Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 27
2 October, 2016
Today we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the death of one of our local saints. Fr James Cheong was a dearly beloved assistant priest at St Peter's Eastern Hill for no less than 37 years; from the year of his Deaconing in 1904 to the year of his death in 1941. We are blessed today to have Bishop David Farrer, a former Vicar of St Peter's, to preach at the 9.30am and 11.00am services, and aid us in our celebrations. We are also blessed to have in our congregation a parishioner who knows first-hand of Fr Cheong's deep spirituality and pastoral care. Stanton Nelson writes beautifully of when he first attended worship at The Hill, and his memories of Fr James:
I very clearly remember my first day at St Peter's; it was Sunday 9th March 1936, I arrived in Melbourne the previous day and commenced employment in the Victorian Railways on Monday 10th March. The Vicar in my home town of Clunes had given me a reference as an introduction to St Peter's Church East Melbourne.
I attended my first High Mass at 11am; Fr James Cheong was the Celebrant. At the conclusion of Mass I approached Fr James, as he was standing at the door greeting parishioners. I introduced myself, gave him my reference, and he placed his hands on my shoulders with the remark: "We will look after you here son." He asked me to wait and pased me over to Jack Smith, the Sacristan, who took me to the vestry to meet Fr Maynard, the Vicar. Arrangements were made for me to see the Vicar in his study later and I was assessed for duties as a server.
Fr James was a medium height man, with a quiet voice and a Chinese accent; he was extremely popular with clergy and parishioners, always having the time to talk and pray with you; always referring to you as "child of God". He had a wonderful approach to confession and always had a line of people waiting on him in the Handfield Chapel.
During my time all the servers were required to be members of The Guild of the Servers of the Sanctuary. I think Fr James was the instigator of the Guild. Both the Vicar and Fr James always wore their birettas. I never saw him in civilian clothes, he always wore his cassock. I was on Army duty from 1940 and was not aware of his demise. During my years as a "Church Sitter" I was always proud to show visitors the Fr James Memorial Plaque and tell them "What a wonderful priest he was."
The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster
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