NOVEMBER 08, 2009, Vol 59, No 23

Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Communion, presents a gift to Pope Benedict XVI during their meeting at the Vatican Nov 23, 2006. The Vatican announced Oct 20 that the pope has established a special structure for Anglicans who want to be united with the Roman Catholic Church.
-CNS file photo/L’Osservatore Romano

VATICAN CITY – Groups of disaffected Anglicans can become Catholics while keeping elements of their cultural and liturgical heritage, the Vatican announced this week.

In a move that took the English-speaking Christian world by surprise, Pope Benedict XVI signed an Apostolic Constitution which offers a universal legal structure for Anglicans seeking “corporate reunion” with Rome.
(Above) Half the church hall at OLSS was filled with retreat participants. Photos provided by Mary Lee

SINGAPORE – About 240 parishioners of Our Lady Star of the Sea (OLSS) attended a retreat on Oct 17 organised just two weeks after the new parish priest took office. Father John Joseph (J. J.) Fenelon (inset), who was also the retreat master, said, “It was extremely short notice but I felt it was necessary for the parishioners to own the vision rather than having the priests decide for them.”

With the help of OLSS’ Parish Pastoral Council (PPC), the participants were colour-coded into the parish’s eight zones, and then sub-divided into 23 groups of 10 to 12 for reflection and discussions under the theme “Love one another as I loved you” (Jn 13:34).
SINGAPORE – Mission is not just restricted to social work and uplifting the poor. Neither is it the use of certain dynamics such as performances and street preaching, or where the evangeliser gives without receiving, Redemptorist Father Gino Henriques told some 60 participants at the World Mission Sunday seminar on Oct 18.

Mission spirituality, he stressed, begins at home by being a disciple of Christ and allowing the Spirit of Jesus to lead to reveal the Father. This discipleship comes through a prayer relationship with Jesus.

He also encouraged the participants to contemplate on Scripture to allow the Word to “dwell and sink into the heart” as well as have a “covenantal immersion through the sacraments”.

The Redemptorist missioners and parish priests celebrate the final Mass of the St. Stephen parish mission.
Photo by Simon Chin

SINGAPORE – The parish mission led by the Redemptorists and many lay missioners of St. Stephen and of other parishes of the diocese ended with great blessings from the Lord.

The mission, which started with a Triduum Mass on the feast of the Queenship of Mary on Aug 22, was commended to her patronage and that of St. Stephen.

With six missioners visiting each night and a host of drivers, guides, photographers, and under the ever efficient group of mission command centre team, each night was filled with enthusiasm, prayers, and fellowship. Hard work was always accompanied by the spirit of camaraderie. A deep and sure sense of belonging was forged. From that, the missioners set out to visit the families, bringing the love and service of Lord for his people.
Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP. Photo by Daniel Tay

SINGAPORE – In his younger days, Richard Davies, 37, once organised a session for graduate students to come together to watch a movie and discuss it. But what started off with good intentions unexpectedly ended in a verbal war among the students.

Fast forward to today: Richard can say he’s grown wiser about how to conduct such sessions, especially in his newly joined catechesis ministry at Church of Sts. Peter and Paul – thanks to help from the professionals.

Pauline Sister Rose Pacatte is one such professional. She holds a Master of Education in Media Studies from the University of London, U.K., and a certificate in Pastoral Communications from the University of Dayton. Her primary work consists of media literacy education for parents and teachers within the context of culture, education, and faith formation.
1. KNOW WHO GOD is for you: Your image of God affects your view of the media and of the world.

2. Know what the Church really teaches about the media: 12 major Church documents issued in the 20th century have been about the media, with one on all forms of media now being prepared.

3. Honour your students and their tastes: Honour God in your students so that you can create a safe place to communicate God to each other.

4. Watch television: Watch programmes that your students watch, so you can have discussions with them. Watch even what you don’t like but what they watch.
SINGAPORE – Popular entertainment, and not just religious programmes, can convey values in sync with Catholic ones.

That was the bottom line that some 30 participants at the seminar, “Household Saints or Desperate Housewives”, took home on Oct 11.

The speaker, Pauline Sister Rose Pacatte, talked about how one could integrate the Catholic faith with the content broadcast on television and other media. By showing clips from the American soap opera, Desperate Housewives, she illustrated that popular entertainment does have depth and values.

Among the clips shown was a mother reprimanding her children for stealing and getting them to apologise to the neighbour for their misdeed; neighbours rallying together to support and comfort each other in times of tragedy and loss; and the sacrifice of one’s life so that others may live.

Volunteers help to load the sacks of packed clothes into the 40-foot container.
Photo by Tony Perez

SINGAPORE – Sabarina Bte Osman, 16, had never been involved in volunteer work for an overseas project before. But when the St. Anthony’s Canossian (SAC) Secondary School student recently watched news of the flood in Manila, she felt drawn to lend a hand. Especially as it hit her that, unlike the Philippine victims, she did not have to go through natural disasters in Singapore.

So, when a school teacher, Ms Daisy Tan, called for student volunteers to help pack supplies for the flood victims, Sabarina jumped at the chance.

“I thought that if I, as an SAC girl, can help them, then maybe other Singaporeans will also change their hearts and want to help them too,” said the Muslim teenager.
SINGAPORE – A biologist says she is grateful to her Catholic education because it helps her in the largely atheist working environment.

Dr Pauline Tay, 35, a research fellow working in the Institute of Medical Biology in the Biopolis says, “It’s always a struggle because many scientists are not religious. But I will never see scientific truth as opposed to religious truth. My foundation also helps me to discern whether or not I’m doing the ethical thing.”

As a biologist, Dr Tay studies the development of cells as they grow. “The more you study something in science, the more you see the marvel of God’s creation,” she says.

In the course of describing her work, she marvels at how everything in a cell can work as a system. “Everything is so programmed and deliberate,” she says, explaining that when she tries to grow cells, the minutest detail, such as the acidity of the solution, can kill cells so easily.

Pictured here singing are Sister Bubbles Bandojo (extreme left) and Sister Susay Valdez (extreme right).
Photo by Darren Boon

SINGAPORE – An evening of prayer recollection filled with hymns, poetry and Scripture readings was a much-needed time of refreshing for many individuals, including children.

About 100 people turned up for the hour-long session organised by the Cenacle Sisters and held at CANA – The Catholic Centre on Oct 16.

The evening’s theme was on Our Lady.

Cenacle Sisters Susay Valdez, Bubbles Bandojo and Sheila Jaso together with the St. Francis Xavier choir of the Church of St. Ignatius lent their voices alongside a keyboard accompaniment. At times, they went a cappella.
(Top to bottom) ; An 18th-century church altar from Eastern Visayas; the 19th-century ‘carozza’ or processional vehicle from San Augustin Church in Manila (Mary here represents Our Lady of Consolation); Gold ornaments from the 10th to 13th century Mindanao.  Photos provided by ACM

Spain introduced Catholicism to the Philippines through the former’s rule over the latter. And the mix between the indigenous culture of the islands’ inhabitants with that of the Spanish is certainly reflected in the Catholic art and icons of the past era.

Join Darren Boon on his tour of Filipino art from the country’s Spanish colonial period, from carved icons and retablos to an elaborate altar. These are part of the bigger exhibition of the Philippines historical culture and identity, dating from pre-Spanish colonial days to modern time

SINGAPORE – One can’t help but feel like a dwarf, facing the 3.5-metre tall, 18th-century church altar from Eastern Visayas, Philippines. The towering and imposing presence of the altar, with its sturdy structure to withstand the hot humid climates and earthquakes, leaves one awestruck.

There’s also a delightful sense of marvel, as you notice how the craftwork is highly elaborate and marries the Baroque style of European Church architecture with the tropical foliage of the Philippines.

This church altar takes centre stage in the Spanish-colonisation era section of the exhibition, “Land of the Morning: The Philippines and its People”, which is being held at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) from Oct 16, 2009 to Jan 10, 2010.

Archbishop Nicholas Chia unveils the plaque.
Photos from Bobby Oh, O’Image Folio

SINGAPORE – More than 1,000 people gathered for Mass and the Rite of Dedication of the newly renovated Church of St. Bernadette on Sunday Oct 18.

The ceremony saw a relic of St. Bernadette – a strand of hair – deposited in an aperture beneath the altar top, followed by the anointing of the altar and church walls, incensing and lighting of both the altar and the church.

Archbishop Nicholas Chia, the main celebrant, said in his homily that “the physical church helps us to become more attuned to God, away from the distractions of outside”. However, he stressed that the people make up the living Church and encouraged parishioners to build bonds with one another so as to be one in Christ.
SINGAPORE – In the River Valley area, the old constantly gives way to the new. Where the Great World Amusement Park once stood is a shopping mall today. Gone, too, are the single-storey houses and attap huts, replaced rapidly by modern and taller apartment blocks.

But the Church of St. Bernadette along Zion Road is one of the few old-timers still standing, its blue neon-lit crucifix a visible sign of its resilience over the 50 years since it was built.

Celebrating its Golden Jubilee this year, the church has not only nearly quintupled in numbers, but also expanded in diversity. Still, its parishioners remain hungry for more spiritual growth.
(Left) Archbishop Nicholas Chia prays before blessing the specially sculptured statue (below) of St. Damien of Molokai. Photos by Ian Carnegie and Patricia Ang

SINGAPORE – After a week-long celebration in Blessed Sacrament Church (BSC), the highlight of Father Damien's canonisation was the Mass and the dinner. The church was beautifully decorated and was packed with parishioners and invited guests. The celebrant of the Mass was Archbishop Nicholas Chia with 11 priests from various parishes concelebrating. There were representatives from the various organisations who participated by carrying their organisation flags.

Archbishop Chia blessed a specially sculptured statue of St. Damien at the Mass.

Dinner afterwards was held in the church compound with 70 tables of guests present. Entertainment was provided by the St. Francis band, Damien Youth Choir, Filipino group, El-Shaddai, Indonesian Brothers, Terry Costelo and the BSC band. Participants of a lucky draw walked away with exciting gifts.
BISHOP RATKO PERIC (photo) of Mostar-Duvno told youth and parishioners at a confirmation Mass he presided at in Medjugorje not to behave as if the alleged Marian apparitions reported in the parish were real, the Catholic News Service reports.

The bishop posted an Italian translation of his June homily on his diocesan website in late September, along with letters to the Franciscan pastor of the Medjugorje parish and to another priest serving there, the agency reported.

Bishop Peric said top officials at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Vatican Secretariat of State confirmed that the Catholic Church has never recognised the alleged apparitions as authentic.

“Brothers and sisters, let us not act as if these ‘apparitions’ were recognised and worthy of faith,” the bishop said in the homily.
Deepavali – the festival of lights. Photo by Christopher Wong

VATICAN CITY – Greeting the world’s 800,000 Hindus for the feast of Deepavali, or Diwali, the Vatican has asked them to work together with Christians “for integral human development.”

This means “the advance towards the true good of every individual, community and society, in every single dimension of human life”, explains the message from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Everyone shares responsibility for “protection of human life and respect for the dignity and fundamental rights of the person”, the council said in its annual letter for this major Hindu festival.

This respect for others “implies the recognition of their freedom: freedom of conscience, thought and religion”, it added.

“When persons feel respected in their primary choice as religious beings, only then are they able to encounter others and cooperate for the progress of humanity.”
From kampung boy to Taoist-turned-Catholic and, finally, a priest. Father Timothy Yeo’s faith and vocation story triumphed despite his parents’ initial disapproval of his conversion and after several years of work in the secular world. It just goes to show how nothing is impossible for God, he tells Daniel Tay

YOU CAN CALL him “the ah beng priest” and even point out to his face that his spoken English isn’t great. But call him a “Neocat priest” and you can be sure that Father Timothy Yeo will bristle at the name.

There is no such thing as a priest for the Neocatechumenal Way, the 46-year-old told CatholicNews, referring to the Madrid-based community sometimes associated with him because of its pivotal role in his faith journey.
What we can learn from the global crisis

Pope Benedict XVI's latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), is considered his most important and it received much attention both within and outside the Church. The Pope wrote this social encyclical to address the global economic crisis, its causes and the path for, future development. The subtitle is Confronting World Problems with Gospel Power: This article summarises the key points made in the encyclical, a 70-page letter in eight sections and addressed to all Catholics and people of good will.

Charity demands justice

CHARITY is love received and given. Because we have received God's love, we must be iinstruments of His grace and form networks of charity. We are responsible not only for our immediate neighbours, but also all those affected by social, economic and political policies.

The way the world understands charity is detached from ethical living; it easily dismisses charity as irrelevant. To counter this, we must link charity to truth. Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality.

The world tends to relativise truth. Truth is what God has revealed to us about Himself and about his law.

There are two criteria for social action that flow from the principle of "charity in truth": justice and the common good.

Charity demands justice; we must always first give the other person what is due him or her. Charity also goes beyond justice because to love is to give, to offer what is mine to the other.

The common good is the good of oneself and the rest of society. To desire and strive for the common good is a requirement of justice and charity.

Progress is avocation

Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Thruth) builds upon another important papal letter, Populorum Progressio (On Development of Peoples, written 40 years ago by Pope Paul VI).

Pope Paul VI makes the point that the Church is always engaged in promoting human development, and authentic human development concerns the whole person and every person.

He taught that progress is a vocation. This means that it is a call from God that requires an answer freely given. In some underdeveloped situations, people's freedom is hindered. Those of us who are free should work for the freedom of all others.

We need to be more involved

The global economic crisis is an opportunity for discernment and to shape a new vision for the future.

We should start by addressing the difficulties of the present time.

Measuring progress by profit alone can actually cause poverty. The world's wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase.

Progress only on economic and technological terms is insufficient. We need to pay attention to human development. We also have to re-evaluate the role of the state in solving the crisis. We need new forms of political participation, nationally and internationally, where the people are more deeply involved.

Social welfare systems are being downsized. The call for workers' associations to defend their rights is more important than before.

The increased commercialisation of culture can lead to dangers of cultural eclecticism (cultures are viewed as equivalent and interchangeable) and cultural levelling (indiscriminate acceptance of all lifestyles and conduct).

Many people around the world are still desperately hungry. Hunger is caused not by lack of resources, but by lack of will. Food and access to water should be universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination.

Poverty has led to high infant mortality. Many countries and organisations promote contraception and abortion. There needs to be respect for and openness to life.

Religious freedom is tied closely to development. We should be concerned of religious fanaticism as well as religious indifference.

This picture of today demands new solutions. Such solutions should uphold the dignity of the individual and provide steady employment for everyone as a priority. Our economic choices should not result in disparities in wealth that are excessive or morally unacceptable.

Be giving, give hope

We are blessed with astonishing gifts that go unrecognised because of a consumerist view of life. You could say that original sin has caused us to be selfish and inward looking.

We confuse happiness and salvation with material prosperity and social action.

There is a need for Christian hope. Hope is an absolutely gratuitous gift of God.

Our belief that the economy is not subject to moral influences has led to abuses and the loss of hope.

Economic and political systems must apply the principle of gratuitousness, that is, to be giving, to give hope.

The market is based on "commutative justice", meaning everyone plays fair, keeps their word, pays what they owe and does the work they are hired for.

The Church teaches that the market also needs "distributive justice" and "social justice". Distributive justice means that money, power and resources should be distributed to meet everyone's basic needs for a fully human life. Social justice means that every person is allowed to help and is actively involved in building a just society.

Business has a human significance prior to its professional one. We need a new kind of commercial enterprise, one that seeks both profit and the common good-not just profit alone. Concern for the common good cannot just be left to government or to civil society; it must also be the concern of the market.

Globalisation is about the world becoming more interconnected. It is neither good nor bad. Rather, it is what we make of it. Globalisation should be based on ethical criteria that focus on the common good.

The whole of the economy must be ethical

Many people are concerned only about their individual rights. They forget their duties and their responsibility' to others.

In fact, duties reinforce rights. The sharing of reciprocal duties is a more powerful incentive for action than the assertion of rights.

Rights and duties apply to population growth. It is a mistake to consider population increase as the primary cause of under-development. States should promote the centrality of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, and assume responsibility for its economic and fiscal needs.

People-centred ethics is beneficial to the economy. The whole of the economy must be ethical, not just some sectors of it.

We should be responsible stewards of nature. We must find a way for the whole human family to live comfortably on this earth. We should not transfer the cost of resources we use to other countries or to future generations.

A central environmental issue is energy. The hoarding of non-renewable energy resources by powerful groups and countries hinders development in poor countries. There needs to be renewed solidarity between developing and industrialised countries.

We need dialogue between faith and reason

The human race should be a single family working together in true communion. It should not simply be groups of subjects who happen to live side by side.

All religions can contribute to development if God has a place in public culture, society, economic and political institutions. Secularism - or its opposite, fundamentalism - hinders development.

Dialogue between faith and reason, between believers and non-believers, is to be encouraged. It makes charity more effective.

We should promote the principle of subsidiarity. This means matters should be handled by the smallest or least centralised authority possible. Globalisation must be marked by subsidiarity.

The rights and dignity of migrants and workers must be safe-guarded and respected. Foreign workers contribute to the economic development of the host country. There should be a global coalition in favour of decent work - work that expresses the essential dignity of the human being.

There is a strong need to reform the United Nations so that we can truly become a family of nations.

We need spiritual growth too

Technology has its benefits. It enables us to have dominion over matter. It reduces risks. It saves labour. It improves living conditions.

However. technology is not always good. It must always be attuned to the common good. Decisions must be the fruit of moral responsibility.

To see how preoccupation with technological solutions can distract from the deeper human values, let us look at three areas: peace among nations, social communications media, and bioethics.

Peace is sometimes thought of as a product of technology. Peace building may require technology, but more importantly, it requires values rooted in the truth of human life. The voices of the people affected must be heard and considered.

Social communications media are pervasive and hardly neutral. They can have a civilising effect if they are geared towards the common good.

Biotechnology gives an illusion of man's mastery of life. The "culture of death" of abortion, eugenics, euthanasia and other such practices, denies human dignity.

Bioethics presents a choice between transcendence and pure human reason. But it is a Use choice. A technology based on human reason alone rejects meaning and value.

Reason without faith will flounder in an illusion of its own omnipotence. Faith without reason risks being cut off from everyday life. Reason and faith can work hand in hand to demonstrate what is good - provided we want to see it.

Development must include not just material growth but also spiritual growth. There is only holistic development and universal common good when people's spiritual and moral welfare is considered.

God is our greatest hope

Despite the enormous problems facing us, there is hope. God is our greatest hope.

Charity in truth is not produced by us; it is a gift from God. Development flows from this gift.

Development needs Christians with our arms raised to God in prayer. It requires us to trust in God's providence, mercy and love. It requires our attention to the spiritual life.

By Caritas Singapore Community Council

VATICAN CITY – After three weeks of discussion and strategizing, the Synod of Bishops for Africa ended with calls for spiritual conversion and social reforms on the African continent.

The more than 200 participating bishops published a message to the world Oct 23, appealing for a fairer global order based on Gospel values and telling corrupt Catholic politicians in Africa to “repent or resign” in the name of the common good.

At a closing Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Oct 25, Pope Benedict XVI said if the church wants to change hearts and minds in Africa it must itself be a model of unity with “no divisions based on ethnic, language or cultural groups”.

The pope, who presided over most of the synod sessions, lunched with participants Oct 24 and thanked them for “a good job”. He also received 57 final propositions from the synod, to be used as the basis for a papal document on pastoral directions in Africa.