1994-12-21 00:00:00

Thousands of well-wishers thronged the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Kuala Lumpur Dec. 8 to celebrate 85-year-old Archbishop Emeritus Dominic Vendargon´s 60th anniversary of priesthood.

All the bishops of Malaysia and Singapore attended the diamond jubilee of the retired archbishop of Kuala Lumpur together with Archbishop Luigi Bressan, apostolic delegate in Malaysia.

In remarks at the event, Archbishop Anthony Soter Fernandez of Kuala Lumpur said his predecessor was instrumental in forming his own priestly vocation.

"There are many significant events that marked my life, but it was through the school of life with a ´guru´ in the person of Archbishop Vendargon that I was able to respond to the will of God," Archbishop Fernandez said.

"Although Archbishop Vendargon retired in 1983, he has been more available and active than many of us can claim to be. His tender loving care of the sick and suffering, particularly in the hospitals, is remarkable.

"His regular visits, even today, bring great comfort and consolation to many, especially those on the brink of death," Archbishop Fernandez said.

"Indeed, at a time when people look for self-fulfillment and speak of burnout even before they begin to work, his grace´s presence and example of a life in prayer, simplicity, humility and availability is not only a source of inspiration and admiration, but also a stimulus for imitation."

Archbishop Bressan thanked Archbishop Vendargon for his contribution to the Second Vatican Council, especially in pioneering renewal of the local Church.

Archbishop Vendargon, in his response, encouraged young people to serve God.

Born Aug. 29, 1909, in Naranthani, Sri Lanka, Dominic Vendargon and his mother joined his father, surveying in the Federated Malay States, in 1910.

They returned to Sri Lanka with the family´s three other children in 1915 after the outbreak of World War I, and Vendargon became a boarder at Oblate-run St. Patrick´s College in Jaffna.

In 1919, after the war, they rejoined his father in Seremban where he attended St. Paul´s Institution. In 1923, they transferred to Malacca, where Vendargon passed his senior Cambridge exam at St. Francis Institution in 1923.

Overcoming objections from his father, who wanted him to be a doctor, Vendargon entered St. Francis Xavier Seminary in Singapore in 1925, moving to the College General in Penang in 1927. He was ordained a priest Dec. 8, 1934.

Appointed vicar for Indians in Negri Sembilan, then Father Vendargon made pastoral visits to Catholic families on rubber plantations in the state until he was reassigned to Kedah in September 1941, just prior to World War II.

His home was briefly occupied by Japanese soldiers who destroyed all books and records. He spent the war years going throughout Kedah and Perlis, mostly by bicycle, ministering to families, also visiting Kelantan and Trengganu.

After the war, he taught at College General in 1948, became vicar for Indians in Johor Baru and at Singapore Naval Base in 1949 and Teluk Anson in 1950, and was vicar of St. Anthony´s Church in Kuala Lumpur in 1951-1955.

Pope Pius XII appointed him bishop of Kuala Lumpur when it and Penang were erected as suffragan dioceses of the Archdiocese of Malacca-Singapore in 1955.

Then Bishop Vendargon attended all Second Vatican Council (1963-1965) sessions and was named an archbishop in 1972 by Pope Paul VI.

Besides church organizations, Archbishop Vendargon has served on the Association for the Promotion of Higher Education Malaysia, the Guild of Catholic Assisted Schools Malaysia and Malaysian Inter-Religious Association.

He was also the first president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism, which seeks to represent common interests of the major non-Muslim religions in Malaysia.


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