Kristus Aman's Pilgrimage to Malacca

In conjunction with the Extraordinary Year of Mission 2019, the parishioners of Kristus Aman Chapel made their first local pilgrimage to some churches in Malacca recently. On 16 March 2019, 80 KA parishioners left in two busloads early in the morning for a day’s pilgrimage to 3 selected churches in Malacca where Catholicism was brought to the East by the pioneering work of St Francis Xavier, a Jesuit priest who accompanied the Portuguese flotilla that “conquered” Malacca in 1511. The itinerary included a visit to the St Francis Xavier Church (SFX) in the morning and the Churches of St Theresa and St Mary of Guadalupe in the afternoon.

At SFX, in the heart of Malacca city, the pilgrims were treated to a very well organised programme on the history of SFX, a walking tour of the 12 stations significant to the life of St Francis and the growth of Christianity in Malacca. The highlight of the morning was the site of the ruins of the fortress and its main gate through which St Francis Xavier first arrived in Malacca on 25 September 1545 from Goa, India. During his 5 visits to Malacca between 1545 and 1552, staying only for a total period of 16 months, St Francis preached and gave sacraments to the Portuguese sailors (who were said to be a “wild bunch”) and prisoners. He established a hospital for the poor, and attended to the spiritual needs of the patients. He walked around the area to carry out missionary work too. The Church of Our lady of Assumption was built within the fortress as the focal point of worship for the military and the crew.

We were shown the Stone Cross which was erected at a rock where St Francis was supposed to have landed and it was said the rock was never submerged by the sea waters even at high tide. For his living quarters, he opted for a small attap house, having turned down offers of more comfortable lodgings offered by the Portuguese officers.

At St Paul’s Hill, where the walls of the Hermitage were still standing, and where he would often go to pray, was the open burial place of St Francis several feet below the surface, before his body was transported back to Goa. Many pilgrims said their prayers there and threw coins into the grave. The walk back to the Church was through the graveyard of the Dutch families who had died either on the way to Malacca or of tropical diseases after they had landed. After the walk the pilgrims gathered in the Church and were given the privilege of venerating a first class relic of St Francis Xavier.

A visit to the museum of all church relics and a delicious lunch arranged by the SFX organizing team culminated the SFX tour before the group set off to the Church of St Theresa in Gajah Berang in another part of Malacca.

Assistant Parish Priest Fr Martinian Lee gave us a briefing on the history of St Theresa which was built to cater to the first Christian Chinese migrants from China. Its present grounds holds 2 major schools - Catholic High School, Primary and Secondary and the Notre Dame Girls’ School. A sumptuous tea was prepared for the pilgrims with special delicious local savouries.

The pilgrims were then ferried to the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the outskirts of the city at Krubong, an industrial area. The site was enormous compared to our city churches, complete with carpark, and covered facilities for get-togethers, and even seats at the grotto. The site of the old church and the remains of its boundary stones were still there beside the new church. Mass was concelebrated by both Fr Dominic Tan and Fr Michael Chua. An early dinner which included the community’s signature dishes of roast pork and black sauce duck Teochew style, topped up with a choice of delectable desserts was specially prepared for us and thoroughly enjoyed by all the pilgrims.

The pilgrims left Malacca at about 6 pm with full stomachs, happy and appreciative of Malaccan hospitality. The pilgrims record their thanks and appreciation to the priests and parishioners of the 3 churches we visited for their hospitality. Grateful thanks also go to our two priests Fr Michael and Fr Dominic for accompanying us.

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