By Colleen Thomas-Golbanov
SINGAPORE - Father Anthony Hutjes was installed as the parish priest of Blessed Sacrament Church on Sunday Oct 8 at a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Nicholas Chia.
Right, a delighted Father Anthony Hutjes was installed as parish priest after serving at the Blessed Sacrament Church for 33 years. Father Albert Renckens, behind, was one of many who joined in the celebrations. Photo by Ian Carnegie
Father Anthony is a priest of the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (SS.CC) which have run the Blessed Sacrament parish since its foundation in 1963. Fellow SS.CC Fathers Albert Renckens, Gerardus Suyono, Fabian van Lieshout and outgoing parish priest Martin Irawan were present to mark the occasion. SS.CC Provincial Father Yohanes Antun Wardoyo came from Bandung, Indonesia, to read aloud the appointment letter.
Parishioners are delighted. Father Anthony, 70, has served Blessed Sacrament for 33 years during which he assisted Father Albert Renckens for 31 years and Father Martin Irawan for two. This parish has been his only pastoral appointment since his ordination in Holland in 1973. During his installation speech, Father Anthony joked that he felt "like Abraham being asked to lead a nation in his old age, and called to fatherhood also!"
There was a carnival-like atmosphere in the church compound after Mass with a buffet spread, singing and speeches. Most enthusiastic was the Chinese-speaking community which Father Anthony has endeared himself to by tirelessly ministering to them for three decades in accentless Mandarin that would make any newsreader envious. Mandarin was, in fact, the second language that Father Anthony, a Dutch, had to learn in Singapore.
"First I had to learn English. Then the archbishop asked me to study Chinese!" he said.
Despite a busy schedule - he serves as advocate in the Ecclesiastical Tribunal, is pioneering the Catholic Alpha programme and is involved with Marriage Encounter Weekends - Father Anthony has authored two books. One of them - "The Catholic Church"- is the only local catechism ever published.
Royalties from the book which has sold 12,000 copies enabled Father Anthony to donate $25,000 to Don Bosco Ministries in aid of Cambodian street children.
Blessed Sacrament parish served young families and a 8,000 strong congregation in the 1970s, but with the ageing of the Queenstown area, the parish population is now older and down to a stable 4,000.
However, it is expected that the various en bloc redevelopment projects and the building of 40-storey HDB flats will lead to a parish renaissance, and so a new $4 million Damien Hall with many function rooms is under construction.
It would appear that Father Anthony is in for a busy time.