On the night before he died, at his Last Meal, Jesus said to his disciples: “Do this in memory of me.” Jesus commanded his followers to always do what he had just done at table: to take bread and wine; to remember and thank God for all His blessings especially for the salvation brought by his death; and to share that food and drink, so that they may also share in his saving death. To celebrate the Eucharist, to remember and to be grateful, is at the heart of Christianity.
The Christian way to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Foundation of Sacred Heart Cathedral is to recall with profound gratitude what God has done for us for the last 100 years in Kota Kinabalu. The history of God’s goodness to us, however, goes back further than those hundred years.
Till recently, little was known about our first Prefect Apostolic, Mgr Don Carlos Cuarteron. Having too little information about someone can make us unkind to the one we know little about. This seems to be the case when we consider our first Prefect. He struggled for 22 hard and lonely years in our Mission. All that people know about him is that he was “the pirate-turned-priest”, and practically nothing else, not an inkling of his work. For us in Kota Kinabalu, the association with Mgr Cuarteron gets even closer, for he set up the first Catholic Mission in north Borneo mainland at Lokporin in Sepangar Bay in 1857. That may have been 144 years ago, but the place is just next door to us, not further than Salut Seafood Restaurant!
Given the rare opportunity of a hundred years at this Centenary celebration, we would want to begin our recall of God’s marvelous love for us with the story of Mgr Cuarteron. He deserves to be better known by his own in Borneo, and his mission better understood as important too in the eventual success of the Gospel in our land.
Looking at the events of the first 22 years of the Mill Hill missionaries, from their arrival until the foundation of the Jesselton Mission, will also provide an immediate background to help us understand our own story better.
This modest work of our history has four separate but connected parts:
is the story of Mgr Cuarteron, from the creation of the Prefecture of Labuan and Northern Borneo to his departure from Borneo, from 1885 to 1879;
Part Three [coming soon] is the story of Jesselton Mission itself from its foundation until the end of the Second World War, from 1903 to 1945.
Part Four [coming soon] is the story of Jesselton Mission from the end of the Second World War to the present, from 1946 to 2003.