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Asian Catholic Directory

St. Joseph Cathedral of Kuching bears legacy of independence heroes

Archdiocese of Kuching St. Joseph Cathedral of Kuching bears legacy of independence heroes

The Cathedral of Saint Joseph is the mother church of Kuching Archdiocese in the sole Christian-majoritystate in predominantly Muslim Malaysia. 

The church was first built in 1891 as a wooden structure in Neo-Gothic style during the British colonial rule in Northern Borneo, which covered today’s Sarawak and Sabah states of Malaysia. The cathedral’s large, slopy rooftop resembles a typical family home, just like the Blessed Sacrament Church of Singapore

The church holds a historically significant cemetery. It accommodates graves of 21 warriors of Iban tribe who sacrificed their lives during the Malayan emergency (1948-60), an anti-British independence movement. 

The cathedral also lives the memories of British rulers, locally known as White Rajahs, who reigned over Sarawak in the 19th and 20th centuries. The rulers had permitted and supported Christian missionaries, both Anglicans and Catholics, to evangelize and establish churches. The missionary activities began in the time of first British Rajah James Brooke who ruled from 1841 to 1868. The first church of St. Joseph was built with approval of his successor Johnson Brooke (1968-1917). 

The current church replaced the old, wooden church in 1969. Its homey architecture is fitting to the charisms of St. Joseph, the ideal family man who is the guardian of the universal church. The church’s Grand Hall has the seating capacity for 700, offering adequate space for social events. 

The cathedral parish has an enlivening vision: “We are God’s Easter people: called by our loving Father, chosen as joyful servants of Jesus Christ, and sent in the power of the Holy Spirit, to be broken and shared for a new world.” The statement is supplemented by the challenging mission: “We journey together in a new way of being Church.” 

The architectural beauty of the cathedral comes alive at night when it is illuminated with colorful halogen lights that sooth the eyes of pilgrims and visitors.

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