By Gregory R Warrier
“I thank God for all the good things that have happened to me. Let us continue to be open and listen to Him. I pray for all the people who made me what I am today.” With these few words, Fr Francis Anthony (affectionately known as Fr FA) began the Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit (CHS) at 8.00pm on May 6 to celebrate his 80th birthday. Concelebrating with him were His Eminence Cardinal Soter Fernandez, Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam, Bishop Emeritus Antony Selvanayagam and a number of priests from the Diocese of Penang, as well as from other dioceses. Parishioners from CHS and other parishes turned out in full force. “I am feeling a bit nervous,” remarked Fr FA as he began his homily, “because I am concelebrating with our Cardinal who was my Caput in the seminary, and many of the priests who were my former students in College General and St Joseph’s College Kuching.
“I am what I am today due to the many people who came into my life, especially the LaSalle brothers who were responsible for my education and the French fathers who I followed as they went to serve in the plantations. I was greatly influenced by their dedication and selfless service and I decided to emulate them, which ultimately led me to become a priest.”
Fr FA then briefly narrated how he served happily in many parishes in the Diocese until he was asked to go to Rome to study. He said he was happy to serve in the parish as a Diocesan priest but soon found himself teaching in the College General Major Seminary Penang for 24 years.
He reiterated that he had no regrets as it was God’s will. “God plays a role in your life and we need to surrender to Him. If we give ourselves to God, God gives himself to us.” He thanked God for giving him good health. He ended with a saying by Confucius “Don’t curse the darkness, light a candle.” At the conclusion of the Mass, Pedro Geronimo, the PP Chairman, thanked everyone for their presence.
He mentioned the presence of Father’s nephew and niece, Gregory and Sandhya. He said that Fr FA’s first stint as PP was a stabilising and unifying factor. “With his warm smile and his cheerful nature, this wonderful man of God is a blessing indeed for us.”
After the Mass, everyone adjourned to Dewan Holy Spirit to partake in fellowship. Fr Joachim, in his brief congratulatory address, thanked Fr FA for agreeing to serve again after his retirement.
“Although he is 80 years old, he is still on mission contributing to the Church.” He then invited Father to come up on stage and cut the beautiful birthday cake. Gifts and cards signed by the parishioners were presented to Father.
Cardinal Soter took the opportunity to read out a verse dedicated to Fr FA while Father’s nephew Gregory went on stage to sing for his uncle. Those present enjoyed the sumptuous food and the light entertainment.