OCTOBER 11, 2009, Vol59, No21

IN SINGAPORE'S high-pressure urban society, marriages can come unhinged if couples are not alert to the signs that they may need help.

The loving relationship that led to wedding bells can degenerate gradually into lacklustre partnerships where husbands and wives become emotionally detached and indifferent to one another.

Jobs get in the way. Having children adds new stresses. In-law issues may simmer and fester. Husbands and wives can pull apart, their sex lives may deteriorate, and arguments replace the sweet nothings of only a few years ago.
How can we truly respond to the call for us to consider the well-being of our neighbour in every aspect of our daily life?

Jason was driving home early one morning when he suddenly felt a thud and lost his grip on the steering wheel momentarily.

He managed to steady himself and peered in his rear mirror, spotting the culprit - a hole in the road. He knew that someone would get hurt eventually if no one did anything about it.

He pulled up to the side of the road, and called the traffic authority, explaining the seriousness of the situation. An emergency crew was soon on the way to fix the pothole.

Missioner Redemptorist Father Wee together with the parishioners gather in a circle for sharing and discussion during a group Mass.
Photo by Darren Boon

SINGAPORE – Joseph Ang and family have been living within the parish boundaries of Church of St. Stephen for over 10 years, but only in the last year have they begun to call it their parish. They were formerly from Church of the Risen Christ where their teenage son still attends catechism class.

The Angs were among the 310 families which the parish of St. Stephen hopes to reach out to with house-to-house visits as part of its Parish Mission.

The Parish Mission aims to bring about a sense of belonging and involvement among the parishioners of St. Stephen’s.
Photo by Daniel Tay

SINGAPORE – Father Gerard Weerakoon (photo) has been appointed Administrator of Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Ophir Road which takes effect on Oct 15.

The Administrator, or Parochial Administrator, as Father Gerard explained, is similar to the duties of a Parish Priest. An Administrator is appointed when the post of Parish Priest is left vacant.

This is the first time Father Gerard is being posted to a city district parish having previously served as Assistant Priest at Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Church of St. Francis Xavier, and currently Church of the Holy Spirit since December 2007.
Photo by Darren Boon

SINGAPORE – The Korean Catholic community in Singapore welcomed its new chaplain Father Louis Kim Soo Chang (photo) who arrived on Thursday Sep 17 to take up his new posting in Singapore. Father Kim replaces Father Peter Lee Myung Ho who returned to Korea on Sep 20.

This is Father Kim’s first overseas posting in the seven years of his priestly ministry. Father Kim, 36, who hails from the diocese of Chuncheon, will take up residence at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd so as to minister to the Korean Catholic community in Singapore.

Speaking with the help of an interpreter Anita Kim, Father Kim tells CatholicNews that although “it is a different experience going overseas to serve”, he is happy. He also shared that at one time, he wanted to go overseas to minister to Korean Catholics living abroad.
Young actors of the musical take a group photo while in costume. Photo by Darren Boon

SINGAPORE – Primary Three and Four pupils of De La Salle School lived out their dreams in ‘Technicolor’ as they delivered an energetic performance of song, dance, acrobatic stunts and cartwheels at an abridged version of the Broadway musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at The Republic Cultural Centre on Sep 9.

The school produces an annual musical as a platform and opportunity for Lasallians to showcase their performing talents. This exposes the Lasallians to a holistic education. Open auditions are held for the Primary Three and Four students in addition to the involvement of the school’s choir and dance groups.

Koh Ting Ting, a teacher who performed alongside the pupils at Republic Polytechnic said it is “heartwarming to see the children performing every year” and coming forward actively for the auditions.
SINGAPORE – St. Joseph’s Institution (SJI) was one of only two schools in Singapore to receive the School Excellence Award (SEA) from Minister of Education (MOE), Dr Ng Eng Hen, at the 2009 Ministry of Education Work Plan Seminar.

The School Excellence Award recognises schools for their excellence in education processes and outcomes. It is the highest and most prestigious award in the MOE Masterplan of Awards framework since it was launched in 2004.

SJI’s principal Dr Koh Thiam Seng said that the award is “a milestone check” of the school’s direction in “quality learning experiences for all Josephians”, and that the school will “continue to explore new, effective and creative ways of enhancing the learning of our boys”.
Catholic working adults filled the auditorium during the Christ@Work conference held in 2007. Photo provided by Praise@Work

SINGAPORE – Have you ever felt like you were living a dual life – as a corporate professional on weekdays, and a Catholic on weekends? Have you ever wished that the lines between work, your social life and your faith were more intricately intertwined? Here’s some help.

After drawing more than 600 attendees in the 2005 and 2007 conferences, this year’s Christ@Work Conference will be held on Saturday Dec 5 at the Catholic Junior College Performing Arts Centre. This biennial conference is organised by Praise@Work, a cross-parish charismatic prayer group for young working adults.

Christ@Work 2009 is supported by Caritas Singapore and The Catholic Business Network.

Long service awardees of CAMS posing with Archbishop Nicholas Chia.
Photo by Peter Heng

SINGAPORE – The Commission for Apostolate of Mandarin-speaking (CAMS) celebrates 25 years of ministering to the pastoral and evangelisation needs of the archdiocese Mandarin-speaking community through faith formation talks, retreats, RCIA and Catechist formation; it has been plugging the void left by the English-speaking community.

But with the current ageing generation of Mandarin-speakers, an education system with English as a first language, and the influx of Chinese migrant workers, members of the community CatholicNews interviewed, reflected on the challenges and opportunities faced.

While the 25th anniversary celebration of CAMS is a testament to how it has enhanced the faith and growth of the Mandarin-speaking community, says Paul Chio, 57, Marriage Encounter (Mandarin) Presenter, he highlights the difficulty in attracting strictly Mandarin speakers in this age of bilingual education, especially amongst the younger generation who speak mostly English, unlike when there used to be predominantly Mandarin-speaking schools such as Chinese High, Catholic High and Maris Stella of yesteryears.

Sister Marie Therese, played by Winnie Foo (third from left), snatches a holy picture from Bernadette (played by Sarah Chong).

SINGAPORE – The familiar melody of Village People’s hit song Y.M.C.A. filled the entire auditorium of the Singapore Conference Hall as the cast and crew of the musical The Song of Bernadette gathered on stage for the grand finale to sing:

“It’s great to be part of St. Bernadette… It’s great to be part of St. Bernadette…”

(Above) Archbishop Nicholas Chia (centre, in Roman collar) and Sister Elizabeth Lim, RGS (in dark blue veil) take a group photo with the 17 graduates of the Spiritual Direction Formation Programme. Eight graduates are Protestant, nine are Catholic. (Below) Baptist missionary Keith Williams (left) receives his certificate of completion from Archbishop Nicholas Chia.
Photos by Daniel Tay

SINGAPORE – Keith Williams, an American missionary with Changi Baptist Church, was one of 17 graduates from an 18-month programme that trained religious, clergy, and laypersons to become spiritual directors. Seven other non-Catholic Christians also graduated from the programme.

This is the third time that the Spiritual Direction Formation Programme (SDFP) has been conducted since the Life Direction Team (LDT) began collaborating with Christians from various denominations to provide ongoing spiritual direction and individually-directed retreats in the 1990s.

Mr Williams likened his journey in the SDFP to three forms of glass: It was first a mirror, because the journey has been “a spiritual mirror” enabling him to “see things in myself I don’t like”. It was also a window, which “allowed me to see beyond myself at the wonderful world God has made”. Third, it was a prism. “What a prism does for light, the SDFP has done for me. It’s been beautiful to behold the colours of God’s character and life,” he said.

(Above) Youths give praise to God as a community. (Below) Youths listen to Father Luke Fong’s rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
Photos by Alvin Rodrigues

SINGAPORE – Over 700 youths, mostly 15-year-olds, from the Serangoon district gathered at CHIJ Toa Payoh Secondary School hall on Sep 22 to celebrate a message of hope in a youthful and vibrant way at the Serangoon District Youth Rally (SDYD’09).

Parishes that make up Serangoon district include St. Francis Xavier, St. Vincent de Paul, Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Anne.
Banners designed and put together by the confirmands of the West district parishes. Photo by David Yung

SINGAPORE – For Anjelica Goh, 15, a Church of St. Francis Assisi confirmand, the West District Youth Rally allowed her to experience a sense of community within the Church and bear witness to the saying “the more the merrier”.

“It was nice to see everybody celebrating through praise and worship. I believe that the rally helped strengthen the bonds between the youths of my parish,” she said.

About 200 confirmands from the West District parishes attended the district Youth Rally held at Church of St. Ignatius on Saturday Aug 29. The theme for the rally was “Yours words are spirit and life; You have the message of eternal life”.

Photo by Adel Yuan

SINGAPORE – Around 90 confirmand youths from four parishes took part in the City District Youth Conference 2009 held on Saturday Sep 5 at Church of St. Teresa.

The theme of the conference was the World Youth Day 2009 theme given by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI: “We have set our hope on the Living God” (1 Tim 4:10).

The confirmands from the parishes of Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Michael, St. Bernadette and St. Teresa took part in four workshops during the afternoon segment of the conference. Topics of the workshops included: Relationship and Family, Conversion Experience, Connecting With God, and My Purpose in Life.
SINGAPORE – “HOPE in the Living God” – that was the theme for this year’s inaugural North District Youth Day (NDYD) Rally.

Six parishes – Christ the King, Holy Spirit, Our Lady Star of the Sea, Risen Christ, St. Anthony, and St. Joseph (Bukit Timah) – participated in the event held on Sep 5 where more than 500 youth convened at Hersing Hub (photo above) in Toa Payoh for an evening of spirited praise and worship, adoration and edification.

The teens kicked off the day with the Parish Catechesis Segment that commenced in the afternoon at their respective parishes. These were specially planned by the NDYD organising committee to streamline the delivery of the individual parish sessions for the teens, and were designed to lead into the evening rally.

Through the parish segment, youth were compelled to ask and define for themselves exactly what the concept of Christian hope is to them, and to convince others of the benefits of having hope in the Living God.

Presenters shared their life and faith experiences.
Youths participating at the praise and worship session. Photo by Nathaniel Cher

SINGAPORE – Over 700 East District youths met on Sep 5 to celebrate the East District Youth Day 2009, titled “Spera in Deo” or “Hope in God” in Latin.

This is the first time in recent years that the East District Youth committees have worked together on an event of this scale.

The East District Youth Day is part of the Catholic Archdiocesan Youth Centre’s (CAYC) first-ever “District Youth Day” initiative which decentralised the Archdiocese Youth Day into various districts of the North, City, East, Serangoon and West.
SRI LANKA – Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith has appealed to the European Union (EU) to retain Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Plus concessions given to Sri Lanka.

The concessions obligate EU member countries to treat imports equally such as by imposing equal tariffs on them.

The archbishop’s appeal came following warning alarms that the EU may revoke the GSP Plus concessions granted to Sri Lanka as a means to teach the government a lesson for its alleged human rights violations in the last phase of the civil war that has lasted three decades.

The concession was accorded to Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami disaster that caused much human and economic damage. For this gesture and other expressions of solidarity, we are truly grateful to the EU, said Archbishop Ranjith in the Sep 21 media release.
“All these 59 years I have tried to answer the call in prayer and ministry; daily Mass, rosary, meditation kept me going. The friendships of my brother priests and their prayers helped me to overcome temptations or discouragement. My happiness in Singapore besides the baptisms, marriages, etc, was kept stronger and stronger – with Marriage Encounter in 1980, Choice in 1981, Engaged Encounter in 1982, RCIA in 1984, Parish Renewal Experience in 1982 – because my activities put me in contact with people who did not know Christ. I had left home for them.”

FATHER LOUIS LOISEAU, MEP, was born on Jun 25, 1926 in his parents’ little farm, half a mile from the nearest neighbour, and 350 kilometres from Paris, France. He was baptised when he was two days old and raised in an environment rooted in the Catholic faith.

His childhood years are filled with memories of his Catholic upbringing. These include the daily Catholic newspaper, and weekly children’s Catholic newspaper that he had at home.

On Sundays, his family went to church from 8.00am to 11.00am. This was followed by Benediction and Rosary at 3.00pm.
Sister Marie Louise Cordeiro, FMDM (left) and Sister Christine Chua, IJ, have been joining the staff to pray the rosary at Mount Alvernia Hospital for many years. Photos by Daniel Tay

IF YOU BELIEVE strongly in the efficacy of prayer in the healing of illnesses, then Mount Alvernia Hospital might be a prime choice to go when ill.

Mount Alvernia Hospital is owned by the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood (FMDM). Every day, a religious Sister gathers Catholic staff, including doctors, nurses, managers, administrators, executives, and others, to pray the rosary.

The intentions offered include those from the patients of the hospital, the residents of Assisi Hospice, and the recipients of the services provided by the Catholic hospital and hospice, and especially those in the maternity ward. During this Year For Priests, an additional intention for priests is made.
Migrant workers join in the St. Francis Xavier parish 50th anniversary food and fun fair on Sep 5. IJ Sister Dolores ‘Dodo’ Wong (standing, third from left), and parish priest Father John Bosco Pereira (standing, second from right) have been ardent supports of the soup kitchen since its inception. Photo by Dominic Wong

WHEN I WAS living in a small town in Illinois in the 1990s, I had lots of time on my hands. Responding to an appeal for volunteers to help at the parish’s soup kitchen, I bravely signed up with high expectations of fulfilling my Christian duty to perform some corporal works of mercy.

The people who came to the soup kitchen were mainly black males. It was my first encounter with so many of them at such close proximity. I was intimidated by them and avoided them by washing dishes in the kitchen rather than help serve their meals.

After a few weeks, I mustered enough courage to serve at the dining room. It was not as scary as I had thought. Once, a black man asked me for a roll. When I gave him one, he angrily demanded for a warm roll.

(From left) Punamah Sokalingam and Danarajan Kumarasamy.
Photo by Darren Boon

Catholic Welfare Services (CWS) handed out long service awards to 12 staff working in a broad spectrum of roles in its organisations for 25 years or more. Two award recipients working at Villa Francis Home for the Aged – Health Care Assistant Punamah Sokalingam, 68, and Danarajan Kumarasamy, 49, the Home’s ‘handyman’ – tell their story

“IF WE DON’T love, we cannot (be) happy, cannot work here so long” – these were the thoughts Health Care Assistant Punamah Sokalingam, 68, articulated, albeit in halting English.

Indeed, it takes a generous serving of love and dedication to one’s job and to the Home’s residents to fill the shoes of Madam Sokalingam and her fellow colleague Danarajan Kumarasamy, 49, the “Handyman” of the Home. Madam Sokalingam proudly declares she has been working at Villa Francis for 29 years and nine months while Mr Kumarasamy has been working for 26 years.
Friar Rowland Yeo, OFM, with Tricks the beagle, his constant companion for six years. Photos by Daniel Tay

THE FRANCISCANS TELL of a time when St. Francis of Assisi saw a trapped rabbit. Taking pity on the rabbit, the founder of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) freed it and nursed it back to health. When the rabbit recovered, it chose to follow Francis instead of returning to the forest where it came from because it was safer with the saint.

This story has served as inspiration for Friar Rowland Yeo, OFM, in his love and care for animals. Friar Rowland has kept all sorts of animals, including fish, hamsters, cats, and dogs. His favourite pet as of today is Tricks, a nine-year-old beagle that has lived with the Franciscan friars in Singapore since 2003. It formerly belonged to another friar’s cousin who had to travel to the U.K. and had to leave the dog behind.

In its first three years with the friars, it was Friar Rowland who trained Tricks. But rather than respond to voice commands, Tricks responds to sign language, because that is how Friar Rowland communicates. Friar Rowland is deaf.
Chester Chua in his “mobile church”, the taxi he drives, decorated with figurines and prayer cards that remind him of his Catholic faith. Photo by Joyce Gan

CHESTER CHUA, A CITICAB driver, does not consider his taxi only a vehicle, but a “mobile church”. Catholic passengers who enter his cab would recognise immediately why this is so. On his dashboard is displayed miniature Catholic figurines – a crucifix, Mother Mary, St. Christopher; a small calendar depicting Catholic images, a bookmark of Mother Teresa hanging from the overhead light, and around his rearview mirror, a rosary.

Rather than looking garish and overwhelming, his passengers have described the ambience created within his cab as “very peaceful”. Catholics, especially, would be pleased to identify themselves when they see the rosary, says Mr Chua.
The Church convicted him of heresy for teaching that the earth revolved around the sun. It took another 350 years for the Church to formally acknowledge that it erred

WASHINGTON – When Galileo Galilei first turned his simple telescope toward Jupiter, the moon and then the sun nearly 400 years ago, it’s not difficult to imagine how amazed he was.