Families, become what you are

This month, the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family (ACF) sent Jeremy and Pearlyn, a newlywed couple of seven months to speak to Theodore and Ramona Olsen (married for 35 years) and Gerard and Wendy Lim (married for 28 years) to find out the secrets to a happy and fulfilling family life.

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Theodore and Ramona Olsen, their marriage turned for the better after discovering the CFC community. It took Ramona two years of persistent prayer before Theodore was convinced to look deeper in his vocation as a husband and a father, and assuming the role of priest, provider and protector of the family.

“I was not a good Catholic father, not a good Catholic husband,” Theodore would repeat throughout the interview. “In the past, I would go out with colleagues, drink, club, have fun. But the joy didn’t last because I did not have God in my life at that time.”

Looking at him and Ramona exchanging loving glances and holding hands throughout the interview, it was hard to believe that Theodore used to be a “married single” — a term used to describe those who were married but still living the single lifestyle.

“Now, all those things [that I used to enjoy] don’t matter anymore. And it is because I have found the Lord again. I forgot how to love. When I found the Lord… I learnt to love again.”

The Search for More

In the first three years of their marriage, Gerard and Wendy Lim struggled to build a Christ-centred family life amidst the challenges of parenthood, household duties and work. “We had a permanent mountain of clothes that needed to be ironed in our house,” Wendy laughed as she remembered what it was like 28 years ago.
“Life was ‘sleep, work, eat, shop, sleep’, a bit meaningless. We felt that something was missing.”

Gerard added, “We were asking ourselves how we could serve the church better but in reality we were also struggling to keep up with the demands of our young family”.

For the Olsens, Ramona was the first to feel the ache for more. Deep in her heart, she knew there was something wrong with the way they were living their family life but didn’t know what was wrong. When Ramona came across a Couples for Christ (CFC) flyer in church one day, something clicked in her and she decided to give it a try. Even then, it took two years of persistent prayer before Theodore realised that there could be more to being a Christian husband and father than just providing for the family.

Encountering a Community of Witnesses

“For two years, I attended all the CFC events by myself and would always bring my youngest child along. Theo used to drop me at the prayer meetings and then go off for coffee. I kept praying, ‘Lord touch my husband, that he will go on bended knees to proclaim you are Lord and King,’” recounted Ramona.

Through the CFC community, the Olsens began their journey towards their own spiritual awakenings and healing. It was evident through Theodore’s eyes how much life he received from having a supportive Christ-centred community, “I love the people [in CFC]. We are like a bigger family. I can be myself with them. Being able to share my struggles lifts my burdens and strengthens me.”

Gerard and Wendy also joined CFC, and being in a praying community gave them focus, priority and structure to grow their young family and helped them to be more rooted in their faith. “Families really need each other. Yes, the programmes are good but you also need to live out your family life in a community. It is an active lifestyle,” Wendy emphasised.

To the Lims, family spirituality involves everyone in the family. “When we joined, CFC was only six years old. We were a very small community and had to do everything. By providence, our kids were looking and watching us. Our son helped us set up chairs for the prayer meetings. Those were formative years. We were the first catechists and models [to our children]. What we could not teach in a formal manner, we showed by example.”

Gererd and Wendy
Gerard and Wendy, who have been married 28 years, credit their CFC community for helping them to be more rooted in their faith.

Where to Start

Blown away by the testimonies shared by both couples during the two-hour interview, we eagerly pressed them for practical tips to bring about this transformation in our own families.

Gerard and Wendy smiled and said simply, “Desire [comes] first. When you recognise the need for infusing spirituality in life, you’ll start doing things to bring about conversion. Do you see the value of marriage and that there could be a richer, more wholesome family life? If not, then there is no point.”

As for Theodore and Ramona, they believe there is no better way than to be “walking testimonies” to encourage other families to infuse spirituality into their family life. “I think it is the witnessing. They [other families] need to see it in people’s lives. When they see a Christ-centred couple, the concrete actions they do, the love and respect, they will understand who God is. Then that is the best advertisement.” Theodore and Ramona encourage couples to be connected with their parish community through a ministry or programme. “Come, taste and see, how good our God can be.”

“Families, become what you are” was the phrase that rang in our heads as we parted ways that night. There was so much love, life and joy radiating from both couples in the evening we spent with them. Truly, as St John Paul II proclaimed in article 17 of Familiaris Consortio, when families realise the vision that God has for them and act accordingly, the world will be transformed, one family at a time.

7 habits of Catholic Families


The joy of love pope Francis  
Photo by CTS Books

After the love that unites us to God, conjugal love is the “greatest form of friendship”. It is a union possessing all the traits of a good friendship: concern for the good of the other, reciprocity, intimacy, warmth, stability and the resemblance born of a shared life. Marriage joins to all this an indissoluble exclusivity expressed in the stable commitment to share and shape together the whole of life … Lovers do not see their relationship as merely temporary … The lasting union expressed by the marriage vows is more than a formality or a traditional formula; it is rooted in the natural inclinations of the human person. For believers, it is also a covenant before God that calls for fidelity.” - Amoris Laetitia, 123

An excerpt from Amoris Laetitia (Latin: The Joy of Love) a post-synodal apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis released in April 2016.

family moment

In this monthly column, we feature Catholic personalities and their favourite memories of being ‘family’. In this issue, Fr Bruno Saint Girons shares why his family is special to him…

Bruno with his family
Fr Bruno with his parents (back, seated on chairs), brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews.

One of the things that I will always remember about my parents is the sense of independence that they gave to us, their four boys (of which I’m number 2). Rather than over-protect us or make us achieve their dreams, they helped us find our own vocation and happiness in life, according to what spoke to us. Having lived 15 years as a priest now, I am grateful how each year has been amazing in its own way. And, my priestly vocation has given the family uniquely funny moments.

For instance, in 2009, I baptised the third child of one of my brothers and, after the baptism, I noticed his elder sister (who was three at the time), crying alone in church. I attempted to comfort her, saying “I’m here, don’t worry,” but without success. Later that day, while at my brother’s home for lunch, she asked him, “Daddy, why does this priest stay with us all the time?”

Another memory is when my nephews and nieces joined my parents for Sunday mass at the village church, they would go and hug the priest after Mass … until my parents told them one day that the priest was not their Uncle Bruno!

Lastly, after my parents moved house, they had an elderly priest in their new village, who eventually died. A month after the death of the old priest, one of my mum’s friends called her on the phone and enquired about me, asking: “How is your priest?” and my mum replied “Oh, he died last month…”

These little anecdotes continue to remind me of the joy of family. I’m glad I still meet my close family members more or less every three years now.


Catholic singer-songwriter Corrinne May shares her thoughts on various family moments and matters being a daughter, sister, wife and mother in Singapore and Los Angeles in this monthly column.

One Bread, One Body

Back in May, Mary’s month, our little family of three, Kavin, Claire and myself, decided to pray the family rosary every night before going to bed. No matter how tired we were, nor how much Claire protested about being too sleepy and only wanting to say one decade of the rosary, we soldiered on through all five decades each night. It’s funny how virtue is strengthened through the practice of it, and so, the habit of praying the rosary every night has become for us, a wonderful way to bond with each other in prayer, to lift up each other in our spiritual needs and to teach each other to care for those beyond our little family circle, to lift others up in prayer as needed. For we are all one Body in Christ.

The other big milestone in our family spirituality was Claire’s reception of her first Holy Communion on Good Shepherd Sunday, May 7th of this year.

Over the past year or so, Claire had been increasingly expressing her yearning to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. She finally got her wish to receive Jesus with the rest of her second grade classmates at St Mel’s elementary in Los Angeles. For a child who, since the age of four, has heard the voice of the Good Shepherd through the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, it was truly a blessing for Claire to be called to the table and to receive the Eucharist on Good Shepherd Sunday.

As for me, I feel such joy, knowing that Claire can now receive at every mass, the best gift that God gives us here on earth; the intimate union with Him, wholly present in the Eucharist - His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. When we receive the Eucharist, He expresses His Love for us, one-on-one, in the deepest recesses of our hearts and minds, body and soul. What a supreme gift!

On that day of Claire’s first Holy Communion, I felt as if my baby had ‘graduated’ in a sense. The day before her first Holy Communion, we all went to partake of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a family. And the day that Claire received Jesus was the day where our little family was truly united in Christ for we all received Him at Mass that day.

There is unspeakable grace that flows from the Eucharist and to be able to receive that grace as a family is a blessing beyond words. It is the ultimate ‘superfood’ for the spiritual growth of the family.

This year, we celebrate the centennial of Fatima. According to Sister Lucia, one of the three shepherd children to whom Mary appeared to at Fatima, the final battle between God and Satan will be over Marriage and Family.

Let us strengthen our families to fight the good fight in this spiritual war by heeding Our Lady’s exhortations to pray the rosary, especially with our families. Let us also strive to receive the Eucharist regularly with our families at Mass, to be strengthened in our spiritual journey so as to embrace the cross of Christ and to bear witness to His Truth.



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