San Qing Gong Taoist temple
On Aug 17, 10 young Catholics visited the San Qing Gong Taoist temple at Bedok North Ave 4.
This and two other visits to places of worship were organised by the Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue (CCID) as part of renewed initiatives by the local Church to form and engage the laity in interreligious dialogue.
Master Weiyi, the temple’s high priest and secretary-general of the Taoist Federation Youth Group, took the group around the three main prayer halls featuring many deities and celestial beings.
He also explained the Taoist cosmology, religious significance of various items and their positioning.
In a dialogue over refreshments later, Master Weiyi shared about the many practices and traditions of Taoism. He also helped to clear some of the participants’ misconceptions about Taoism such as the use of talismans and the “Hungry Ghost Festival”.
Several participants shared what they had learnt during their visit at a debriefing session later.
Ms Cassandra Leow, 21, a final-year NUS undergraduate, noted that Taoism does not have a central interpreting body for its beliefs in contrast to the Catholic Church.
Mr Leonard Teo, 25, also from NUS, said the visit was “a timely reminder for us Catholics to always have a thirst for the truth, and go about seeking it when we do not understand fully”.
Maghain Aboth Synagogue
“What is Judaism’s take on hell?”
This was among the many questions 14 young Catholics had for their hosts at Maghain Aboth Synagogue, located at Waterloo St, when the group visited on Aug 22.
Recently-ordained Rabbi Aaron Kalmanson was on hand to give the visitors an introduction to Judaism and a tour of the 135-year-old synagogue.
The 20-year-old American explained that Jews liken hell to a place of purification before souls could enter heaven.
Visitors also saw the reverent treatment given to the Holy Ark, the holiest place of the synagogue situated at the very front.
The ark faces the holy city of Jerusalem where the Holy Temple once stood, and is the place where valuable hand-written scrolls of the Torah (first five books of Moses) are kept.
Akin to a sanctuary in a Catholic church, the miniature Holy of Holies in the synagogue has a few red-carpeted steps leading up to it, a sign of its importance.
The visit concluded after a visit to the Kosher (confirming to Jewish dietary laws) shop in the neighbouring Jacob Ballas Centre.
Ms Isabella Rose Yong, 21, a student from the Singapore Institute of Management Catholic Society commented, “I’ve learnt that being Jewish is not just believing in Judaism as a religion, it’s cultural too.”
It is “a heritage that is passed down through generations”, she said.
Ms Lilynne Seah, 26, from the parish of St Mary of the Angels, said that Jews’ “discipline in praying and reading the Torah three times a day – wherever they are – is impressive. That discipline should be an example for us”.
She added, “I also now appreciate how Judaism, Christianity and Islam are like three brothers with a lot of similarities. We are connected in many ways.”
Church of St Ignatius parishioner Stacie Tan commented, “One thing that stood out for me is how the Jews hold women in high esteem, particularly for their role as mothers.”
Sri Krishnan Temple
Fourteen university students and working adults visited the 143-year-old Sri Krishnan Temple at Waterloo St on Aug 24.
Mr Jayakandan, its administrator, explained to them the various forms of God portrayed by the many statues on the temple’s first floor and the main prayer area where a Hindu priest was chanting prayers solemnly and casting flowers.
Mr Jayakandan then explained to them the exterior of the temple, which is adorned with statues and intricate designs, with each side dedicated to a particular deity.
He told the visitors that different deities have different “vehicles” to transport them. Vishnu for instance could ride on a bird or a monkey.
The group then went to the extension block where other social and educational activities such as Sunday Hindu classes are held.
A slide presentation on the history of the temple, its activities and the basic doctrines and traditions of Hinduism, was conducted by the temple chairman, his daughter and a temple volunteer.
The speakers also stressed that Hinduism is a monotheistic religion that embraces God in many forms – 33 million to be exact.
At tht end of the visit, Ms Michelle Scully, 39, a catechist from Church of St Teresa, said she was impressed with one of the Hindu presenter’s “strong conviction and confidence when speaking to us”.
“I wonder how many of us Catholics can speak similiarly,” she said, adding that “to accomplish this, we must continually grow and learn about our faith”.
Contributed by LEONARD TEO, KEITH NEUBRONNER, GENIN KOH and PEARLYN PANG