Ayer Salak, Peninsular Malaysia’s hotbed for vocations

Ayer Salak’s St Mary’s parish priest Father Paul Wong said that no less than 25 vocations have come from this village and are now serving all over the country and even overseas.

Malaysia
Jun 17 2014, 3:53 PM
Ayer Salak, Peninsular Malaysia’s hotbed for vocations

Ayer Salak, Malaysia’s oldest Catholic Chinese New Village, is the nation’s hotbed for religious and priestly vocations and is fondly dubbed as ‘the Lord’s Vineyard’.

Ayer Salak’s St Mary’s parish priest Father Paul Wong said that no less than 25 vocations have come from this village and are now serving all over the country and even overseas.

At the last Good Shepherd Sunday commemoration, Father Wong called around twenty of these religious and priests to ‘return home to their roots’ to be accorded tribute and recognition. However, due to prior commitments only a dozen of them could attend the event. 69-year-old Sister Juliana Lim, who died last month in a robbery attack on the ground of the Visitation Church in Seremban, was also among them.

The village is now home to some 250 Teochew Catholic families. Some senior members of these families are proud to be able to trace back their ancestry to five generations.

Ayer Salak’s humble beginning can be traced back to the French priests from the Banda Kaba parish of St Francis Xavier, who were presented with some 400 hectares of land by the then British authorities in the early 1880s.

The first conversions of the indigenous asli tribe proved futile as many of them shifted back to the jungles to adhere to their nomadic way of life. In the mid 1850s, the local Church invited 16 Teochew families from several parts of the country and China to start cultivating the land in the surrounding jungle. The community flourished over time, despite hardships, with more families venturing into the area by the late 1890s. Each family was allotted land by the Church as long as they remained steadfast in their faith.

The former IJC Convent, the Gabrielite Brothers, the Salvatorian Sisters and the CDD Formation House a mere 8km out of Ayer Salak together provide the locals with spiritual nurturing.

Although a small number of young people moved out to seek better prospects, many stayed back. The village remains tranquil and serene as opposed to the hustle and bustle of the other Malacca tourist centres.

Prominent landmarks in the village are the St Mary’s (old) Church, built in 1848 — which now serves as a multi-purpose hall — and the new Church built adjacent to the old one. The village also has the Montfort Youth Centre, built in 1991, and a day-care home for children, set up by the Salvatorian Sisters.

Source: Herald Malaysia

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