Malaysian Catholics have participated in a special pilgrimage during Lent to honor missionaries who brought and nurtured Catholic faith in northern Borneo in the 19th century.
Some 50 Catholics from Blessed Sacrament Church in Labuan in the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, including parish priest Father Thomas Madanan, joined the pilgrimage despite scorching summer sun on April 3, Catholic Sabah reported on April 11.
The walk of faith celebrated the arrival of Spanish mariner turned missionary Don Carlos Cuarteron, who landed in Labuan on April 14, 1857, along with a group of Italian missionaries from the Philippines.
Father Cuarteron became the first bishop when Pope Pius IX erected the Apostolic Prefecture of Labuan and Borneo that same year. He served in Labuan and Borneo until his return to Rome in 1879.
The Vatican entrusted the mission to Mill Hill missionaries from England who played a pioneering role in evangelization and put the Catholic Church on a strong footing despite pressure from the region’s Muslim kings.
Today northern Borneo is composed of the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. It accounts for two-thirds of the estimated three million Christians among 33 million Malaysian citizens.