OCTOBER 25, 2009, Vol 59, No 22

VATICAN CITY – Calling them “shining examples” of Christian love, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed five new saints, including Father Damien de Veuster, the 19th-century Belgian missionary who ministered to people with leprosy in Hawaii before dying of the disease.

At a Mass Oct 11 overflowing with pilgrims from around the world, the pope also canonised Sister Jeanne Jugan, a French nun whose Little Sisters of the Poor continue to assist the elderly in and more than 30 countries.
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama expressed his “deep admiration” for St. Damien de Veuster and offered his prayers for all those celebrating the priest’s “extraordinary life and witness”.

He issued the statement Oct 9, two days before the pope canonised the Belgian priest and four others at the Vatican.

The Roman Catholic Prison Ministry began in 1977 with only seven volunteers. It now has about 150 volunteers serving all the prisoners in Singapore.
Photo by Ian Carnegie

SINGAPORE – The annual Prison Week Mass organised by the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry (RCPM) was held at Blessed Sacrament Church this Sep 20, where Archbishop Nicholas Chia commissioned new members and witnessed the recommitment of existing ones.

In his homily, Archbishop Chia spoke about the ‘Five Finger Gospel’ – “You did it to me”. He said that while it is fulfilling to serve God, the manner in which we volunteer our service and the quality of service we render is also important.
“Flames”, a dance item performed by CHIJ Katong Primary. Photo by WIDEvision

SINGAPORE – Snazzy costumes, harmonious choruses, melodious notes, nifty footwork and a festive atmosphere filled The Republic Cultural Centre on Friday Sep 25 as pupils from the 11 Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) Schools and the IJ Homes and Children’s Centres celebrated 155 years of IJ presence in Singapore with a concert “One Voice, One People, One in God’s Love.”

About 1,000 people attended the evening’s concert where the students showcased their talents in the arts and aesthetics through drama, dance, gymnastics, traditional instruments and choral music.

(Above) Blessed Sacrament Church parishioners attended three talks at Damien Hall to learn more about their duty to the poor; one of the speakers is Father David Garcia, OP (below).
Photos by Ian Carnegie.

SINGAPORE – Blessed Sacrament Church organised three talks in September as part of the parish’s celebration of the canonisation of Father Damien de Veuster, SS.CC., who spent 16 years working with lepers, identifying himself with them and with Jesus Christ.

Parishioners had previously learned about leprosy and its effects on today’s society from Dr C. S. Seow’s talk on Sep 11. Subsequently, Dominican Father David Garcia, spoke about “Social Justice and the Poor” on Sep 18.

In his talk, Father Garcia defined poverty as the lack of necessary resources, rather than the lack of superfluous ones, saying, “no one should live in poverty”.
(First row) Left to Right: Rahimah Rahim; Rufino Soliano, Terence de Souza, Matthew Tan, Michelle Soliano; (Middle row) Left to Right: Christina Spykerman (Organising Chairperson), Moses Vadham; (Last row) Left to Right: Robert Fernando, Brian Richmond, Joe Ferdinand. Photo by Dominic Wong

SINGAPORE – Relive the music of the 1960s and 1970s with a trip Down Memory Lane, a charity dinner show featuring artiste performances of that era.

A group of Catholic volunteers organised the show which will be held on Sunday Nov 29 at Suntec City.

The evening is a gathering of semi-retired musicians living all over the world.

Father Cary Chan celebrates Mass for the CPS Suntec City workplace Catholic community.
CN file photo

SINGAPORE – It has been 10 years since Catholic Prayer Society (CPS) has been organising weekly lunch-time Masses at Suntec City; the occasion was celebrated on Tuesday Sep 15.

The weekly Tuesday lunch-time masses are held at the foyer of the Rock Auditorium, Level Three of Suntec City Tower Four (Mall area). Approximately 200 people in total attend the Masses at 12.15pm and 1.15pm. CPS hopes more Catholics will attend these lunch-time, or workplace, Masses.

Olivia Tay, a CPS Suntec team member, said, “The Mass energises us spiritually and brings God’s presence into our awareness in the midst of our work.”

Sister Mary Prema (first row fourth from left) poses with her congregation after Mass.
Photo by Darren Boon

SINGAPORE – The newly-appointed Superior-General of the Missionaries of Charity (MC) founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, German Sister Mary Prema, was in Singapore from Sep 28-30.

To commemorate her visit, Monsignor Eugene Vaz celebrated Mass with Dominican Father Antonio Gonzalez and German-speaking community chaplain Father Hans-Joachim Fogl at the Gift of Love Home at Thomson Road on Sep 29.

It was attended by the MC Sisters, about 250 well-wishers, co-workers, volunteers, and Gift of Love Home’s residents.
SINGAPORE – There are various stories about Father Timothy Radcliffe (photo) being mistaken for a homeless person. Once when he was chatting with some down-and-out folk in London’s Hyde Park, he was scolded by a volunteer for refusing free soup.

Father Radcliffe, 64, however, is not homeless. He is a Dominican friar, a well-known author and much sought-after speaker whose globetrotting in the last decade-and-a-half have meant much time away from his home and community at Blackfriars, Oxford.

This November, he makes his first visit to Singapore, where he will speak on various topics, including discussing the tantalising question that was the title of his award-winning book: What is the Point of Being a Christian?

Born into English aristocracy, educated in Oxford and Paris, he was from 1992 to 2001 the Master of the Dominican Order, which comprises some 6,500 friars, 4,000 contemplative nuns and 100,000 lay members in more than 100 countries.
(Left) Relief aid is distributed to families of students affected at Isang Dakot. (Below) A man points to where his Erap City house once stood before the floods caused by Typhoon Ketsana washed it all away. Photos supplied by acts 29

WHEN SHERLYN KHONG went to Erap City in the Philippines last year, she visited the homes of 13 children attending a school for children of dumpsite scavengers. They lived on an island in the middle of the Erap City Creek which was home to about 50 families of construction workers who helped build the city.

But when the rains brought on by Typhoon Ketsana came on Sep 26, “everything got washed out”, said Ms Khong. Now, “there’s only mud”, she said.

Ms Khong, 34, is from acts29, a youth mission team from Singapore. She heard of the plight of Filipinos caught by the floods directly from the locals in Payatas near Manila, and Erap City in the Rizal province. After all, she has been working with them since she made her first mission trip there in her 20s, and literally growing up with them through quarter-yearly visits.
Father Gregory Van Giang, parish priest at Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, opens the mini-concert staged to raise funds towards the disaster aid. Photo by Tony Perez

THE WEEKEND OF Oct 4-5 saw parishes across Singapore respond to the Archbishop’s call to provide funds for the victims of the Typhoon Ketsana which wrecked damage in the Philippines and Vietnam from Sep 24-27.

The catechetical ministry of the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea with support of parish priest Father John Joseph Fenelon organised a donation drive.

At the same time, they raised funds for the victims of the Sep 30 Padang earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia, and prayed the rosary for the victims.
Earthquake survivors sell vegetables near the destroyed Pasa Raya food market in Padang, Indonesia, Oct 7. Health workers doused Padang with disinfectant to ward off disease outbreaks and helicopters dropped aid to survivors after the devastating Sep 30 earthquake. CNS photo

SINGAPORE – The recent spate of typhoons, earthquakes, floods and tsunami in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Japan and Samoa have caused thousands of deaths and millions of displaced people and untold damage to houses and property. Many organisations inside and outside those countries have come to the aid of those affected.

Several Catholic organisations in Singapore are also helping out. Volunteer groups have gone to help out in the Philippines which have seen the fury of Typhoon Ketsana.
The 19th School of Evangelisation commenced on Oct 1. Photo by Thomas Yeo

THE NEW ACMA website (www.acma.sg/) contains a forum section in which those who have queries on going to a mission land, can post their queries to see advice or opinion.

Similarly, those who have undertaken some kind of mission activity, whether in Singapore or abroad, can also seek to have these posted in the website (email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Groups planning a mission trip can also seek publicity through this website.

Our poor people’s home in Mongolian, with only one door and a toilet outside. The nomads can easily untie the tent and move to another place to camp.
Photo by ACMA

Pope Benedict XVI: Already today, in the contradictions and sufferings of this world, there shines the light of hope for a new life … “The Church’s mission is to ‘infect’ all peoples with hope”

Snippets of letters from some of our Singapore missionaries scattered across three continents.

Frontline: Africa – Sister Calista Ponnudorai, FDCC

AS A NEW Missionary in 1988, exposed for the first time to African culture and environment in Nairobi, I went through various cultural shocks and adjustment to my lifestyle in view of what was a new culture, a new language, a new people with their own African identity, traditions and way of life. I discovered, however as hard as I tried, I would always remain a ‘foreigner’ in their midst and I had to accept this image they had of me. While I tried to familiarise myself with the African culture in so far as it was advantageous to my mission, I tried not to take on meaninglessly some aspects of the local customs… which did not mean much to me.

NETters teaching English to Primary One children at the St. Ignatius Loyola School in Rempang. Photo by NET

“THE CHURCH’S MISSION is to ‘infect’ all peoples with hope” (Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Mission Sunday 2009)

These words of the Pope’s message touches on our Parish Mission Group’s thrust for this year – to ‘infect’ our Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) parish with the missionary spirit so that we can infect all people with hope.
Kovan SCC members mingling with the adoptees of Church of St. Stephen. Photo by Kovan SCC

HE TOLD THEM another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” (Mt 13:31-32)

Are we like the man who plants the mustard seed? What efforts do I make to bring about God’s kingdom in my community and in the world around me?

Members of the Kovan Small Christian Community (SCC) certainly try to do their part. Hilda Yeo, one of the long time members report:
Small Christian Community members (Church of Christ the King) gather together to reflect on how the community can bear fruit. Photo by Darren Boon

SINGAPORE – Other than monthly prayer meetings, Bible study and sharing sessions, the Tanglin Halt Small Christian Community (SCC) also visits homebound Catholics, purchase food for the elderly, and celebrate birthdays with them.

The Blessed Sacrament Church SCC also visits residents at St. Joseph’s Home and pray the Divine Mercy with them. Members also attend wakes of Catholics in the neighbourhood, and even at Singapore Casket in Lavender Street.

These are some of the activities the 25 members – comprising middle-aged to elderly residents of 25 blocks in the Tanglin Halt – do as an SCC. The community is divided into two groups for its monthly home meetings and members have the flexibility of attending either if they should miss out on one, said Louise Dias, one of the community members.

As the Commission for Apostolate of Mandarin-Speaking (CAMS) celebrates 25 years of service, it has many people to thank for its history, not least of all is Father Paul Tong who initiated and developed the commission to what it is today. But that is not his only achievement in his 51 years here, as Daniel Tay finds out

WHILE CLERGY SEE the value of the vow of obedience they profess, many may still experience some struggle with obeying their superiors. But for Father Paul Tong, following the command of his superior is what brings him most joy, because in doing so, he has discovered God’s plan for him, he said.

Father Tong, 82, who hails from China, tells the story of how God called him to be a priest and brought him here 51 years ago.

Born on Nov 12, 1927, in Shandong, he was baptised with his whole family before his teens. He was educated in a Catholic school run by the Marists, one of whom asked him to consider joining them.
SINGAPORE – Hai Sing Pao, the archdiocesan newspaper for Mandarin-speaking Catholics, has gone online at www.carlo.org.sg/catholicnews.

Launched in 1955, the 12-page fortnightly newspaper is committed to the needs, and spread of the Good News, within Mandarin-speaking Catholic communities in Singapore and Malaysia.

The online version features selected news in the Singapore and Malaysia archdiocese, in addition to regional and international news. The website contains articles and reflections on faith and life contributed by the Mandarin-speaking community, as well as daily Bible reflections.
SINGAPORE – CatholicNews Book & Media and Carlo Catholic Society have launched an online shopping service for customers.

The CatholicNews Book & Media website (www.catholic.org.sg/bookshop) offers mostly books and bibles for online purchase, with promotional items on sale occasionally.

The process of purchase is easy. Simply select an item and add it to the shopping cart. Review items in the Shopping Cart page. Then proceed to Checkout to submit the order.

Payment can be made via credit card, bank transfer, cheque, or cash on delivery (for items above $80). While a $3 postage/handling charge is levied for purchases below $80, free delivery within Singapore is offered for purchases $80 and above.
SINGAPORE – It is speaking the language of love and not necessary one’s linguistic ability that matters in hospice care.

This is the lesson that three Korean students Joseph Kim Do-Woo, 25, Gloria Lee Sarang, 24, and Colbe Kim Tae-Heon, 20, (photo), Catholic South Korean students from the Kkottongnae Hyundo University of Social Welfare in Cheongju, learnt while on attachment at Assisi Home and Hospice.

The attachment was arranged by SACCRE (Singapore Archdiocesan Catholic Charismatic Renewal), whose members had gone to South Korea for an international charismatic conference in June where they were approached by staff and religious Sisters of the university for such an attachment. Arrangements were made with Assisi Home and Hospice, and the three students, who are more proficient in English, received their attachment.
SINGAPORE – The FMDM Sisters celebrated 60 years of their presence in Singapore on Oct 12. About 200 people attended the thanksgiving Eucharist celebrated by Archbishop Nicholas Chia and concelebrated by 16 priests, at the Church of the Holy Spirit.

In his homily, Franciscan Friar Michael D’Cruz said that although St. Francis was asked by Jesus to “Repair my house”, and although the saint had initially used stones to rebuild the walls of the church building, “the reality of Francis’ mission was to tear down walls, not build them up”.

This, said Friar Michael, is what the FMDM Sisters have been doing in Singapore, by tearing down the walls and borders which separated the lepers and tuberculosis (TB) patients from the rest of society, in their work at Mandalay Road Hospital and Trafalgar Home for Lepers.

Trainer Chong Pik Yee (left) says parenting “is not instant noodles” because raising a child needs time and efort. “The earlier we start to learn the skills, the more our families benefit.”

Morning Star Community Services has a growing list of programmes to help parents cope with the challenges of raising children today. This is the first in a new series on member organi sations of Caritas Singapore.

"HAVE you done your homework?"
"How many marks did you get?"
"Get off the computer now!"

After 10 years of helping parents and children, the staff of Morning Star Community Services have a finger on the pulse of some critical family life issues in Singapore.
IT WAS in 1999 that Christian and Juliana Choo decided that they wanted to do something to help strengthen and enrich family relationships. He worked in the corporate world, she was a social worker and they had five children.

Using space offered by the Canossian sisters in Hougang, the Choos started a Student Care Service with a staff of five and drew 30 children needing supervision before and after school as they were from homes where both parents worked, or there was only one parent.

The project has grown significantly over the past 10 years, and today offers a wide range of family-centred services at its Hougang and Sengkang branches, as well as in schools and prisons.

Morning Star Community Services now has almost 40 staff assisted by a team of 30 active volunteers. Aside from the Student Care Service, its programmes include the following:
Volunteers of Gawad Kalinga help to build houses in the Philippines. Photo by Noralyn Malvas

Excerpts of Pope’s Message for World Mission Sunday 2009

“THE GOAL OF the Church’s mission is to illuminate with the light of the Gospel all peoples journeying through history towards God, so that in Him they may be fully realised and accomplished. We must live the longing and the passion to illuminate all peoples with the light of Christ, that shines on the face of the Church, so that all may be gathered into the one human family, under God's loving fatherhood”.

In his Message for World Mission Sunday, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI says, “I address the whole people of God, to encourage in each one of you deeper awareness of Christ’s missionary mandate to ‘make disciples of all peoples’ (Mt 28:19), in the footsteps of Saint Paul, the Apostle of the nations.”
VATICAN – News that U.S. President Barack Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was met with high hopes from the Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told journalists that the news “was greeted with appreciation at the Vatican in light of the president’s demonstrated commitment to promoting peace on an international level and, in particular, in recently promoting nuclear disarmament”.