St. Patrick's Church History

Rev. William Henry Elton’s vision in 1899 to plant a church in Tawau was realized in 1917 by Rev. T. C. Alexander from Sandakan. In April 1927, Rev. Vun Nen Vun became the first Rector of St. Patrick’s Church and school. He was succeeded by two other local priests, Rev. Chin Phui Yin and Rev. Sung Khi Fong, who served from 1931 - 1941. 

Then World War II broke out. For the next five years after the war there was no priest stationed in Tawau. In 1951, Rev. Vun Nen Vun returned to serve in St. Patrick’s Church a second time until the first Australian CMS Missionary, the Rev. Walter Newmarch, arrived in 1954. Since then, the church ministry and work flourished and extended to Sempourna and Lahad Datu.

By God’s grace, in 1957, God sent Mr Jim Power, a trained teacher from Church Missionary Society (CMS), Australia who became the principal of St. Patrick’s School. Despite challenging teaching conditions, many lives were impacted and saved, and later they became local church leaders. Funds were raised and the first permanent church was built and consecrated in May, 1962 by the Rt. Rev. Bishop James Wong C. L.

Rev. Newmarch was succeeded by Rev. Michael Corbett Jones, Rev. Simon Chin, Rev. Canon Arnold Puntang and Rev. Alan McMahon respectively during the period from 1968 to 1985. Under Rev. Alan McMahon, a new Rectory, a mission house and a parish hall were built. He taught the church to tithe and challenged the PCC to tithe 10% of the church income to missions outside Sabah and subsequently another 5% to the work of Sabah Anglican Interior Mission (SAIM) work. 

On 28 December, 1985, Archdeacon Yong Ping Chung was inducted as the 10th Rector of St. Patrick’s Church. Under his incumbency, the Chinese congregation began to grow. He planted the Good Tidings Church in Kuhara and the Apas Mile 5 Outreach Center. He served until 1990 and was succeeded by Rev Albert Vun, who later became an Archdeacon of the Diocese of Sabah. 

By the end of 1992, church leaders along with Archdeacon Albert Vun corporately sensed the Lord's leading to become a Cell Church. Many of the program-based ministries were reorganized and integrated into cell groups. Many leaders were also raised to meet the growing ministry. 

In 1995, the growing congregations necessitated the construction of the House of Prayer. By October 1997, the House of Prayer for All Nations with a seating capacity of 2500 was completed. What a way to glorify God than to utilize it to conduct the First Sabah Worship Conference in November 1997! Since then, the House of Prayer has been used for Sunday Services and also as a venue for major Diocesan events and some Interchurch functions. 

During his tenure from 1990-2005, Archdeacon Albert Vun challenged the church to expand mission work in the regions around Tawau, and also to plant churches in Kalimantan under the Diocesan Strategy and Vision. 

St. Patrick’s Church members were thus mobilized and equipped in areas of prayer and intercession, evangelism, healing, counselling and deliverance, as well as leadership training. 

To serve and bless the Tawau community, two Playschools & Daycare Centres, St. Patrick’s Anglican Academy and Vision Schools at Bandar Sri Indah have been set up. 

During his tenure from 1990-2005, Archdeacon Albert Vun challenged the church to expand mission work in the regions around Tawau, and also to plant churches in Kalimantan under the Diocesan Strategy and Vision. 

Over the years, under the leadership of various Rectors, St Patrick’s Church has planted six churches, which have become autonomous, and has produced 25 priests and pastors for the Diocese of Sabah. 

When Archdeacon Albert Vun became the 5th Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Sabah, Rev Canon Chak Sen Fen succeeded him as the 12th Rector of St Patrick’s Church in May 2006. During Rev Chak’s tenure, the whole church was mobilized to do mission work among the rural churches and outreach centres. Church-wide discipleship training was conducted in the next two years. 

Rev Canon Chak and the St Patrick’s Church leadership consented, after much deliberation, to take up the massive challenge proposed by Bishop Albert Vun to build the new church-owned-church-run Vision Schools. This was to be situated on a 25-acre piece of land in Bandar Sri Indah, donated by Hap Seng Properties Development Sdn Bhd. The Schools started in June 2009 with a humble beginning of 13 boys in the Primary and Secondary Schools, which follow the Malaysian National Curriculum supplemented with the Singapore Syllabus. 

In 2014, Vision International School was initiated, offering students the globally recognised Cambridge International General Certificate for Secondary Education (IGCSE). Both local and international trainers and consultants are engaged to train and equip our teachers with the 21st century teaching techniques. 

The secondary school also offers scholarships to merit students from rural areas in Sabah. By the grace of God, to date we have had 78 staff and 538 students. 

By January 2010, Archdeacon John Yeo arrived to take over the helm of leadership and became the 13th Rector of St Patrick’s Church to this very day. In sync with our Diocesan Vision and Strategy, mission work continued to flourish as SPC became the mission hub for the expanding work in the Kalimantan regions, south of Tawau. 

On 15th August 2011, Archdeacon John Yeo was consecrated and appointed as Assistant Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Sabah. He was tasked with overseeing the expanding mission work in the Kalimantan region. As the Rector of SPC, he is also spearheading the work of overseeing the Vision Schools, as well as supervising the running of SPAA and St Patrick’s Play School. 

As we celebrate the historical milestone of our 100th Anniversary, let us remember with thanksgiving our predecessors, both our clergy and lay leaders, who had laboured before us, laying down good foundations for the expansion of God’s Kingdom, both locally and beyond. May the Lord continue to spur us on, and enabling us to grow from strength to strength, glory to glory!