Every Christian must be a missionary!
This was the rallying call Archbishop William Goh made as he outlined his 10-year pastoral plan for the archdiocese during a meeting with representatives of parish ministries.
About 750 people, including a few priests, attended the meeting, titled Building a Missionary and Evangelical Church, held at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“If we compare our Church with many other dioceses, I think we’re doing very well. If we compare our parishes with others, we are vibrant… so many Masses, baptisms, confirmations,” said Archbishop Goh. “Our priests are really hardworking.”
Nevertheless the Church here is in a crisis, he said.
“Half of the Catholics go to church. The Church is full thanks to the migrants,” he said. Migrant Catholics attending church here “are giving the impression that the Church is vibrant”, he said.
“How many of your children have stopped going to church?” he asked the crowd. “How many of your friends have gone to other Christian churches?”
Young people after Confirmation also stop going to church, he noted.
Furthermore, a sign that the local community is spiritually vibrant is the number of vocations from parishes. “If you have no vocations from your parish, it means that it is not [vibrant]”, he said. The fact that people are “not inspired to join means they have not fallen in love with Jesus”, he said.
He noted that the problem with the Catholic Church here is that “we are too functional”, too “activity oriented”.
“You must pray!” he exhorted. “Only the Holy Spirit can touch people’s lives.”
He also stressed that the Church has to be “inclusive”. He warned against marginalising groups such as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people, divorcees and people who have undergone abortions. “Have compassion for them,” he said.
Archbishop Goh said he wants every parish to build communities. However, to do that one must first experience the love of Christ in his or her own ministry.
He said his vision is for every Catholic to “belong to a faith sharing group. All communities must have the sharing of the Word together,” he said.
Archbishop Goh shared that his “vision is to build a missionary and evangelical Church. Every Christian must be a missionary!”
He also added that there is a need to build another 30 parishes in Singapore. “The purpose of being Church is to bring everyone into the Church,” he said.
Archbishop Goh shared his work plan for his first 10 years in office.
In his first year, he put in place his key appointment holders and set up archdiocesan offices such as the Office for the New Evangelisation (ONE). He also visited parishes and met up with priests, Religious, diocesan movements, organisations and new ecclesial communities.
From his second year onwards, he plans to set up ONE in parishes, have all new Church offices and commissions running, and a diocesan synod in three years’ time.
“Parishes must move from a maintenance mode to a visionary Church,” he stressed.
During the full-day meeting, a video was screened on the challenges and changes in the Church in Singapore.
The video showed that according to statistics, the rate of divorce among Catholics was higher than the national average, and that Catholics here appeared to be more liberal in issues of morality compared to some other religions.
A 2007 Church census conducted also showed that less than half of Catholics here attended Mass regularly.
Participants were also given a survey with questions such as whether they thought the Church in Singapore is in a crisis, and whether it is missionary and evangelistic. Responses were submitted electronically via smartphone.
An analysis of the survey later showed that most agreed that the Church here is in a crisis, and that it is not missionary and evangelistic.
The kinds of assistance people felt was needed to achieve the archbishop’s vision were, in order of importance, spiritual formation, leadership and skills training, pastoral care formation and organisational management.
Archbishop Goh, responding to the survey findings, noted that most people want a more evangelical, missionary Church.
“The next question is how can this be done,” he said. “God will make it happen, not you, not me. So patience is very important. Patience, perseverance, compassion.”
During lunchtime, participants were divided according to parishes and asked to discuss questions aimed at helping parishes think about a parish pastoral plan.
These include “how can we make Christ the centre of our pastoral activities?” and “how can we organise ourselves so that we feel deeply the presence of Christ in the work we do together?”
Participants CatholicNews spoke to gave the thumbs up to the archbishop’s vision.
Mr John Eng said he felt the meeting to learn about the archbishop’s vision was “very necessary” as parishes need “to know the plans of the archdiocese”.
“It’s good that we see him walking the ground,” said the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) chairman of the Church of the Risen Christ.
His parish group identified two areas they needed to work on during their discussions, he said. The first was to encourage those who have completed RCIA to join church ministries, and the second was outreach to those who have been confirmed. “A lot of youths leave the parish” after Confirmation, he said.
Ms Maisie Lee, a member of the Church of St Francis Xavier PPC, noted that the meeting stressed the importance of prayer, which is “very important”. One needs to allow Christ and the Holy Spirit to work, she added.
“We have to do more evangelisation,” commented Ms Conchita Mercado, secretary of the Charismatic group at Church of the Holy Trinity.
She said one thing her group can do is to reach out more to those who have attended the Life in the Spirit Seminar.
Archbishop Goh is scheduled to meet with Church organisations and movements on June 21.
By Christopher Khoo
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