Sunday, September 12, 2004

Heng Ee Founder Passed Away

Taken from The Star, page 8 (Nation section), September 12, 2004.

Heng Ee founder dies
By Ng Su-Ann

PENANG: He sailed to the then Malaya 52 years ago and dedicated a great part of his life to education and helping the poor.

When he passed away yesterday at the Little Sisters of the Poor, Datuk Father Arthur Julien had touched many hearts from students to labourers and fishermen.

The 87-year-old Belgium missionary, who spoke fluent Mandarin and Hokkien, had founded three Chinese schools - the Heng Ee Primary School in 1952, its secondary school in 1967, and preschool in 1969.

He was fondly likened to a "gardener" who had pruned and planted love in those who knew him.

Yesterday, upon learning of Father Julien's death due to old age, droves of people, some from as far as Singapore, came to pay their last respects.

International Young Christian Students Movement (YCS) Asian region coordinator Teh Ah See said: "In the old days, Catholic fishermen in Teluk Bahang found it difficult to attend church masses as transportation was a problem.

"So Father Julien, who headed the Church of Seven Sorrows, would instead journey to their village to hold masses.

"He was a friend to the poor as he would often visit poor residents in Rifle Range, Presgrave Street and Noordin Street Ghaut.

"He also loved taking photos of people and used them as slideshows for his sharing sessions with us," she said, adding that he had founded the YCS movement.

Research officer Loh Yen Siew, 25, was among six YCS members who flew in from Singapore.

"Even in his 60s, Father Julien would organise camping trips to foster leadership values in youths. We won't be what we are if it was not for him. He showed us courage and persistence through his sharing and deed."

The group then sang Father Julien's favourite hymn The Lord is Our Shepard. The priest had always voiced his wish that the song be sung upon his death.

"He had sung this song to a group of new converts in Gui Zhou Province before he left for Malaya in 1952. HE had wanted them to be strong although he had to leave them.

"The song is about the brave seagulls which fly in the sky even during stormy days," she said in tears.

A special mass will be held at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Island Park at 9:30am on Monday while the funeral procession will start from there at 11:45am.

Heng Ee's board of directors vice-president Seow Teng Heang said nearly 2,000 students from SM Heng Ee's uniformed societies would represent the schools at the funeral, adding that the school band would also perform then.

"An advocate of Chinese education, the priest told people to consider him as Chinese. He was the country's only missionary priest to start a Chinese school from preschool to secondary level," he said.

Rest in peace, Father Julien.

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