Prohibition of Catholic worship began following the Dutch conquest of Malacca in 1641. Many clergy and Portuguese were deported and as early as 1646, all Catholic churches were razed to ground or turned into barracks. The Catholic Church had effectively ceased to function in Malacca, and the Jesuits would not return to the Malay Peninsula until 1949.
Proclaiming the Gospel in China was quite successful until the mission fizzled out in the eighteenth century due to the Chinese Rites Controversy and the suppression of the society of Jesus.The Jesuits overtly returned to China after the Society’s restoration. In the wake of the Chinese civil war, and the formation of the Peoples’ Republic of China, many missionaries, including Jesuits had to leave China, a few ended up in Malaya.
The society returned to Malaya in the mid 20th century by way of China with Jesuits from France, Canada and the United States. The Jesuits started their work in parishes, running hostels, working with youth and young adults, spirituality ministries and various social apostolates. They were also involved in mass media and publication. Among other things, a Social Study Guild was also set up in Kuala Lumpur.
The first Jesuit community in Singapore consisted of Frs Patrick Joy, Kevin O’Dwyer, James Kearney and Brian Kelly, who also served as hostel warden. Fr Patrick Joy, an Irish Jesuit, was appointed superior of the Jesuits in Malaya in 1951. The Kingsmead Hall Jesuit community and student hostel started operations in 1954. The Church of St Ignatius was opened in 1961, and Fr O’Dwyer became the first parish priest.
In 1955, Bishop Dominic Vendargon of the newly erected diocese of Kuala Lumpur invited tht Jesuits to work there. They accepted the offer and started planning for the construction of a church and youth centre. The Church of St. Francis Xavier and a Youth Centre were opened in 1961 in Petaling Jaya. Fr. Geoffrey Murphy was appointed parish priest, and Fr. Brian Kelly assumed the role of warden of the centre.
The Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore missions officially became the Jesuit Vice Province of Hong Kong on December 3,1966. However, changes in the geopolitical landscape over the next twenty years, also demanded changes in the administrative structures for Jesuits living and working in Malaysia and Singapore. After much deliberation, the Malaysia-Singapore Region of the Society of Jesus was officially instituted on April 16,1985.
During the 1980s, Jesuits in the region decided to expand their work in spirituality. The Kingsmead Centre for Ignatian Spirituality & Counselling was officially opened by Archbishop Gregory in 1990 to meet the real needs of spiritual formation in the Catholic Church of Singapore. Fourteen years later, the Jesuits launched the Maranatha House of Prayer near Kuala Lumpur assisting Catholics and Christians in their spiritual development.
The Jesuits of the Malaysia-Singapore Region set up new communities in the new century and started working in various ministries in the Malacca-Johor diocese like starting the Arrupe House in Masai, Johor. In 2012, the Region also started Bellarmine House in Sarawak. Jesuits also administer and offer pastoral care for staff and students at St. Joseph Private School.