SEPTEMBER 13, 2009, VOl 59, NO 19

Articles will be made available online from Monday 7th September 09
SINGAPORE – President of the Muslim Kidney Action Association (MKAC) and Honorary Secretary of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) in Singapore Ameerali Abdeali has an interesting take on the word “iftar” (which means “breaking of fast”).  

To him, it also stands for “Inter-Faith Trust And Respect”. He shared this with an audience of about 100 persons of different faiths who were at the MKAC’s Telok Kurau premise for “iftar”. This is the third year that MKAC has hosted such a gathering.

A vegetarian dinner was provided by Venerable Gunaratana, adviser to the Mahakaruna Buddhist Society.
Monsignor Eugene Vaz says there is still much mission work to be done for the needy in Singapore. Photo by Daniel Tay

SINGAPORE – For the past eight years, Daryl Spykerman, 27, IT engineer, has been making mission trips with Acts29 to Payatas Estate, a dumpsite in Quezon City, Philippines, to serve the poorest of the poor. Acts29 is a youth organisation committed to evangelisation through mission and dialogue.

Before embarking on his first mission trip, Mr Spykerman, then 19 years old, led a “good and carefree life” but coming into contact with the poor at Payatas was an eye-opener for him and helped to deepen his experience with Jesus.
(From left) Friar Derrick Yap, Friar William Lee, Archbishop Nicholas Chia and Friar Justin Lim pose after the ordination ceremony. Photo by Darren Boon

SINGAPORE – It was a triple joy for the Franciscan community as Archbishop Nicholas Chia ordained William Lee, 45, Justin Lim, 37, and Derrick Yap, 36, to the diaconate on Sunday Aug 23 at Church of St Mary of the Angels (SMOTA). A 1,200 crowd of well-wishers, friends, family and parishioners attended the Mass.

Inspired by the order’s founder, St. Francis of Assisi, all three of them joined the order in 2002. For Deacon William, the seventh out of 10 children from a Teochew family, it was “the radical change of St. Francis” which inspired this Hougang boy to dedicate himself to the religious life after 12 years in the workforce.
Father Adrian Anthony stands beside a part of the cathedral that is being repaired. The original building was completed in 1847. The church was consecrated as a cathedral in 1897. The cathedral’s gallery organ is the oldest functioning organ in Singapore. It was installed in 1912. Photo by Angela Anthony

SINGAPORE – The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd is undergoing emergency repairs to prevent major damage. The building at Bras Basah Road which was completed in 1847, after four years of construction, was declared a Singapore national monument in 1973. Major restoration work was carried out in 1997.

The building structure has withstood the test of time well despite it being sited in a busy location. However, in recent years, the construction of buildings nearby and infrastructure projects like the MRT Circle Line and Singapore Management University, have caused serious physical stress. Large cracks are visible at the sanctuary area as well as behind it.
Shidion Tan (11) who plays the bully Bruce, Marcus Chong (10) as Ben Tan, and Nicholas Tan (10) as Ping’an. Photo by Darren Boon

SINGAPORE – Although Marcus Chong is only in Primary Four, he could be the Zac Efron (of Disney’s High School Musical franchise fame) of his age and school. Members of the mostly young audience were heard shouting out for Marcus as the cast gathered on stage at the end of the Catholic High Primary’s inaugural musical – The Best Days of our Lives – held at Victoria Concert Hall on Aug 20-21.

The hour-long musical focuses on themes relating to four primary school protagonists – such as “kiasu” parents who pressurise their child to do well academically, a mother who neglects her child, name-calling amongst peers and school-bullying.
OLPS youths doing their bit for the elderly in Chai Chee. Photo by Gerald Justin Ko

SINGAPORE – About 50 youths from the Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (OLPS) Youth Ministry spent a day painting walls in six selected one-room flats in the Chai Chee neighbourhood in August.

The elderly residents, most of whom lived alone, were happy to receive the youths and they waited patiently as their homes were cleaned, furniture re-arranged, and walls scraped and painted. The youths were appalled at the condition of some of the flats but found the experience meaningful.
Father Paul E. Staes has an eye for issues on justice, peace, and the environment. He uses the press, email, and personal network to advocate for causes such as the safe transportation of foreign workers and abolition of the death penalty

THERE’S AN OLD journalism adage that goes, “Show, don’t tell”, and that’s what Father Paul E. Staes, 72, does when you ask him a question. The Belgian priest doesn’t just give you a dry, verbal response. Rather, he fills your mind with images using real-life experiences.

If he’s talking about the reality of life in Singapore, he describes the hardships of a pious 69-year-old woman who works from 11.00pm to 3.00am, attending a toilet in a night bar. And then he says with a grimace, “Do you know how much she earns? Just four dollars an hour!”
A report in The Straits Times of Aug 19 concerning measures to be implemented by the government to improve the safety of workers makes Father Paul Staes a little happier but he says more is needed

NEEDLESS TO SAY, I was very happy when I learnt about the planned government measures for assuring that “Workers on lorries get more protection.” The news even got full coverage on page one of today’s The Straits Times (ST), with a telling picture to top.

It was a tragic accident on the PIE on Aug 23, 2007, reported under the heading “13 workers flung out of crash lorry; one dead”, that led to my first letter to ST Forum, published as “Better mode of worker transport needed” (Aug 28, 2007). The letter drew quite some positive feedback, even to the point where some people have come to identify me as the “advocate” of the cause of workers’ transport.
Syed Hassan Al-Attas, the “imam” (spiritual leader) of Ba’alwi Mosque, explains to a group of 50 Catholics about the common features of mosques. Photo by Daniel Tay

Catholics visit mosque to learn about Islam and Muslim-Christian relationship


SINGAPORE – Accompanied by the setting sun, about 50 mostly Chinese Catholics entered the single-storey Ba’lawi Mosque located at Lewis Road, off the busy Bukit Timah Road.

As they settled into a hall furnished with dining tables and chairs, the mu’addin could be heard in the background as he led the call (“adhan”) for the sunset (“maghrib”) prayers.
ALL MOSQUES FACE MECCA, the holiest meeting site in the Islamic religion. It was where the Islamic prophet Muhammed proclaimed Islam in the seventh century.

On entering a mosque, the first thing that a Muslim looks for is the “qiblah”, which points to the direction of Mecca where a Muslim faces when he prays. Most mosques contain a niche in the wall of the prayer hall that indicates the “qiblah”.

Muslims pray five times a day: at dawn, noon, in the afternoon, at sunset, and at nightfall. They know it is time for prayer when the “mu’addin” calls for prayer. The “mu’addin” watches the time and makes the prayer call from the minaret (tall spires which are distinctive features of mosques).
Mr Ameerali Abdeali, President of MKAC and Honorary Secretary of the IRO (see below) offering dates to Sister Geraldine Tan, FDCC, at the interreligious gathering to participate in ‘iftar’. Photo by Joyce Gan

RAMADAN COMMEMORATES THE revelation of the Quran to Prophet Mohammed. It takes place in the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar and this is determined by astronomical calculations. An Islamic calendar is produced by Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) in Singapore. This year, Ramadan will run from Aug 22 to Sep 19.

During Ramadan, Muslims are obligated to abstain from food, drink, sex, cigarettes and impure thoughts from sunrise to sunset. Hence, a Muslim usually awakes before the sun rises for a light meal before his morning prayers; the rest of the day is spent without food and water.
(Top) Distribution of food at CWS Headquarters. (Centre) Boys from the CWS Workers Corp Group distributing food during a visit to Kwong Wai Sui free hospital. (Bottom) Distribution of aid to victims of the Bukit Ho Swee fire of 1961

SINGAPORE – Dr Ee Peng Liang and Cyril Chew founded Catholic Welfare Society in 1959 with support from Archbishop Michael Olcommendy to help the poor in Singapore after Catholic Relief Services in the United States discontinued funding and donation of food to the needy in Singapore.

CWS’ initial project was to provide food relief to the poor of all races and religion in Singapore. Resources were mobilised and funds raised from within the Catholic Church.

CWS’ history is much intertwined with Singapore’s history – helping victims of the tragic Bukit Ho Swee fire and working with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the Vietnamese refugees in Singapore to caring for the progressively ageing population in Singapore.
(Top) Cookery class for women at the Social and Welfare Centre at Jalan Kayu. (Middle) CWS Breadline: Sister Roseline distributing a loaf of bread to each person in the line. (Bottom) Official Visit by Inche Othman Wok, Minister of Social Affairs in 1968 – Minister together with Director Mr Cyril Chew presenting a mattress donated by CWS to a recepient

AFTER BEING RETRENCHED, Luke (not his real name), 40, searched unsuccessfully for a job. Feeling lost and desperate, he walked into a Catholic church one day and sat there crying. “I was already on the verge of committing suicide. I felt so useless and I felt like I failed my family as I could not provide for them,” Luke said.

That day, someone approached Luke and directed him to Catholic Welfare Services (CWS). Together with his wife, they made their way to the CWS office with only two dollars in their pockets.

Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio presents an Apostolic Blessing for Catholic Welfare Services on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, and a souvenir medal from the Vatican to Brother Emmanuel, chairman of CWS, as Archbishop Nicholas Chia and James Chew, CWS executive director, look on.
Photo by Darren Boon


SINGAPORE – Catholic Welfare Services (CWS) celebrated its 50th anniversary with a Mass and dinner on Wednesday Aug 19.

About 600 people turned up for the Mass at Church of our Lady of Perpetual Succour. Archbishop Nicholas Chia was the main celebrant with Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, Apostolic Nuncio to the Republic of Singapore and several other priests concelebrating.
Darren Boon of CatholicNews interviews Willie Cheng, chairman of Caritas Singapore Community Council (CSCC) on his reactions to Minister Lim Boon Heng’s speech

CatholicNews: Minister Lim Boon Heng suggests that Catholic Welfare Services (CWS) and the Church can and should do more in social services. Do you agree?

Willie Cheng:
Minister Lim’s suggestion for a relook of services was made in the context of CWS 50th anniversary. The call is valid – any organisation that has been around for a while should review its mission and impact, and how it can continue to stay relevant. CWS, itself, had started, several months ago, a strategic exercise to review its mission, role and programmes.
Gerard Ee, former president of the National Council of Social Service and present chairman of the National Kidney Foundation, also says the Catholic Church in Singapore should consider using modern management principles to improve on the delivery of its social services

AT THE CATHOLIC Welfare Services 50th anniversary dinner, Minister Lim Boon Heng congratulated the Church for its services to the community in the last half century. In addition the Minister called on the Church to reflect on how it can improve on existing services and do more.
Can we live more with less? In this final article in the series on money and Catholic Social Teachings, we examine what our faith teaches about "being and not having ".

We live in an affluent society. Each day, we are presented with numerous choices of how to spend our money - exotic holidays, the latest electronic gadgets, makeovers and more.

Even with the economic downturn, it seems that Singaporeans are still living it up, albeit with a focus on getting value ("S'poreans are still spending", The Straits Times, March 18, 2009).

The previous articles in this series have made clear that there is nothing wrong with owning material things; it is our attitude towards them that counts.
THE Catholic Medical Guild sees itself as a voice and reference point for Catholic doctors, dentists and medical students in Singapore.

It offers fellowship to Catholics in the medical community, promoting the practice of ethical medicine and science and helping members to fulfil their vocation in the service of society.

As part of its commitment to encouraging the practice of ethical medicine, the guild will hold a bioethics conference on End of Life issues in November.
Sixty million persons died during World War II which began on Sep 1, 1939 when German armies invaded western and northern Poland, prompting declarations of war by Britain and France. Pope Pius XII worked hard for peace, but it was in vain

VATICAN CITY – Like much of Europe and the world, the Vatican was marking the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II with an act of remembrance.

In the Vatican’s case, though, the remembering has focused largely on the dramatic and unheeded warnings issued by Pope Pius XII to world leaders in the weeks and days leading up to the war’s outbreak.
Those who visit the exhibition at The Arts House mainly to see the Dead Sea Scrolls will be disappointed, but there are other compensations, writes Daniel Tay

SINGAPORE – Mention the Dead Sea Scrolls, a person less familiar with them would picture the image of an old scroll of parchment on which is written some ancient Hebrew scripture text.

In reality, the Dead Sea Scrolls refer collectively to a few scrolls (mostly owned by Israel and institutions in the Middle East) and hundreds of fragments of scrolls, some of which are owned by private collectors around the world.
CatholicNews writer Joyce Gan comes from a Taoist family. She converted to Catholicism five years ago. This Hungry Ghost Month she felt nostalgia for family customs she no longer practises, and, through consultation with Catholic priests, dispelled her fear of ghosts.

I HAVE A confession to make: Watching families gather to burn offerings this seventh lunar month (Aug 20 to Sep 18) fills me with nostalgia.

The seventh month is also known as the Hungry Ghost Month and it is common to see burnt offerings and “getais” (staged performances) around Singapore. Involvement in the rituals of Hungry Ghost Month used to be a family affair for me –  carting bags of paper offerings and food specially prepared by Mum to the void deck; standing around to throw paper offerings into the pile of ashes and watching them burn; lighting joss sticks and offering prayers to deceased ancestors and other spirits who may be around at this time of the year.
Sister Rose Pacatte will be visiting Singapore in October to give a series of talks on media literacy education.

SISTER ROSE PACATTE, FSP, is the director of the Pauline Centre for Media Studies in Culver City, California. She has an M. A. in Education in Media Studies from the University of London, UK. Her primary work is media literacy education for parents and teachers within the context of culture, education and faith formation. Sister Rose is the co-author of several books including LIGHTS, CAMERA … FAITH! and Media Mindfulness. She has been the film/TV columnist for St. Anthony Messenger since 2002.
Religious leaders in Singapore agree with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech on religious harmony, writes Sister Theresa Seow

IN THE PAST 60 years, leaders from many religious organisations have quietly contributed to the making of the Inter-Religious Organisation’s (IRO) history but their contribution to religious harmony was largely unknown to the public till the last 10 years. During those six decades the leaders and their organisations built good relationships with others; and this desire to continue to strengthen the bond among their followers with those of other religions has led the IRO to seek to collaborate with the government, a government that the IRO leaders see as fair and honest and which would not manipulate the IRO for its own ends. Leaders from both sides – religions and government – are thus willing to invest time and effort to promote and foster harmony and peace.
Archbishop Nicholas Chia has announced the transfer of several priests around the archdiocese. Four new parish priests have been appointed, including the new parish of Divine Mercy in Pasir Ris.
Senator Edward M.Kennedy, died on Aug 25 at the age of 77, after a yearlong battle with a malignant brain tumour.

BOSTON – Senator Edward M. Kennedy was mourned at a Boston church and laid to rest on Aug 29 at Arlington National Cemetery beside his older brothers, John and Robert, both of whom were assassinated.

In his eulogy, Obama said that through a variety of types of suffering in his life, Kennedy “became more alive to the plight and suffering of others – the sick child who could not see a doctor; the young soldier sent to battle without armour; the citizen denied her rights because of what she looks like or who she loves or where she comes from”.

Catholic Wefare Services 50th anniversary celebration: (From left) Sister Assunta Leong, FMM, Sister Marilyn Lim, FDCC, Mrs Khaw Boon Wan, Eugene Tan, Archbishop Nicholas Chia, Thomas Tan, Brother Emmanuel Gaudette, SG, Minister Lim Boon Heng, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, James Chew, Minister Khaw Boon Wan, Monsignor Francis Lau, Mrs Irene Loi, Michael Thio. Photo provided by Catholic Welfare Services


A Singapore government minister has praised the Church’s contributions to social service in Singapore and urged it to reflect on how it can improve on existing services and do more.


SINGAPORE – The Church and Catholic Welfare Services (CWS) have done a lot of good work over the years to fill the needs of society, such as by providing support to the poor and the elderly, and providing help to those in crisis, said Lim Boon Heng, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. Mr Lim, who was speaking at the CWS 50th anniversary celebration dinner on Aug 19, said the Singapore government was grateful for the Church’s contributions and he urged CWS and the Church as a whole to reflect on how they can improve on existing services and do more. He specially called on the Church to play a bigger role in supporting an ageing population.