The Myanmar Catholic community here was formed in January 1998, but the group has never had a permanent location.
One of the founders, Dr Edwin Thet Naing, 50, said that they decided to “form a Catholic group so that we can worship together in Burmese”.
They started small, with “less than 10 people”, according to coordinator Natale Plureh, 42, but the community has grown to about 500 people.
In an interview with Dr Edwin and Mr Plureh, together with their Mynmar-born chaplain Fr Peter Paul, 50, and youth coordinator Christine Nilar, 31, they gave CatholicNews a deeper insight into this community.
Fr Peter Paul is the official chaplain for the community.
Dr Edwin said that “very few [Burmese] have family here, as they are migrants working here with their families in Burma”. There are only about “10 to 15 families in the community”, Mr Plureh added.
Currently, Burmese Mass is held at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) every second and fourth Sunday of the month, at 3pm.
Mr Plureh said that there is Bible study, rosary and confession before Mass but there is “no regular teaching class for catechism” nor a “fixed date for baptisms”.
For sacraments, they “just refer [the person] to Fr Peter Paul”, he said.
Rosary sessions are also held at members’ homes and Burmese nuns based in Singapore join the group for Bible study and rosary at the Good Shepherd Convent in Toa Payoh.
Mr Plureh said that the community has an annual gathering in May or June, which is “open to everyone and led by the youth”.
Dr Edwin added that, “We celebrate Parents’ Day every year on the fourth Sunday of July, with a big concert put on by the youth.”
There are “about 100 youths and young adults”, Mr Plureh said.
He added that occasionally, they rent venues at Nativity Church for Easter Mass and the Catholic Archdiocesan Youth Centre for Christmas Mass (CAYC).
Since 2004, the community has celebrated midnight Christmas Mass and then stayed overnight at CAYC. There would also be a concert.
The community however, faces some challenges.
“We always have a problem of finding a place during the big occasions. I think we need a proper, specific place,” said Mr Plureh.
Fr Peter Paul added that they need a proper office and that “Sometimes we have to move to St Joseph’s [Bukit Timah], Hougang [Nativity Church], and here [IHM].”
Mr Plureh said that some Burmese maids in the community have to return to their employees’ homes after Mass and “cannot stay for fellowship”.
The community collaborates with the local archdiocese through the Archdiocese Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Mr Plureh said.
“We want to engage with the local Church,” he said. “If there are any big activities in the Catholic Church in Singapore, we want to help in any way we can,” he said.
For more information on the Myanmar Catholic community, please contact Mr Plureh at 9644-6424.
By Clara Lai