Ever since Francis of Assisi received Gods discernment:
"Repair my church" in the 12th century, he and his followers have
laboured to promote the spirit of love, sacrifice and peace not only in their homeland but
to all men of goodwill on the face of the earth.
With these ideals and spirit of the Franciscan missionary, the St.
Francis of Assisi church was established in 1979. The church while being a place of
worship was also a centre for training and formation, for social reform action and
activities and a place where service and projects can be initiated and organised. When
newly built the church offered all these possibilities and opportunities in design and in
Origins of SFA
The origins of Gethsemani Friary is closely linked with the arrival
of Reverend Father Gerrard, the Superior of the Capuchin Missions, to Malaysia in
September 1963. The objective of Father Gerards visit was to review the work of the
missionary work of the Order, further extend their work to newer areas especially in the
estates and rural areas, and at the same time find a permanent location to serve as a
centre for the mission.
Father Gerard held discussions with the Bishop of Kuala Lumpur
Diocese Tan Sri D. Vendargon on this matter, and the latter, offered a two-acre
plot of land in the city. The proposed location was found not to be suitable. It was also
at this time that the Capuchin Mission had an offer for sale, from an estate owner, of
five acres of land on the outskirts of the city.
The location, about seven miles from the city appeared promising, as
it was isolated, close to Mother Nature and yet accessible to the surrounding estate
communities. Although finance posed a problem, Divine Providence came their aid in this
hour of need. A lawyer volunteered his services to arrange the transaction and necessary
legalities. The property was charged to the bank and a loan raised to meet the RM80,000/-
needed to meet the purchase.
The new friary
By mid 1964 the rubber trees were felled and the land cleared.
Construction work soon started to erect a modest building comprising of a chapel and a
block for the friars quarters. Funds were raised through the support and generosity of
well wishers and friends. A seraphic school soon followed.
On 4th April 1965, the Bishop of the Diocese Tan
Sri D. Vendargon christened the new friary GETHSEMANI FRIARY. The former friary at
Batu Arang was consequently returned to the Bishop after the friars had shifter to their
Reverend Father John of the Cross assumed responsibility as the
Superior of the Friary with assistance from Father Hugolin and Brothers Agatho and
Reginald. Together as a team, they worked hard to develop the community and expand their
missionary work to the surrounding areas. It was during this period too that a Parochial
Hall, behind the friars quarters was built to serve as a centre for training and
Perhaps Gethsemani is best known among the Catholic population in
the country for its life-sized statues of the Stations of the Cross. The project was
originally conceived by Father John of the Cross in 1965. To honour the Friary and to
project this place as a centre for worship, Father placed an order from India for the
fifteen stations of the cross at a cost of RM30,000/-. These Stations stand at the crest
of the hill in the friary grounds. Local skilled craftsmen were engaged to erect these
Stations, within walking distances apart from each other. The cost of assembling and
erecting these Stations cost an additional RM15,000/-.
see Stations of the Cross for further information and pictures)
Through the years that followed, Gethsemani Friary has seen changes
to its missionaries. Capuchin Priests and Brothers, mainly from India, have served in the
Friary and every one of them has given himself freely to others in the true Franciscan
spirit of love, service and charity. On some of the them fell the task of promoting and
extending the faith in the surrounding rubber estates and plantations. To others, the
missionary responsibility was to organise seminars and retreats all over the country and
preach the Word of God.
Some of the Friars will be remembered for their efforts in helping
the young to devote their lives to the religious and adopt the Capuchin Order as their way
of life. Some worked tirelessly to build lay leaders to assume leadership in the life of
the Church. However, one of the most significant tasks successfully realised was the
building of the new Church of St. Francis of Assisi to meet the growing needs of the area.
The Gethsemani Friary has often been the meeting place for a number
of Church organisations and movements. Seminars, General Assemblies, Parish Meetings,
Retreats and Annual General Meetings have been held here. The facilities for staying, the
isolated location and the quietness of the place all seemed ideal for the occasion. The
Friary has since its inception seen thousands of people including its youths pass through
its portals. To every one of them the place has left an impression of serenity and peace.
Let us hope that this spirit will continue to attract yet others to the Friary.
[Adapted from church of ST. FRANCIS of Assisi, Official Opening and