Bishop René-Michel-Marie Fée, MEP

Bishop R. Fee

Bishop R. Fee

Bishop René-Michel-Marie Fée was born at Ambrieres, France, on 5 February 1856. In his younger days, he was known for his piety and uprightness and not surprisingly he experienced a deep desire to dedicate his life to missionary work.  After spending four years as a seminarian in Mayenne, France, he entered the Major Seminary of Laval. He later entered the Paris Foreign Missions Society, where he was tonsured on 15 September 1876. On 8 March 1879, he was ordained a Priest.

On 16 April 1879, he departed for his mission in Malacca.  When he arrived in Singapore on 20 May, Bishop Gasnier assigned him to serve the Indian community.  So he studied Tamil, which he picked up quite quickly, as well as some English. He was sent to Penang where he served the large Indian population there.   That was no easy task; he worked for long hours travelling around, hearing confessions and teaching catechism. His efforts endeared him to the faithful and he was also well-respected by the Europeans.

Despite these heavy responsibilities, he had still higher hopes in his mission such as establishing an agricultural colony. He obtained a piece of land around the boundary between Penang and Perak where the soil was fertile and conducive to rice cultivation. Once the jungle was cleared, the parish of Bagan Serai was established. By 1889, Bagan Serai had 450 Christian inhabitants and Fr Fée had performed 180 Baptisms. However the heavy responsibilities and workload had taken its toll on Fr Fée’s health and he had to return to France to seek medical treatment. Upon his recovery, he returned to Penang in 1892.  Two years later, in 1894, he founded the parish of Teluk Anson.

On 21 July 1896, Fr Fée was appointed Bishop of Malacca. His Episcopal Consecration was held on 22 November 1896 in the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd and was attended by missionaries from the Diocese of Malacca, as well as government officials, Portuguese clergy and consuls of various countries.

He visited different parts of his diocese, spending several days with his missionaries. Both he and the missionaries enjoyed such gatherings. These visits provided opportunities for both sides to discuss projects.

During Bishop Fée’s tenure, more churches were built and established across Malaya. One was the Church of St Louis in Taiping in 1897. On 14 February 1897, Bishop Fée consecrated the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. In 1901, a piece of land at Tank Road, Singapore, was acquired for the purpose of building a church.  This was eventually to be the Church of the Sacred Heart.

In 1903 Bishop Fée suffered from a throat infection which plagued him for several months, causing him great difficulty in swallowing food. Despite undergoing an operation his condition failed to improve.  This necessitated his return to France for medical treatment.  However he never fully recovered and his health deteriorated over time. He passed away on 20 January 1904, due to cancer of the oesophagus. He was buried in Abrieres, the place of his birth.