The presence of a Catholic community in Ulu Tiram can be traced back to pre-1950s with an already established chapel building and had a residence for the permanent catechist that ministered to the community. The chapel area is situated on a land beside Sungai Tiram and catered to a families in Ulu Tiram and all the surrounding estates.
The chapel was under the administrative care of Msgr. Peter Wee of the Church of Immaculate Conception in Johor Bahru. He saw great potential in the community as the high attendance for major Mass such as Christmas and Chinese New Year, and also that there were many youth and young children who attended the monthly Mass with their grandparents. He foresaw that the community will eventually outgrow the chapel building.
“While preparing for this Jubilee (Golden Jubilee of the Church of Immaculate Conception), it occurred to me that a new Chapel for Ulu Tiram would be a fitting and permanent monument to commemorate this happy event.”
~ Msgr. Peter Wee, Parish Priest of the Church of Immaculate Conception in 1971
In 1970, the chapel was hit by a Great Flood that caused considerable damage to the structure. Although repairs were made, plans for a new chapel building only saw fruition in 1971 when Msgr. Peter announced plans to rebuild the chapel and began fund-raising efforts. The old chapel was torn down and the current building was built.
The new chapel was consecrated by Archbishop Michel Olçomendy, M.E.P. on the 8th of December 1972 as his last official act in the Archdiocese of Singapore Malacca. The statues of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Joseph which formed the Holy Family was donated to the new chapel for public veneration by the Chapel of the Carmelite monastery in Singapore.
On the 22nd of December 1972, Rev. James Chan was appointed Bishop of the new Diocese of Malacca Johor after splitting from the Archdiocese of Singapore.
“I hope and pray that soon our Catholic families in these areas will be able to produce priestly and religious vocations to continue the Church’s work of evangelization and consolidation.”
~ Bishop James Chan, D.D. in 1982
On the 11th of January 1976, Bishop James Chan elevated the chapel to the Church of the Holy Family and installed Rev. Thaddeus Foo as the first parish priest. He began his ministry by organizing regular Masses in the church and at all out-stationed chapels including Tamil Masses in the estates, reorganized parish associations to include youth groups, and began an active pastoral care by visiting families around the area.
“I personally led the Christmas Caroling to all our parishioners’ homes, including those deep in the Estates. Whenever I ponder at those photos taken during my stay in Ulu Tiram, it gives me sweet memories!”
~ Rev. Thaddeus Foo, first parish priest in 1976
He and his successors Rev. Philip Kolaindasamy, Rev. Louis Wee, and Rev. Roberge emphasized on discovering and nurturing charism and aptitudes of the community to sustain ministry life due to the shortage of priests at the time.
“Since the beginning of 1974, I have been privileged to be an intimately interested eye-witness of happenings in the Catholic Community of Ulu Tiram. It is the awakening, the growth, the maturation of the faith which holds my attention.”
~ Rev. B. Roberge, parish priest in 1982
In the early 90s, the urbanization of Johor led to a rapid growth in Ulu Tiram and the surrounding areas with new housing developments, job opportunities and better transportation infrastructure. The community saw an influx of Catholics from all over especially, from Sabah and Sarawak. In response, Rev. Francis Kou established two weekend Masses to cater to the increased parishioners.
Throughout the years, the church experienced many flooding events. Due to this, Rev. Kou and a parish delegation engaged with the diocese to relocate the church. In 2005, Bishop Paul Tan, S.J. purchased six acres of agricultural land for this purpose. Rev. Ravi Alexander, O.F.M. Cap., as the new parish priest continued the effort together with the newly formed church building committee. Rev. Anthony Ng, oversaw the progress of the project during his brief period as parish administrator.
In 2011, Rev. Ryan Muthu was appointed as the new parish priest. He worked hard with the parish building committee and architect to prepare the necessary documents to build the new church. On the 31st of July 2012, the government approved the land conversion for religious use. On April 2015, the building committee submitted the new church plans to the State Home Ministry.
Throughout his administration, the parish has experienced immense growth. During feast days, the parish would overflow with parishioners during the celebration of multilingual Mass. To address this issue, he reorganized the ministries and apostolates, encourage new leaders and active participation in ministries, established four separate Masses for each language group, and advocated youth participation in parish life. He also had to carry out minor renovation to accommodate the growing logistics of a large congregation.
The parish begins a new era: not only to build a new church but to grow spiritually and as a community become aware and active Catholics in full unity with the Catholic Church.
- Holy Family Church 10th Anniversary Souvenir Booklet (1982). Testimonies by:
a. Bishop (Emeritus) James Chan, Diocese of Melaka Johor (1972 – 2001)
b. Msgr. Peter Wee, chapel administrator (1960s – 1976)
c. Rev. Thaddeus Foo, parish priest (1976 – 1978)
d. Rev. B. Roberge, parish priest (1981 – ?)
- Rev. Ryan Innas Muthu, parish priest (2011- current)