DECEMBER 20, 2009, VOL59, NO26

Volunteers form a line to pass ration packs to the elderly at Redhill Moral Seniors Activity Centre. Photo by Darren Boon
SINGAPORE – A multi-ethnic, multi-faith grassroots organisation has held an

outreach programme for elderly and housebound people living in Blocks 89 and 90 in Redhill Close.

The Radin Mas Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC) on Nov 29 brought together members of various faiths such as Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Taoists, Hindus, Sikhs and followers of the Baha’i faith, to help the less fortunate.
Friendship has been a major moving force in the life of 40-year-old Father Brian D’ Souza. It was what sowed the first seeds of his decision to enter priesthood; brought him two close friends who continue to support one another; and is what guides his ministry moulding youths at various parishes and as Youth Chaplain for the archdiocese

IT WAS NO priest who inspired him towards the priestly life, but the group of altar servers at Church of the Risen Christ, who first planted the seed for priesthood in Brian.

Brother Paul Rogers with CJC students. Photo provided by Catholic Junior College

After dedicating 14 years to local education, De La Salle Brother Paul Rogers will step down as Principal of Catholic Junior College (CJC) at the end of 2009 for a new posting in Melbourne, Australia. A towering figure, Brother Paul points out to Darren Boon that one “must love doing what one does” to have a career as a principal for more than 26 years in total

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo walks with Father Michael Sinnott at a Manila air base Nov 12. Father Sinnott had been taken at gunpoint by six men who stormed a Columban missionary house Oct 11.

MANILA, Philippines – Irish missionary Father Michael Sinnott, who was held captive by still unidentified armed men in Mindanao for 31 days, left for his homeland early Thursday.

For the full article, please refer to the print version of the CatholicNews
VATICAN CITY – The elements that have led to this week’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen must also be a call to lifestyle conversion, according to a Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, analysed the ethical implications of the Dec 7-18 UN conference, and proposed that “some time ago environmental and climate concerns seemed to many to be a luxury – worries for the rich. The concerns of the poor, who had to survive and meet basic needs, were different.”

For the full article, please refer to the print version of the CatholicNews
Bishops say prohibition threatens peaceful co-existence

FRIBOURG, Switzerland –  The Swiss bishops are expressing concern over a referendum vote that resulted in the banning of minarets – the tall spires that constitute a distinctive architectural feature of mosques.

In a communiqué published Sunday, the Swiss bishops’ conference stated that the people’s decision to prohibit the construction of minarets in the country, approved that same day, “represents an obstacle and a great challenge on the path of integration in dialogue and mutual respect”.

For the full article, please refer to the print version of the CatholicNews
Marilyn, the project coordinator on the left, with volunteers, wrapping hampers for needy families. Photo by Grace Huang

SINGAPORE – Dozens of volunteers flooded the Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre on a rainy Thursday morning on Nov 5.

Undeterred by adverse weather conditions, they went to help the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry (RCPM) pack household necessities into hampers to be sent to needy families as ‘glad tidings’ during this Christmas season of love.

The process involved several steps: Goodies were distributed, wrappers cut and decorated with handmade bows, used cardboard boxes were flattened and sent for recycling, and finished hampers were set aside for delivery.
Youths from the Maranatha Prayer Ministry from Church of Christ the King, pray with the Ow family.  Photo by Darren Boon

SINGAPORE – It’s not often that the Ows pray together as a family. But on the evening of Dec 3, patriarch Terrence Ow made sure he wasn’t put on air traffic controlling duty while his lawyer-daughter rushed home instead of working yet another late night.

“We put down everything to be together for tonight’s prayer,” said Mr Ow. The Ows, as several other families did recently, had invited youths from the Maranatha Prayer Ministry of Church of Christ the King to their Ang Mo Kio home for prayer during the Advent season.
Members of the Landings community spend the Hari Raya Haji public holiday packing 750 boxes to reach out to inactive Catholics. Photo by Joyce Gan

SINGAPORE – As an Advent/Christmas project, the Landings community at Church of the Holy Spirit has prepared 750 “Christmas boxes” for parishioners to pass on to Catholics they know who are away from Church.

Inside each box is a card that introduces Landings as a ministry that welcomes inactive Catholics back to Church, a tealight candle with a sticker around it that reads, “Relight the Fire”, and an invitation to “Take a break from the world this holidays. Come home for Christmas.”
Father Jacob Ong dances with a couple of elderly to Christmas carols . (Below) Members and volunteers from the 5 Barley Loaves N 2 Fish ministry at Novena Church busy themselves serving food and companionship to the 60 elderly they invited for a Christmas party; Photos by Joyce Gan

SINGAPORE – The area behind the canteen at Novena Church was painted a sea of red and white on the evening of Sunday Dec 6, when the ministry of 5 Barley Loaves N 2 Fish organised a Christmas party for some 60 old folks from Toa Payoh.

Aged 82 to 92, these elderly reside in one-roomers at Toa Payoh Lorong 5; some have been abandoned by their children, while others are widowed.
VATICAN CITY – The Christmas tree in  St. Peter’s Square this year is a fir from the Ardennes forest of Belgium.
The 30-metre tree is 100 years old. It has a seven-metre diameter and weighs 14 tons. The tree was to be felled, along with others of the same forest, to allow for the growth of other nearby trees and plants, a communiqué from the Holy See noted.

Father Antonio Eguiguren, OFM, listens on as participants dialogue within the group.
Photo by Joyce Gan

SINGAPORE – Saturday Nov 21 was a day when voices across different religions and cultures spoke on a unified theme – peace.

That was the day Church of St. Mary of the Angels held their inaugural interfaith event, Voices of Peace 2009, with the support of the Taoist Federation Youth Group and Harmony Centre from An-Nahdhah Mosque.

The event aimed to provide an engaging platform or “voice” for an intensive day of dialogue and activities focusing on peace as presented from both interfaith and secular perspectives across individual lives, community, and the world-at-large, said organisers.

Speakers included faith leaders giving their religious perspectives on peace, non-government organisations like World Youth Alliance and Mercy Relief sharing their peace-building efforts, as well as interfaith organisations like Explorations Into Faith (EIF).
Families of the Holy Family altar servers are invited by Father Christopher Lee to pray a prayer of commitment to the Holy Family.

SINGAPORE – Bonding between parents and their sons was the order of the day on Nov 14, when over 25 families attended a Family Day organised by Church of the Holy Family Altar Servers Society.

The event began with a solemn service held in the main church hall. Assistant parish priest Father Christopher Lee, who is the society’s Spiritual Director, presided over the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Consecration Rite.

Inviting each family to come before the altar for a prayer of commitment to the Holy Family, he then blessed and presented each family with a blessing certificate.

After the ritual, families played outdoor games to break the ice, had lunch and participated in reflections that helped them better understand each other. The day ended with a barbecue at one of their homes, where the boys bonded over soccer and younger kids played games, while parents and priests chatted.
SINGAPORE – This year’s Archbishop Cup held on Nov 21 saw 34 teams vying for the top prize in three categories. Matches were played on the Indian Association Club grounds, and Church of the Risen Christ assistant parish priest Father Stanislaus Pang awarded the prizes as follows:

Under-12 category
1st prize – Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Team A
2nd prize – Holy Family Team A
3rd prize – Queen of Peace

More than 50 participants from 16 parishes at the year-long faith formation programme led by Father Garcia, and organised by the Singapore Pastoral Institute and Wonderfully Made! ministry.
Photo by Dr Victor Loh

SINGAPORE – What does the colugo, also known as the flying lemur, have to do with moral theology? Over 50 participants found the answer from moral theologian Father David Garci, OP (right), when he taught them the foundations of moral theology.

Father Garcia used analogies from mammals found in tropical jungles, mountaineering in stormy weather and a whole gamut of human experiences, to explain that moral laws were not laws arbitrarily created and imposed on unsuspecting citizens by Church authorities, nor even by God. Rather, they were discoveries and descriptions of laws which depicted what best encouraged human nature to thrive.
SINGAPORE – The French, German, Korean and Filipino Catholic communities will hold a joint Advent concert on Sunday Dec 13 at 5.00pm in the Marymount Chapel at Good Shepherd Convent.

Also, some Singaporean choir members from Church of the Holy Trinity will lend their voices and talent to the concert.

The event will be a first, as members of the various foreign Catholic communities gather for an Advent concert. It was initiated by the French-speaking group, which roped in the other communities.

Coordinator for Francophone Catholic Community of Singapore Jean-Philippe Malard said that the concert is “an opportunity to meet the other Catholic communities in Singapore”.
SINGAPORE – November saw three Catholic educational institutions – St. Anthony’s Primary School, Montfort Secondary School and Hai Sing Catholic School – celebrating their anniversaries and taking stock of their progress over the decades.

St. Anthony’s Primary in Bukit Batok, the oldest among the three, turned 130 on Nov 14 with Archbishop Nicholas Chia celebrating Mass and blessing the school’s new Heritage Gallery.

“We wanted to reconnect with Anthonians of the past with the Heritage Gallery,” vice-principal Timothy Goh told CatholicNews, “while reminding current and future Anthonians of the spirit of the past Anthonians and to live up to that spirit of striving for the best”.

The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Sisters pose for a photo outside the ballroom at Suntec for Hai Sing’s 50th anniversary dinner.

BUDDHIST NUN VENERABLE Bei Rong, is among the pioneering batch of students of Hai Sing Catholic School and she remembers well the institution’s humble roots.

The school, then known as Hai Sing Girls’ High School, had to borrow premises from Holy Innocents’ Chinese Girls’ School in the Upper Serangoon/Hougang area when it first started out in 1959 with two teachers. Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Sister Teresa Tsang, whose Order founded the school, was not only the first principal, but also an English, Science, and Arts and Craft teacher.

The school had its own premises when classes grew from two to 15, including pre-university classes.

At the same time that the school was growing, it made sure to provide also for its needy students as far as possible.

(Front row, from left) Archbishop Nicholas Chia with Gabrielite Brother Emmanuel and Father Patrick Goh (extreme right) together with old boys and Montfort Secondary Principal Andrew Tan (back row, extreme left).
Photo by Dareen Boon

ALSO TURNING 50 was Montfort Secondary School. The anniversary was commemorated with a dinner for 500 alumni and their families at the school premises in Hougang on Nov 21.

Its roots, however, actually go further back. In 1916, it was founded as Holy Innocents’ English School, at Upper Serangoon Road, by Father Henri Duvelle, then-parish priest of Church of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

After the Gabrielite Brothers took over in 1936, the school was renamed in 1959 in memory of their founder, St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort.

Father Patrick Goh, who graduated in 1960, said the school, together with the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary next door, provided him with a strong religious formation with students gathering for the Sunday children’s Masses and regular confession on the first Fridays.

The German-speaking community in Singapore raising funds for their orphanage project.
Photos by Darren Boon

SINGAPORE – For three years now, members of the German-speaking Catholic community in Singapore have been sponsors or “god-parents” to some 70 children at the Kampong Thom orphanage in Cambodia. Each sponsor pledges US$1 a day to a child, to meet the child’s basic needs such as food and education.

But members of the St. Elisabeth community, as they are known, started feeling that the sponsorship was not enough.

So recently, the group has initiated additional projects to help improve the lives of the children. These include house-building and renovation, furniture purchase, installation of a solar energy system and training the residents to use and maintain the system.
Primary Five and Six boys who attended the camp, waiting for Mass to begin. Photo by Darren Boon

SINGAPORE – About 25 boys in Primary Five and Six attended a day camp on Nov 27 to prepare them for the challenges they will face as Christian teenagers.

Seminarian Brother Gregory Chan and De La Salle Brother Collin Wee were the speakers at the camp, which was held at the Church of St. Stephen and organised by the East District Parishes Vocation Team.

Brother Gregory talked about self-identity, discovering one’s talent, listening to God and doing God’s will, while Brother Collin touched on topics relating to boy-girl relationships, choice of friends, the fears that the children will face as teenagers, and school-life challenges such as bullying.

There were also games and fellowship time, before the day ended with Archdiocesan Vocation Director Father Alex Chua celebrating Mass.
Frank Baker facilitating the storyboarding activity. Photo by Darren Boon

SINGAPORE – If you were directing a film about how a little girl’s encounter with a stray dog at a supermarket leads to many beautiful friendships, how would you visually convey that message of love and bonding to your audience?

Participants of a recent workshop were invited to do just that, in a bid to learn about media literacy. Each group tried their hand at visually representing the first two pages of the book, Because of Winn-Dixie, via sketching the different points of view of three characters – the girl, the dog and a store manager.

It was a concept known as storyboarding, which is used to communicate media messages in films, advertising and video games, said Frank W. Baker, the workshop facilitator who was an American author, educator and media literacy expert.

SINGAPORE – Forty-seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) (photo) from Malaysia and Singapore gathered at the FMM House of Prayer and Formation at Holland Road from Nov 21-27 for their provincial meeting (also known as “chapter”). The theme of the chapter was “Walking in minority and solidarity with the suffering world”.

This chapter had two moderators – Christina Kheng who assisted the Sisters in synergising their ideas for the practical aspects of the pastoral plan, and Sister Inigo who imbued the plan with spirituality.

The pastoral plan the FMM Sisters drew up focuses on the poorest and the excluded, particularly the migrants.

Franciscan Spirituality and having a loving and caring presence with the people make up the other two priorities.

This was also in keeping with the General Chapter orientations of 2008.
Keynote speaker Michael Walsh from the United States engages in discussion with Sister Angeline Lim, FMDM, during tea break at the CJC canteen. Photo by Joyce Gan

SINGAPORE – Is it possible to be successful in the workplace while remaining true to one’s Catholic beliefs? For Kwek Mean Luck several years ago, the two objectives had seemed at odds with each other.

“I felt that to survive at work, I needed to be savvy. I succeeded but didn’t like what I saw in the mirror,” said the civil servant. So he went to see Father Gerard Keane, who told him, “The world is a complicated place. We need men of God in the world. If people like you quit just like that, God will have one voice less in the world.”

But, Kwek had retorted, “I may lose myself if I carry on.” To that, Father Keane replied, “Awareness like that is the first step. If you’re aware, you can change.”

Those wise words have followed Kwek, who is Deputy-Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, to the present day.
• 137 priests in Singapore have an email account.
• 10 priests are on Facebook.
• 5 have blogs.
• 17 out of 30 parishes (excluding the new Church of Divine Mercy), use computer projection for Masses. Almost all have their own websites, except for three.
• 25 of these parishes have bulletins available online.
• 9 are on Wikipedia, 6 are on Facebook.
• St. Vincent de Paul is the only parish to have made Masses available online.
• 54 out of 93 organisations listed in the ORDO have their own websites; 8 do not have any, while the rest are listed on; 9 of them are on Facebook.

Caritas Singapore chairman Willie Cheng, who provided this information, said that to have online presence is one thing, but asked, how do we make it “more interactive, engaging”? “Most are simply static and informative,” he said.

SINGAPORE – The Daughters of St. Paul Sisters will be selling books and religious items at the Jurong Point mall until Dec 20.

Opened from 11.00am-9.00pm daily except Mondays, the kiosk is located on level one. Prices for books range from $3-$20, and 40 cents-$100 for religious items and articles.

This is the seventh year that the Sisters have opened a temporary stall in a shopping mall (photo). Sister Lynette Chan said the Sisters were not “doing a business, but a mission”.

“We’re different from the other stores. We don’t sell commercialised items. People who are looking for God or to satisfy their spiritual needs come to this store and get something. But if they are shopping for a bag or clothes, they cannot find them here,” she added.

“We have prayer books for those encountering difficulty in prayer and formation books for those struggling with emotional issues so that they could understand themselves and God.”

By Darren Boon
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Simei CNG members take a group photo at St. Joseph Church (Bukit Timah) after Stations of the Cross prayers during Lent.
Photo provided by Simei CNG

The Catholic Neighbourhood Group (CNG) at Simei was formed 20 years ago to help build up the parish community of Church of the Holy Trinity. Long-time member Daniel Tan reminisces about the long way the group has come, as it prepares to help build the new parish of Divine Mercy

OUR SIMEI CNG was formed on Nov 15, 1989 before the opening of the Church of the Holy Trinity, to which we have belonged for the past 20 years.

In the early days, our former parish priest Father Paul Tay set up the three CNGs – Tampines, Pasir Ris, and Simei – with a view that once Church of the Holy Trinity opened its doors, we would be ready to help out in parish activities. We had 24 members then.
VATICAN CITY – The Vatican and Russia announced they would upgrade diplomatic relations to the highest level.

During a meeting at the Vatican on Dec 3, Pope Benedict XVI and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to establish full diplomatic ties between their two countries. Since 1990 they have exchanged diplomatic representatives but without full relations.
The two leaders discussed “the challenges currently facing security and peace” and the international and political situation in the world, according to a written statement released by the Vatican after the meeting.

They also discussed “cultural and social questions of mutual interest, such as the value of the family and the contribution  believers make to life in Russia”, the Vatican statement said.
The private discussions between the two leaders were “cordial”, it said.
In a customary exchange of gifts, the pope presented Medvedev a copy of his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”) in Russian. The president gave the pope 22 volumes of an encyclopedia on the Russian Orthodox Church.

For the full article, please refer to print version of the CatholicNews.