Fr Decroix, MEP, leaves for France
PENANG (Herald Malaysia): About 400 parishioners, including 100 from Taiping and Batu Gajah, Perak, gathered at the Assumption Church on April 24 for a thanksgiving Mass for Fr Paul Decroix, MEP.
The Mass and fellowship was a triple celebration – to show appreciation to Fr Decroix for his six decades of service in the country, to bid him bon voyage before he returned to France on May 9 and to celebrate his 91st birthday.
Books written by Fr Paul Decroix were on sale and many people were seen eagerly buying them.
Twenty-four priests from the Diocese of Penang were present, with Bishop Sebastian Francis as the main celebrant. Others who were present were Bishop Emeritus Antony Selvanayagam, Archbishop Emeritus Soter Fernandez, and Archbishop Murphy Pakiam.
From the MEP community, came Fr Bruno Saint Girons, the Superior for MEP Malaysia and Singapore and Fr Peter Bretaudeau, from Kajang, Selangor.
Archbishop Emeritus Soter started his homily by referring to the first reading, about St Paul’s ministry, which he linked to Fr Decroix’s mission.
Archbishop Emeritus Soter informed the congregation that Fr Decroix had the intention of becoming a missionary since young. He had set his eyes on the ‘MEP’ (Foreign Missions of Paris) and joined in 1946.
A brief history of Fr Decroix’s journey from 1946 to 2002, his last posting at Batu Gajah, Perak, was given by Archbishop Emeritus Soter.
“In all the places he has been, Fr Decroix was a true missionary. We can read about his exploits in his memoirs. I came to know Fr Decroix in July 1955. He is a man of God, endowed with many gifts of the Holy Spirit. Like his patron saint, Paul the Apostle, he is a pastor, a zealous and faithful servant and witness of the Lord,” said Archbishop Emeritus Soter.
Archbishop Emeritus Soter was grateful to God for his divine providence and to Bishop Sebastian for organizing this thanksgiving Mass to ‘celebrate’ with Fr Paul Decroix in the Eucharist. He said that the presence of so many, especially of his former parishioners, is testimony not so much for what he had done, but to who he is, and how he has touched their lives.
Concluding with a reading of St Paul’s farewell to the Ephesians in the Acts of the Apostles (20:17–20; 36–38), Archbishop Emeritus Soter thanked Fr Bruno and all the MEP Fathers for the Missionaries who have lived and served here, and given their all to the local churches.
After the post-communion prayer, Archbishop Murphy Pakiam and Bishop Sebastian spoke.
Archbishop Pakiam described Fr Decroix as multi-talented and a ‘solid person’ – solid in health, pastoral matters and spirituality. Bishop Sebastian expressed three sentiments he felt.
“First, it is gratitude,” he said, “I’m grateful to Fr Bruno who joined us in this celebration. Secondly I feel the air of nostalgia as I remember the French missionaries who gave up everything and took back nothing.”
“Then, there is this feeling of sadness in me as Fr Decroix is the last French missionary from our Diocese. I would like to thank all those who had taken care of him, including the Little Sisters of the Poor and all of you who came here because of him, especially those from out-station.”
He held it high for a several seconds. He said he did this as an expression of his over 60 years of service in the priesthood, and to show the union between the local churches and the overseas churches he had served.
He gave a short account of his priestly journey, especially when he was in China.
“I would like to thank all those who had crossed my path before as parish priest. I found many devoted parishioners and I thank them for working together for the good of the community. I didn’t expect such a big crowd here… I thank all of you for being here. Please continue to work for the good of the local church.”
Representatives from the parish of Taiping Catholic Church and St Joseph, Batu Gajah, then presented gifts to Fr Decroix.
On behalf of the Diocese, Bishop Emeritus Selva presented a gift to Fr Decroix, while Bishop Sebastian presented a gift to Fr Bruno and his MEP community. Fr Bruno then made a brief speech.
There was a fellowship after Mass and a cake-cutting ceremony. — By Lucia Lai