Gomez and his friends, worked tirelessly to raise funds. The overwhelming support given by the locals was encouraging. The staff and workers in the estates, as well as companies and factories in the district, contributed generously. With the positive support received from people from all walks of life, both in Rawang and other parts of the country, the earlier plan for a chapel gave way for a proper church building.

A building committee was formed headed by Rev. Fr. Noel Clement. The first building committee (1953 – 1957) comprised Alphonse Gomez, Aloysius Fernandez, Xavier Manuel Pillai, Johnson Navis, Stellus Almeida, Yagappa Reddy, Lionel Rozario, B.P. Fernandez, A.K. Gomez, A. Arokiasamy, Louis Lopez and Sia Yew.

The church’s construction was undertaken by Sia Yew & Sons in 1956 at a cost of about 25,000 Malayan Dollars.

A company from France, through the initiative of the local MEP priests, donated the steel structures. Many local benefactors donated other building materials for this project. Volunteers from neighbouring estates came to lend a hand in the clearing of the jungle on the hillock and also during the construction work. Several lorry loads of stones and sand came from Bukit Munchong Estate. Malayan Cement (now Lafarge) donated cement and other building material.

Finally, the long awaited day came and the newly built church in Rawang, dedicated to St. Jude Thaddeus, was inaugurated on 28th October 1957 by His Lordship Bishop Dominic Vendargon, the Bishop of Kuala Lumpur Diocese.

A generous Singaporean, Ms Cheah, paid for the building of St. Jude’s grotto in the centre of the church compound, as a token of her thanksgiving to God and St. Jude for saving her life from a serious ailment.

During the early days of the feast of St Jude, pilgrims and devotees numbering two to three hundred came from various parts of Selangor. Many arrived a day before the feast and stayed in the church. Food was prepared by the parishioners for these pilgrims. Thus this tradition of providing free food, which was started with the first feast day celebration, has continued to date. Currently, the number of pilgrims for the feast celebration has increased to thousands and they come from all parts of the country, including Singapore.

In the early days, the Church of St Jude came under the care of St. Joseph’s Church in Sentul. The priests from Sentul came to Rawang to celebrate Mass. Between 1961 and 1967, Rev. Fr. Gilbert Griffon started the “Young Christian Workers” movement in Rawang with the assistance of volunteers from Sentul.

Our first resident parish priest was Rev. Fr. Philip So. He was assisted by Rev. Fr. Paul Wan Yee Tseng in taking care of the Chinese community while Rev. Fr. A. Charvet, who was well versed both in English and Tamil, assisted the resident priest in taking care of the Tamil-speaking parishioners from Rawang to Tanjong Malim.

Rev. Fr. Charvet became the parish priest from 1967 to 1977. He also covered the areas from Rawang to Tanjong Malim as there were no resident priest in the Church of St Paul the Apostle in Kuala Kubu Baru (KKB) until the arrival of Rev. Fr. Diffon.

Fr. Charvet’s ability to converse in Tamil was an added advantage and he succeeded in establishing close relationship with all the people. Even after the coming of Fr. Diffon to KKB, Fr. Charvet continued to extend his pastoral care to the Tamil-speaking parishioners of KKB.

In 1978, Rev. Fr. Anthony Naden, another dedicated, simple and compassionate priest, took over as the parish priest of St. Jude. He, like his predecessors, covered the entire district of Ulu Selangor.  In addition, he was the administrator of the parish of Tanjong Malim. He carried out his mission with great enthusiasm and dedication and was very close to the people. He had weekly prayer sessions with a group of volunteers. Many who had afflictions of various kinds - physical, mental and spiritual - came from all parts of the country, seeking God’s intercession. A large number of devotees gained peace, good health and blessings. Fr. Naden introduced, for the first time in Rawang, the novena to St. Jude on every second Saturday of the month, followed by the sunset Mass.

As the years passed, the Church of St. Jude became popular among people from all walks of life, both Christians and non-Christians. It was not unusual for people who passed through Rawang town to stop at this church to either pray, leave prayer petitions, thanksgiving letters or make donations to the church. Many also came seeking counselling, prayers, healing and other forms of answers to their many problems.

Fr. Naden, from his early days of priestly life, has a special concern for the Orang Asli of this country. Despite obstacles, objections and threats, he did not hesitate to reach out to this forgotten and neglected community. He went as far as Sungai Bill, Tapah, Perak, to attend to their needs. Today, he has dedicated his life and service fully to the Orang Asli community from his base in Kuala Klawang, Negeri Sembilan.

On 28th October 1982, the Church of St. Jude celebrated its Silver Jubilee. During this grand celebration, Alphonse Gomez was presented by His Grace Archbishop Dominic Vendargon with the “Bene Merenti” medal, awarded by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, for his exemplary service to the Church of St. Jude, Rawang.

In 1984, Rev. Fr. A. Amalanathan took over from Fr. Naden. He was a priest of calm nature that endeared him to many people.  Fr. Amala, as he was lovingly called, had his own way of dealing with people. He also carried out some minor changes to both inside and outside the church building, befitting the needs of that time. It was also during Fr. Amala’s tenure that the government granted five acres of land in Rawang to be used as a Christian cemetery.

In 1991, Rev. Fr. Jestus Pereira became the parish priest and Rev. Fr. S. Stanislaus became the assistant parish priest of St Jude’s church.  In 1994, Fr. Stanislaus became the parish priest.  Both Fr. Jestus Pereira and Fr. Stanislaus brought the elderly and the youth closer to the church by several means. One of them was introducing new English and Tamil hymns and musical instruments. Fr. Stanislaus initiated and organised an annual “Tamil Song Festival”, and the first festival was held in Rawang in 1997 for all parishes in Selangor and the surrounding states. He was assisted by Rev. Fr. Ferdinand Magimay.

During the tenure of Fr. Stanislaus, temporary approval was obtained for the use of the land surrounding the church. This approval facilitated more places for parking, replacement of the damaged community hall and building more toilets. The grotto of St. Jude was relocated giving way for more open space. A full-sized badminton court with lighting replaced the previous one. The old quarters used by the Infant Jesus Sisters was converted into a “Pilgrim House” for boarding purposes during the feast of St. Jude and other special occasions.

Rev. Fr. Peter Bretaudeau, MEP, who was once the visiting priest, became the parish priest of the Church of St. Jude in 1998, and he was initially assisted by Rev. Fr. Simon Labrooy. Fr. Peter’s age and health was in no way a deterrent to his enthusiasm and willingness to serve both day and night. His ability to speak Tamil endeared him to the Tamil-speaking community.

The year 2000 (Jubilee Year) is a memorable year in the history of the Church of St Jude when it was declared as one of the pilgrim churches in the Archdiocese. Thousands of people from all over the country made their pilgrimage to the church in Rawang.

Fr. Peter Bretaudeau was succeeded by Rev. Fr. Mitchel Joseph Anthony in 2001. In 2005, Rev. Fr. Leonard John, who had served as a priest in many other parishes and ministries for more than 25 years, became the parish priest.

It is needless to say all the aforementioned priests who had served in Church of St. Jude, brought along with them their own talents, experiences and divine blessings. None of them were in any way less in their dedication or service to God and the Catholic community. To the contrary, each of them excelled in their own and unique ways.

On 28th October, 2007, we celebrated our church’s Golden Jubilee. In the course of our preparation for the celebrations, a hitherto mystery came to light. It is the church bell that has been here since 1957. On this bell are inscriptions indicating that it was cast in the year 1887 in a foundry in France. In addition, a picture of Mother Mary was also embossed on it. To date, we are unable to establish how this old bell came to be in Rawang in 1957. This has raised important questions and left us pondering. Are we the first owners of this bell or was it given to us by another church in Malaya or from elsewhere?

In 2010, Rev. Fr. Frederick Joseph became the parish priest of the Church of St. Jude. He made some much needed improvements to the interior of the church as well as the beautification and modernization of the infrastructure of the church. For the convenience of the parishioners, especially the elderly and wheelchair bound, the surrounding area was cleared to create more parking space. Fr. Fred, as he is lovingly called, was also responsible for the planning, designing and renovation of the priest residence which was old and infested with termite. He also built a small kitchen, run by volunteers, to prepare meals for the pilgrims who attend the masses and novenas during the feast days, and also to cater for church functions. He also carried out numerous activities to collect funds for the building of a new church

Rev. Fr. David Arulnatham is currently the parish priest of St. Jude’s church after he took over the mantle from Fr. Frederick in 2016. 

Today, the church has grown into a congregation of faith-filled people from all walks of life regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability or socio-economic conditions. We are a community church with vibrant worship, exciting music and great fellowship rooted in our common beliefs and respect for each other. Even in our differences, we are all one in Christ.

The Church of St Jude, Rawang, is popular pilgrimage centre among Catholics and non-Catholics in Malaysia and Singapore. Tens of thousands of pilgrims visit the church/shrine of St Jude, Rawang, annually for special blessings and healings, as well as to fulfil their vows for the prayers answered. The highlight of the church is St Jude’s Feast, which is grandly celebrated on 28th October every year with novenas and masses.


RELOCATION OF THE CHURCH

This church, which was once known as a Tamil parish, has today grown tremendously and become a multi-lingual church. The fast development in and around Rawang has led to an increase in the Catholic population.

The church, built on a small piece of land on a hillock in 1957, has today become a prime land marked by the state government for development of a new township called “Bandar Baru Rawang”. With the fast development taking place surrounding our present church land, we will be required to move to a new and bigger place.  The building of a new church and all its other amenities is estimated to cost around RM18 million.  We would like to quote one of our former priest, the Late Rev. Fr. Leonard John, who very often and rightly said: “The relocation of our church is expected to cost a lot. The money is available, but it is in your pockets. So, please contribute generously.”

We are trying to raise funds to finance construction of:

(a)   A new church building to accommodate 2,000 people
(b)  Multi-storey building for offices, classrooms for Sunday school (catechism), function rooms for meetings, formation and community education programmes
(c)   Residence for priests.
(d)   Hostel for pilgrims,
(e)   Accommodations for abused women and children & single mothers
(e)   Multipurpose hall with kitchen facilities.
(f)   Funeral parlour.
(g)  Toilets – Male & Female - with bathing facilities
(h)  Shrine/ Grotto of St. Jude for praying and meditation.

We hope the new church will be able to accommodate the growing Catholic population in Rawang and we look forward to it becoming the community’s focal point for a range of activities that will lead to a healthy environment as well as a lively congregation. The church facilities will be open to the congregation and general public to conduct skills training programmes and motivational activities. Ultimately, this will not only be a place for spiritual uplifting through worship, but also cater towards the social and economic needs of the community.