HISTORY OF ST. MICHAEL'S PARISH PENAMPANG
The History of Inobong and Penampang Mission from its foundation until the end of the Second World War (WW2), 1887 – 1945
Read and Learn about our history through the years. From our humble beginning to our first ever Kadazan priest. Click on any of the button below to start.
1883 - 1897
In April 1883, Fr. Alexander Prenger arrived in Labuan and was appointed by Mgr. Thomas Jackson as assistant to Fr. Pundleider in Simpudu, Papar. In June 1883, Fr. Prenger left Simpudu and was appointed to Sandakan to open a Mission there. (Photo right: Fr. Alexander Prenger)
In 1883, Fr. Prenger was with Fr. Pundleider in Sandakan but found there was too little work for two priests serving in Sandakan. So Fr. Pundleider who was an explorer in his own way decided to go to Bundu in his own boat. By February 1884, Bundu Mission was open.
Toward the end of 1885, Mgr. Jackson asked Fr. Prenger to leave Sandakan and appointed him to be assistant to Fr. Pundleider in Bundu, Kuala Penyu. In June 1885, Fr. Prenger and Fr. Ignazio rowed up the Putatan river, he came to a village on the bank. That was the first time priests visited Putatan, a Kadazan village. Fr. Prenger had been in SImpudu and so he could have said a few words in Kadazan which made him welcome by the people. This first visit was of short duration. This was more an introductory visit.
Perhaps there was not enough work for two priests in Bundu, so in June 1886, Fr. Prenger visited again the people in Putatan village and went up river as far as Inobong. This was a first visit of a priest in Inobong, another Kadazan village on the river bank. He met and talk to some people there. He settled down in Inobong to open a Mission Station.
At the beginning of 1887, Fr. Prenger opened Inobong Mission and started teaching the people about the Christian religion. He had a few people who were interested. By Easter 10th April 1887, he baptized four boys in Inobong; Petrus Moliping, Paulus Satabar, Michael Mohujang and John Tan Kan San.
On 29th May 1887, he baptized Aloysius Fo Tan and on Christmas day the 25th December 1887, he baptized 14 more; Thomas Bersalik, Anna Sabahan, Agatha Damail, Joannes Tan Kan San, Marcus Labanta, Lucas Damahar, Francis Menjahom, Theodore Malajam, Andreas Sungkipeng, Gabriel Matajak, Augustine Mensala, Maria Dusioy, Cecilia Dingihon and Ludwig Masankim.
Fr. Prenger did not stay in one place only. He really worked hard to teach the Christian religion to them. With Inobong as the headquater, he traveled far and wide to preach the Good News to the people. In August 1887, he walked as far inland as Tambunan area but the people in Tambunan did not welcome him.
The first Sacred Heart Church, Inobong was completed and opened.
In 1889, Fr. Prenger went downriver to visit the people in Penampang. By this time, he was fluent in Kadazan. Fr. Prenger built a house there and soon Penampang became the outstation of Inobong Mission.
Fr. Rientjes was sent to assist Fr. Byron in Sandakan Mission in November 1889. Almost immediately Fr. Prenger visited Fr. Rientjes in Sandakan for they had been classmates in the Seminary, and asked Fr. Rientjes to join him at Putatan in ‘a new Mission in Penampang’ where a house had just been built.
At the beginning of 1890, Fr. Rientjes arrived in Penampang and was put in charge of Penampang Mission. Around the same year, the building of the first Penampang church began.
In July 1890, Fr. Prenger was called back to teach at Mill Hill College. Fr. Rientjes was left alone. He stayed at Penampang to work among the people in Penampang and visited Inobong on every other Sunday.
On Fr. Prenger’s departure, Mgr. Jackson commented; “That loss is a great cross for me. I can’t spare him, nobody else knows the language of Putatan. A most pious, zealous and clever priest.”
Fr. Rientjes drowned in Putaton River on Ascension Thursday the 15th May 1891 when Fr. Prenger was teaching at Mill Hill. Since no Catholic priest could be present at his funeral, he was buried with the Anglican prayers said over him (He was buried at the Inobong Catholic Cemetery). After the death of Fr. Rientjes, Fr. Reyfert and Fr. Pundleider came to help in Inobong and Penampang for a while.
Fr. Prenger came back to Borneo after four years, on Tuesday the 3rd June which marked, as Mgr. Jackson remarked, the ‘Principal Date’ for the year 1892. “It is said that Fr. Prenger asked every day at Mill Hill to be sent back.” (Staal). He went straight back to Inobong.
Mgr. Jackson appointed Fr. Duxneuner to assist Fr. Prenger at Inobong in February 1893. With two priests at Inobong, Penampang began to progress. By the middle of 1893, Penampang Mission could stand on her own. In September 1893, Fr. Duxneuner settled in Penampang to manage the Mission work there. He was conferred the title “FOUNDER” of Penampang Mission because of his hard labour and determinations to establish the Mission. In September 1893, he was assisted by the local faithful in putting up the cross on top of the MOUNT TIVUNG.
On Ascension Day, 8th May 1897, the Inobong Church was blessed.
1900 - 1920
After the year 1900, concentration in Mission work shifted from Inobong to Penampang.
The situation in inobong Mission was not encouraging. Of the 120 Catholics, only 9 people attended Mass regularly.
On the 5th March 1902, Fr. A. Prenger died while seated and resting. The faithful mourned his death and kept vigil over his body for three days until Fr. Gossens and Fr. Williams came. His body was buried alongside that of Fr. Rientjes at the Inobong Catholic Cemetery.
Inobong was finally made the outstation of Penampang. Fr. Van den Besselaar started a school at Inobong, but only a handful of boys attended class.
On the 24th February 1906, Fr. August Wachter became assistant to Fr. Duxneuner in Penampang Mission.
Fr. Wachter began a proper school in Penampang.
Fr. Wachter was forced by circumstances to go back to Inobong. So in February 1910, Inobong Mission was again opened as a station.
The first catholic school in Limbanak was built in 1910 by Fr. Wachter. The building with only one classroom was constructed on stilt with attap roof and its wall was half covered with planks.
Fr. Staal arrived at Inobong to help Fr. Wachter.
Fr. Wachter built a big school for boys in Inobong. In the same year, the convent in Inobong started. With the presence of the White Sisters, Mission work expanded in Inobong reaching both men and women. The sisters stationed in Inobong were Mother Stanislaus, Sr. Innocentia and Sr. Alban.
The year 1917 saw the return of Fr. Wachter to Penampang Mission because Fr. Duxneuner had to go back home. Inobong Mission again became an outstation of Penampang Mission. From the year 1917, organization of Mission work in Penampang area was centred in Penampang Mission.
In the middle of 1920, Fr. Joseph Staal came from Sandakan to assist Fr. Wachter in Penampang. As an assistant Fr. Staal looked after the interests of Inobong Mission. During this period, the outstations of Penampang – Inobong Mission, went as far as Tambunan. Fr. Staal went with Mr. Louis Majapur, a catechist, to Tambunan. Fr. Staal was a keen explorer. They traveled on foot up and down the Tambunan plain. There, they built a small house made of bamboo.
1921 - 1945
In September 1921, the Inobong Convent and School were moved to Penampang. Fr. Staal wanted to concentrate his work in Inobong.
In early 1922, Fr. Staal moved to Inobong to be Rector there. Once again Inobong became a head-station. In the meantime, the number of Catholics increased in Penampang. The small church could no longer hold the growing number of Catholics. In February 1922, the Penampang Church was extended by 33 feet. The number of children attending Sunday school also increased. There were four schools in Penampang and the Mission works in Penampang speeded up and the number of Catholics also increased as more and more outstations were being opened.
The first Catholic Church Building in Limbanak was built on a piece of land at Kampung Limbanak, bought by Fr. Wachter.
A new period of Penampang Mission began after Fr. A. Wachter was appointed the Prefect Apostolic of North Borneo and Labuan on 26th July 1927. Mgr. Wachter made Penampang Mission his headquater. Hence, Penampang Mission became the centre of Missionary activities in North Borneo and Labuan.
Mgr. Wachter continued the policy to expand Mission work. Penampang Mission became one of the centres of expansion. Penampang Mission took charge of the outstations at Putatan, Inobong, Limbanak and Inanam Mission.
YEAR 1929 – 1934
In Penampang Mission itself, one of the permanent signs of expansion was the building of the Stone Church. This work began in the early 1930s. As early as April 1929, Mgr. Wachter already had the intention of building this church. He was offered US$1,000.00 for a chapel in Kudat, but he was almost tempted to keep back the money for the Penampang Church.
YEAR 1935 – 1945
The site for the Penampang Church was ready by the middle of March 1935. On April 1935, the two church bells which were hung on a temporary tower were solemnly consecrated by Mgr. Wachter. The foundation stone for the new church was laid during a special ceremony on the 29th September 1936, the Feast of St. Michael. And for the building of the church, Mgr. Wachter had specially invited Brother Aegidius Leiter, the master builder, to be responsible.
Later, Brother Alexander, Brother Pius and a number of local people came to help in the work. The church took a long time to build because of the amount of work involved in the cutting of the stones and carrying them to the site. When the Second World War began, only the walls were completed. The condition of the church without a roof saved it from being bombed during the war. Work on the building began again after the war. It was completed in 1947.
Besides concentration on the progress of the building of the church, Mgr. Wachter was also following closely the progress of the Mission work in the Penampang area and in the other Mission stations.