History

CITY PARISH

In the 1970s, new housing estates were opened around the city. People started moving out of George Town and the number of Catholics staying in the city had decreased greatly. From a number of 10,000 Catholics, it had shrunk to 900 Catholics in 1990s. Also in view was the number of priests, which are also decreasing.

In 1988, the bishop of Penang, Antony Selvanayagam decided to merge the 4 churches located in George Town, namely Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, Church of the Assumption, Church of St. Francis Xavier and Church of St. John Britto into one parish named City Parish. The administration centre of the parish will be at Church of Our Lady of Sorrows.

As of October 2010, the 4 churches are administered by Fr. Dominic Santhiyagu (parish priest) and Fr. Michael Thoo (assistant parish priest).

Updated: In June 2014, Fr Nelson Chitty takes over as the parish priest.

(taken from Wikipedia)

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OUR LADY OF SORROWS

OLSchurchThe Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, originally Church of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, is a Catholic church for Chinese-speaking parishioners in Penang. It is presently located at Macalister Road, next to Heng Ee Primary School.

The history of the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows goes back to the founding of the British settlement in Penang. In 1786, when the British settlement on Penang was established, it is estimated that the Chinese population in Province Wellesley numbered around one hundred. By 1825, the number of Chinese in Penang had reached eleven thousand. A Catholic missionary by the name of Father J.B. Boucho arrived to do mission work here, between 1826 and 1843. He managed to convert a few of the Chinese settlers to Catholic, along with the priest of the Church of Immaculate Conception. However, the Chinese community did not have their own place of worship, unlike the Indian parishioners that already had a church of their own, the St Francis Xavier Church, since 1857.

In 1886, Father Emile Barillon, young missionary who had learned Chinese, arrived in Penang from Singapore. He stayed at the Church of the Assumption while he went about preparing to build a church for the Chinese parishioners. The land purchased was at Macalister Road. A small church building, Church of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, was inaugurated in March, 1888.

The present building of the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows dates back to 1958, under the tenure of Father Philip Lee. Beside the church building is a 107 feet high bell tower. The next parish priest, Father Arthur Julien, was instrumental in establishing the Heng Ee School – the secondary school at Hamilton Road while the primary school within the church compound.

(taken from penang traveltips. please visit its site for further pictures and location map.)

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ASSUMPTION

assumptionChurchThe Church of the Assumption at 3, Farquhar Street, George Town, was built by the Eurasians who followed Captain Francis Light to Penang when he established it as a British trading post. The Eurasians originally living in Ligor and Phuket were facing religious persecution. In 1781, they fled to Kuala Kedah, led by Bishop Arnaud-Antoine Garnault of Siam. In Kuala Kedah, they were joined by another 80 Catholics of Portuguese descent who had made Kuala Kedah their home. Some had come from southern Siam, while others had left Malacca after the Dutch conquest.

Before founding Penang, Francis Light and his business partner James Scott had a trading business all along the coast of Kedah. This, I believe, was how Light came into contact with the Eurasians of Kuala Kedah. He spoke the local languages and was familiar with the Sultan of Kedah, so he could well commiserate with the plight of the Eurasians. Moreover, he had a common law wife by the name of Martina Rozells who was a Eurasian of Thai-Portuguese descent.

When Francis Light got the Sultan of Kedah’s approval to open a trading post on Penang, Bishop Garnault sought his help to relocate his Catholic mission there. Light agreed to help, and sent his ship Speedwell to assist in the exodus. The first group of Catholics landed in Penang landed on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption, in 1786, and celebrated their deliverance from persecution by so naming their church as the Church of the Assumption. Its original location was on Church Street. Bishop Garnault’s presbytery was located on the adjacent road, which became known as Bishop Street.

In 1857, the Church of the Assumption moved to its present site on Farquhar Street which was previously occupied by the Convent Orphanage. (In some records that I studied, it stated that the church moved to Farquhar Street in 1802 – it could be that the congregation moved to Farquhar street, but the church building was only erected from 1857? Anybody with clarification on this is requested to write to me.) The present building was erected in 1860, under the leadership of Father Manissol. When it was completed in 1861, it could hold 1200 worshippers. The building underwent an extension in 1928, when two wings were added to it.

In 1955, the Church of the Assumption was elevated by a Decreee of the Vatican, to the status of the Cathedral of the Diocese of Penang. The sanctuary was renovated for the setting up of the seat for the first Bishop of Penang, the Right Reverend Monsignor Francis Chan. From the 1970’s onwards, a gradual shift in the population of Penang Island away from and into the suburban areas, resulting in a marked decreased in the size of the church congregation within the city area. In 1988, a decision was made to amalgamate the four parishes in George Town into one, bringing the Cathedral of the Assumption, the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, St Francis Xavier Church and St John Britto Church, until then individual parishes, into the same umbrella of “City Parish”. The status of Cathedral Church held by the Cathedral of the Assumption was transferred in 2003 to the Church of the Holy Spirit in Island Park, and the Farquhar Street Cathedral became once more Church of the Assumption.

Today, the Catholic community linked to the Church of the Assumption has been reduced to just a few homes lucked away on Argus Lane, before the cathedral.

(taken from penang traveltips. please visit its site for further pictures and location map.)

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ST FRANCIS XAVIER

SFXchurchThe Church of St Francis Xavier, at 52K Penang Road, was built for the Tamil-speaking Catholics in Penang. It was named after the Catholic saint who propagated the religion in the Far East. The church was founded in 1852, by Father Francis Xavier Hob.

The original church building was completed in 1867, along with the presbytery and a school. It is located at the end of a driveway leading from the Catholic Information Centre at Penang Road. Within the same complex is the St Joseph’s Orphanage and a school. The present church building was completed in 1952. The Grummit Family from England offered financial support including purchasing the land for the church building.

In 1988, the Church of St Francis Xavier was amalgamated with the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows and the Church of St John Britto, to form the City Parish of Penang. In 2007, the Church of St Francis Xavier celebrated its 150th anniversary of the original structure.

A short distance behind the church is the Catholic cemetery, which is adjacent to the Protestant cemetery of Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah. Buried at the Catholic cemetery are the nuns of the Holy Infant Jesus who founded the girls school of Convent Light Street.

(taken from penang traveltips. please visit its site for further pictures and location map.)

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ST JOHN BRITTO

SJBchurchSt John Britto Catholic Church is a Roman Catholic church along Jalan Sungai Pinang. It caters to a parish that comprises mostly working-class Indians living in the area.

The St John Britto Catholic Church was established in 1969 by Monsignor Ignatius John Aloysius with help from Father François Felix Faure from the College General. It was named after a Catholic saint from India.

In 1988, the Parish of St John Britto was merged with the Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, the St Francis Xavier Parish and the Assumption Parish to form the City Parish, with its secretariat based at the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows.

(taken from penang traveltips. please visit its site for further pictures and location map.)

  1. Yes Sue it is extremely annoying that there is no response. I have emailed a number of times and also went in person. My concern is that these records are not stored properly and will be lost forever😦

  2. yes i also have had no luck in accessing births etc have e mailed before , attended in person have had relations try and nothing . the least that could be done is acknowledge peoples e mails

  3. Evelyn Gudge

    Hello- I hope you can help me. On behalf of my sister now called Sara (birth name Pauline) I would like to trace
    her natural parents.
    We know there was a convent in George Town. Sara is now 53 & adopted when 3 and half yes old & since been living in UK since 5 yes old. we can only guess the nuns brought. her to Singapore where we were both adopted by English parent. I have found my natural family. We know at the time Mother Superior gave permission to have Pauline adopted as Pauline’s mother was poor & had left her on the steps with a note for the convent to look after her. Pauline was born without any right leg.
    The only information we have are as follows:
    Father’s name : Loh Mooi Lim @ Loh Mooi Seng
    Mother’s name: Khoo Bak Khim
    Date of Baptism : 10.07.62
    Place : Our Lady of Sorrows Church
    33, Macalister Rd
    Penang
    My name was (Pauline) Loh Ah Lek.
    Adoption certificate says I was born in Province Wellesley but it also says my birth date was 8.7. 1966. I would be grateful if you can help me trace the parents. I only speak English but currently living back in Singapore. I have planned to visit Penang from 7-10 August & willing to meet with you if necessary. Eve- sister by adoption)

    • jherivel@gmail.com

      Good luck with your search Evelyn. I hope you have more luck than I did with trying to get access to 200 year old records for my PhD. I applied in writing, via email and in person with no luck.

      I hope you enjoy Penang.

      Jan Herivel

      Sydney Australia

      Sent from Windows Mail

  4. Jan Herivel (Sydney Australia)

    What a shame that the records for the Parish Church cannot be accessed by researchers. I am currently completing my PhD on James Scott and despite numerous attempts (including in person) I cannot obtain any information on the family.

    • We apologise for that, Jan Herivel.

      I’m not working in the parish but am the website admin only so my guess is maybe the parish does not have such old record.

      Sorry for the inconvenience to your study.

      • Jan Herivel (Sydney Australia)

        Thank you but the records fot he Church of the Assumption are at the church. I visited the Parish office in Jalan Macalister in October, 2014 while on holiday in Penang. Apparently there is an elderly priest who looks after them. I have written, emailed and visited in person – I have dates for the Scott family births etc from other researchers but want to verify them. As my thesis is due at the end of this year, I will note that the dates cannot be verified as requests to do so have been refused/ignored by the Church.

      • I also have had no help in seeking records of ancestors, have E mailed ahead of visiting Penang , presened myself in person had relations present themselves and nothing . the least that could happen is an acknowledgement of an email.

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