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Penang’s Catholic museum documents history of church in the northern peninsula

The Malaysian Insight
14 Jan. 2018

Penang’s Catholic museum documents history of church in the northern peninsula.

PENANG has a new Roman Catholic museum which church authorities do not intend to turn into a tourist attraction but to let future generations know how the Church began in northern Peninsular Malaysia.

The two-storey museum is housed in the old Penang Bishop’s office on the grounds of the Church of the Assumption on Lebuh Farquhar – which in itself is a landmark in the Unesco World Heritage City and the Street of Harmony.

Although located in the heritage site that is popular with tourists, the intention is not to turn the museum into a tourist attraction.

Penang Diocese Vicar-General Monsignor Michael Cheah said purpose was education and to preserve history.

Educational exhibits

As the Diocese of Penang, which was created in 1955, covers Penang, Kedah, Perak, Perlis and Kelantan; exhibits on display come from the five states.

Visitors can read detailed write-ups on how the church began in the northern region and vew old photos displayed on its timeline exhibit mounted along the walls.

Cheah said the materials had been a challenge to find.

“It took us one-and-a-half years to get everything ready,” he said, adding that RM800,000 was spent on the museum.

There are also descriptions on the present and past bishops of Penang, and the churches across the five states under the Diocese of Penang.

Also among the exhibits are a mock confessional (a stall in which a priest sits to hear the confessions of penitents), crosses, a portable altar, monstrances (the

vessel used in Roman Catholic, Old Catholic and Anglican churches for the exhibition of objects of piety), religious books, the bishop’s croziers (pastoral staff) and mitres (headpiece), chasubles worn over the alb and stole as the proper vestment of a priest celebrating Mass, and other items used in the Catholic religion.

Cheah said as some of the Catholic churches were very old, some of the exhibits that come from there could easily be over a century old, or more.

“We are also trying to trace their history and date them. The exhibits are at least 10 years to over a hundred years old.”

He also said the museum will also help the Diocese of Penang better preserve the church’s history, preventing items of value from getting lost over the years.

Some exhibits had come from the old College-General on Persiaran Gurney that closed in 1984 and relocated to Tanjung Bungah. Other exhibits were contributed by nuns and brothers, and even churches outside Penang.

“Some may not be of great monetary value, but they are valuable and meaningful in other ways to the Church,” he said.

One such exhibit is a high altar that originally came from the Convent Light Street Chapel, which could be over 150 years old, Cheah said.

“The top of the altar can be detached. Years ago, the altar was broken into two. Each part ended up in different places.

“This is the first time in some 20 years that both pieces have been reunited,” he said of the exhibit on the top floor of the museum.

The top level also features several old pianos that came from convent schools, and an old desk used by the reverend mother of a now closed convent in Ipoh.

Professionally curated

The curator behind the museum is Khoo Boo Chia, who also curated the Penang state museum and art gallery.

He was also the curator of the iconic heritage clan house Khoo Kongsi’s museum, and was involved in the restoration of Suffolk House – Malaysia’s only surviving Georgian mansion built in the early 1800s that once served as the residence of early British governors.

Khoo said the Roman Catholic Museum was the second of its kind in the country.

There was one in Kuching, but he believes the Penang museum is more comprehensive in its displays and exhibits.

“Penang has a rich Catholic history. So, the exhibits present a lot of information.

“This museum is the place to visit to learn more about this history,” he said.

Khoo said he also considered how to make the museum appeal to the younger generation.

“I want to give it a modern look and feel so the younger visitors may find it interesting. You can see we feature many photographs in our exhibits.

The museum opens daily from 10am to 6pm daily, except for Mondays. Admission is by donation.

Reopening of the church

The opening of the museum on New Year’s Day also coincided with the re-dedication of the Church of the Assumption, Penang’s oldest church.

The crucifix-shaped colonial-styled church was under extensive renovation and had to be temporarily closed.

The major facelift took more than a year and cost RM2.5 million. The funds were partly raised from public donations and state government contributions.

The church, which has a history dating back to over 230 years, is the first Roman Catholic church in northern Peninsula Malaysia and the third oldest in Malaysia.

The heritage church was first set up as the Cathedral of the Assumption in

August 1786 by Captain Francis Light, who opened Penang island as a British trading post.

Light’s landing in Penang had coincided with the feast of the Assumption of The Blessed Mary on August 15 that year. He and his companions built the church and named it as such to mark the occasion.

Over the years, the church needed expansion and the present building was completed in 1861. The church’s last refurbishment was in 1928. – January 14, 2018.

Speech by the Penang CM on the re-dedication and museum
Press Statement by the Penang CM on handing over of donation

Watch the re-dedication service on youtube here.


History and heritage meets at Farquhar Street

The Star
3 Jan. 2018

History and heritage meets at Farquhar Street

GEORGE TOWN: History and heritage will meet at the newly completed RM700,000 Penang Diocesan Museum and the recently reopened Church of the Assumption at Lebuh Farquhar.

The double-storey museum is the first in the country to be built by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Penang. It is located next to the church which underwent a 16-month restoration.

Both were launched by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and several state executive councillors after an evening mass on New Year’s Day, accompanied by Penang Diocese Right Rev Datuk Sebastian Francis DD.

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Re-dedication of the Restored Assumption Church


Feast of the Assumption

Please take note that the Rosary devotion begins first, followed by the Eucharistic celebration (Holy Mass).

Raffle draw result

The Raffle Draw took place this morning at the Parish Centre of the Church of the Assumption. Kevin Lowe was the MC for the event. It started with a short opening speech by the Chairman of the Fund Raising Committee, John Lau.

He thank the sponsors for the prizes :–
– Bermaz Motor Trading Sdn Bhd for the Mazda 2
– Tomei for the jewellery set
– RK South Asia Sdn Bhd for the motorcycle SYM
– the volunteers
– His fellow fund raising committee members as well as the restoration committee
– Wong Liu & Partners – the scrutineer for the Draw and the press covering the event
– The Star, Sin Chew and Nanyang.

John Lau said that RM700,000 worth of tickets were sold, short of the target by RM300,000. All in all, 40 people attended the event. Volunteers and ticket buyers present were invited to draw the winning numbers.

Prize winners can contact the following persons to claim your prizes. Remember to present your winning ticket.

1. Bernie 016 420 2820
2. John 012 421 2820
(taken from Assumption Facebook. Please visit if for photos.)

Restored Catholic Church comes with a museum

THE 157-year-old Church of the Assumption located along the heritage enclave at Farquhar Street is expected to reopen its doors to parishioners and tourists in October once renovation works have been completed with a soft opening scheduled to be on Christmas Eve this year.

This was revealed by its fund raising committee chairman John Lau when he and the Bishop of Penang Rev. Sebastian Francis welcomed state exco members Chow Kon Yeow (Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation) and Jagdeep Singh (Town & Country Planning and Housing) to the church premises on July 24 to receive RM50,000 from the state government’s Non-Islamic Places of Worship Fund (RIBI).

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Iconic Penang Church launches raffle ticket sales for restoration project

30 April 2017

Iconic Penang Church launches raffle ticket sales for restoration project
by Christopher Kostka

The Church of the Assumption launched its sale of raffle tickets at the St Francis Xavier Church on March 19. The sales are part of its fundraising activities to raise RM2.5 million for the restoration of the church.

The restoration project, which was launched by Bishop Sebastian Francis in June 2016, is to restore the church to its original condition of 1928 as befitting this monumental landmark in the Georgetown Heritage zone.
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Assumption church closed for restoration works

4 September 2016

Assumption church closed for restoration works

 By Lucia Lai

assumption“As Catholics, we obtain our ‘passport’ when we are baptized, but what about our visa?”

This was the interesting question Fr Gerard Theraviam asked in his homily during the Feast of the Assumption Eucharistic Celebration on 14 August 2016 at the Church of the Assumption, Penang.

According to Fr Gerard, our visa lies in the gospel reading of today, where Elizabeth said, “Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled”, as well as in the vigil gospel reading that mentions “happy are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” “Do you believe in the promise of God? Do you hear and keep the Word of God?” he asked. “If you do, this is your visa to heaven. Armed with both passport and visa, we can enter heaven with Mary.”

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Assumption Heritage Fest

The Assumption Church is proud to be host of two events under the Georgetown Festival 2016. Yesterday was the ‘Love, Joy, Peace’ Sacred Music concert by The Messengers, and on this Friday (12 Aug) and Saturday (13 Aug), will be the Assumption Heritage Fest, an annual affair organised by the Penang Eurasian Association. Below, you will find the full programme.

Click on the picture to view a bigger size.



Feast of the Assumption


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