DECEMBER 26, 2010, Vol 60, No 26


My dear people of God,

Christmas is in the air. We see beautiful lightings and decorations in Orchard Road and elsewhere, people are busy buying new clothes and gifts, preparing parties and dinners.

All these create a joyful atmosphere but is the true meaning of Christmas being taken into account? Where is the place of Christ? Christ must be the centre of our celebrations for there is no Christmas without Christ!

We have cribs in churches and in many homes. This is a wonderful portrayal of the first Christmas but what is most important is not to have the image of the baby Jesus in the cribs but to have Christ in our hearts.

To welcome Christ into our hearts we must dispose ourselves. First and foremost we must keep sin at bay.
This story of Leonardo Da Vinci, the great artist, drives home this point. While he was painting the Last Supper, he had a quarrel with a friend and exchanged nasty words. He then painted his friend’s face as Judas.
Christmas is a good time for new beginnings. It is also a good time to re-think how we can make lifestyle changes to protect Creation.

One of the most challenging changes we can make is to simplify our life. To resist the seductive trappings of materialism is not easy. Yet, one has only to begin – even if it means taking one small step at a time.

When you live simply, you get used to coming up with ideas like baking your own cookies and packaging them in elegant glass jars with a bright ribbon to present as gifts, or stringing together pretty shell necklaces for your young nieces. You swallow your pride and give more of yourself than your things.

However, we also know that if you live in Singapore and are earning a decent income, the impulse to spend at this time of the year is strong.

So spare a thought for Mother Earth when you go on that shopping spree. Ask yourself: Do I need all this extra packaging? And do make it a habit to take a couple of reusable bags (pop them in your car or handbag) before rushing out to spend your money.
Pope Benedict asked for greater Church efforts to teach Catholics about the Bible, to help them learn to read it and pray with it

VATICAN CITY – God constantly tries to enter into dialogue with the people he created – speaking through creation and even through silence, but mainly in the Church through the Bible and through His son Jesus Christ, Pope Benedict XVI said.

In his apostolic exhortation, Verbum Domini (The Word of the Lord), the pope encouraged Catholics to embrace and value each of the ways God tries to speak to humanity.

The document, billed as the most significant Church document on Scripture since the Second Vatican Council by some analysts, is a papal reflection on the conclusions of the 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Word of God.

The Vocation Placement Ministry website has a test that people can take to see if they have a religious vocation.

WASHINGTON – Nine years ago, Natalie Smith thought something had to be done to reverse the vocations crisis.

Ms Smith, an American convert to Catholicism who had worked in marketing, felt there had to be a way for the Church to work more collectively to find potential vocations. She was convinced there should be a database of candidates and also a wide range of resources available for people considering a vocation.

So she turned to the Internet.

In 2001, she and a group of others formed Vocations Placement Ministry in Coral Springs, Florida. The group received permission to use a vocational assessment survey developed years ago by priests and used in print form in Catholic high schools. Now the test is available online at www.testyourcalling.org.

Adele Brise pictured in a habit in an undated photo. In 1859, she saw apparitions of Mary near her home in Wisconsin state. CNS photo

CHAMPION, WISCONSIN – A bishop in the US state of Wisconsin has approved the Marian apparitions seen by a woman in 1859, making the events that occurred northeast of Green Bay the first in the US to receive the approval of a diocesan bishop.

Bishop David L Ricken of Green Bay made the announcement in Champion during Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help on Dec 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. He also issued a second decree, formally approving the shrine as a diocesan shrine.

Bishop Ricken said the proclamation was a desire of many people. “So many of you have asked for this in one way or another,” he said. “I regard this also as a simple declaration in that it already states what has been going on here so quietly for so many years.”

“In many ways it is also a thank-you gift to Adele Brise, that Belgian immigrant who came here to this country. ... We owe a great deal to her witness because she was simple, she was uneducated in our terms today. She was a humble soul, but she was obedient.”
VATICAN CITY – A spate of US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks portray the Vatican as horrified over clerical sex abuse in Ireland but also deeply concerned that the procedures used by Irish investigators of the scandal were “an affront to Vatican sovereignty”.

The cables, released Dec 10-12, touched on a wide range of issues, and included the Vatican’s recent moves to welcome disaffected Anglicans into the Catholic Church.

One cable offered a highly critical assessment of the Vatican’s communications apparatus and said Pope Benedict XVI was surrounded by advisors who make sure dissenting voices are not heard.
VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI will focus on religious freedom’s contribution to peace in his World Peace Day message for 2011, the Vatican said.

The theme the pope has chosen for the Jan 1 celebration is Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace, the Vatican announced earlier this year.

The Vatican said the pope intends to discuss how the fundamental human right to believe in God is a prerequisite for full human development and “a condition for the realisation of the common good and the promotion of peace in the world”.

“In many parts of the world there exist various forms of restrictions or denials of religious freedom, from discrimination and marginalisation based on religion to acts of violence against religious minorities,” the statement said.
Mr Anthony Liu Bainian (left) and Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai (below right) were named honorary presidents of both the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China during the Congress of Catholic Representatives.

BEIJING – The Chinese government-controlled National Congress of Catholic Representatives elected new leaders for the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the two groups responsible for the public life of the Church in the communist country.

The new president of the bishops’ conference is Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming, who was ordained without papal approval in 2006.

However, the new president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association is Bishop Yohan Fang Xinyao of Linyi, who was ordained in 1997 and is in communion with the pope.

Pope Benedict XVI has said organisations, which are completely independent of the Vatican, are not in line with Church doctrine. However, in a 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics, he also recognised the difficult situation of bishops and priests who often are under government pressure to cooperate.

The pope said the Vatican “leaves the decision to the individual bishop” regarding the appropriateness of cooperating in particular situations.
Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan seen with Pope John Paul II in this file photo. The Korean Church leader had pledged his corneas. CNS photo

SEOUL – A surge in organ donation pledges after Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan’s death is continuing among Catholics in Korea.

The annual report of Catholic NGO One-body One-spirit Movement (OBOS) on Dec 3 showed that 28,294 Catholics promised to donate their organs this year.

“We expected that the organ donations will decrease as Cardinal Kim’s influence declines. However, the number did not decrease much compared to last year,” said OBOS public relations officer Emiliana Ryu Jung-hee.

Cardinal Kim’s death last year ignited an increase in organ donations with a total of 31,868 pledges, almost outnumbering the total number of pledges over the last 20 years. The cardinal’s corneas were donated upon his death last February, fulfilling one of his last wishes.

The former Seoul archbishop was an iconic figure in South Korea’s transition from military rule to democracy. He died in 2009 from respiratory problems.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church has offered various activities to sustain social interest in organ donations.

Last February, the Pro-life Activities under the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea established the National Catholic Network for Organ Donations for a nationwide campaign.

In September, OBOS jointly formed the Korea Donation Network with Buddhists and medical experts.
YANGON – Cyclone Giri victims from Rakhine State, western Myanmar, are still suffering hardship nearly two months after the storm hit.

The Catholic Church, NGOs and other associations say they hope people will help through the Giri Relief Committee in the season of giving.

The committee, based in Rakhine State on the Thai-Myanmar border, said in their Christmas appeal that survivors from the Oct 22 cyclone are still in need of water, food and shelter.

The UN estimates that almost US$53 million (S$70 million) of aid is needed but only US$18 million have been pledged by international donors.

Mr Francis Lampart, project director of Karuna Pyay Social Service (KPSS), the Myanmar Church’s social service, says his organisation as been distributing food and other aid to 18 villages in Myaebon and 13 villages in Minbya townships.
Archbishop Nicholas Chia has announced that Fr Gerard Weerakoon from the Church of St Francis of Assisi will be posted to the Church of St Anthony.

Fr Frederick Quek from the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour will be posted to St Francis of Assisi to take over from Fr Weerakoon.

Fr Bruno Saint Girons from the Church of St Anthony will be posted to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. All appointments take effect on Jan 17.

Fr Gerard WeerakoonFr Bruno Saint Girons
Fr Frederick Quek
Handicapped people learning life skills at the Centre for the Physically Challenged.

Caritas Singapore’s latest members – Abilities Beyond Limitations and Expectations (ABLE) and Infant Jesus Homes and Children’s Centres (IJHCC)

Abilities Beyond Limitations and Expectations (ABLE) has partnered Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA) to jointly operate the Centre for the Physically Challenged.

The Centre is ABLE’s first project, said its chairman Raymundo Yu. The partnership allows ABLE to tap into HWA’s expertise in working with the physically challenged, he told CatholicNews.

The centre, which had its soft launch on Dec 3, is located in HWA’s premises in Whampoa Drive. It offers services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, IT and vocational skills training, in-house employment opportunities and job and internship placements.

“ABLE will fund the centre … [and] provide strategic direction,” said Mr Yu.
Christmas is a good time for new beginnings. It is also a good time to re-think how we can make lifestyle changes to protect Creation.

One of the most challenging changes we can make is to simplify our life. To resist the seductive trappings of materialism is not easy. Yet, one has only to begin – even if it means taking one small step at a time.

When you live simply, you get used to coming up with ideas like baking your own cookies and packaging them in elegant glass jars with a bright ribbon to present as gifts, or stringing together pretty shell necklaces for your young nieces. You swallow your pride and give more of yourself than your things.

However, we also know that if you live in Singapore and are earning a decent income, the impulse to spend at this time of the year is strong.

So spare a thought for Mother Earth when you go on that shopping spree. Ask yourself: Do I need all this extra packaging? And do make it a habit to take a couple of reusable bags (pop them in your car or handbag) before rushing out to spend your money.

Participants of the ISAO (International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services Sub-Committee for Asia Oceania) met recently and stressed the need to collaborate with other expressions of renewal in the Church.


Collaboration with other groups involved in Church renewal and building up the next generation of Catholic Charismatics were some of the decisions made during a recent meeting of Charismatic leaders from the Asia Oceania region.

Fifteen participants from the Middle East, India, Sri Lanka, South East Asia, North Asia, met with Mrs Michelle Moran, president of the Vatican-based ICCRS (International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services), on Dec 4-5 at the Montfort Retreat Centre.

This meeting of the ISAO (ICCRS Sub-Committee for Asia Oceania) was the latest in a series of meetings since the group was formed in 2006.

ISAO aims to strengthen bonds among Catholic Charismatic groups and expressions of Church renewal in the region, convening consultations, organising events and supporting CCR in countries which are in need of help.

During the recent meeting, the challenges for the Charismatic renewal were identified. These included:

The priority of youth work for building up the next generation of leaders.
Caritas Singapore’s latest members – Abilities Beyond Limitations and Expectations (ABLE) and Infant Jesus Homes and Children’s Centres (IJHCC)

Caritas Singapore now has two new members – Abilities Beyond Limitations and Expectations (ABLE) and the Infant Jesus Homes & Children’s Centres (IJHCC).

Caritas introduced these two organisations during a special session on Dec 7.

ABLE’s mission is “to enable and empower the physically challenged to live a productive, meaningful and independent life and to be a full contributor to the community”.

Beneficiaries include all those who are born with, or acquired physical disabilities, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, language, as well as income and education level, in addition to their families and caregivers.

While the charity’s first project kicked off by partnering Handicaps Welfare Association in jointly operating the Centre for the Physically Challenged (see other story), ABLE has identified several areas of need and projects under consideration.
Michelle Moran: Important to strengthen those already serving in ministries.

The Catholic Faith Exploration (CaFE) programme aims to build up the faith community, to help it “go deeper” in terms of knowledge, experience and relationships, one of the programme’s key presenters told Catholics recently.

This is not some “self-improvement plan for parish communities” but to boost Catholics’ confidence in reaching out to others so that evangelisation can occur, said Ms Michelle Moran.

She was speaking to 150 participants at a CaFE forum at the Church of St Bernadette on Dec 7. The event was organised by the Archdiocesan CaFE Promotion Team (ACPT).

CaFE was developed in the United Kingdom in 1996 for the re-evangelisation of Catholics.

Each CaFE talk, 35-40 minutes long, is presented through video by clergy, theologians or trained laity, followed by group discussion.
Church of the Holy Trinity parishioners were invited to bring home a paper tag hung on a Christmas tree in the church foyer, which had a list of items to be purchased for needy Singaporeans.

Darren Boon highlights the efforts of three parishes

CHURCH OF THE HOLY TRINITY

Instead of monetary donations to help the needy this Advent/Christmas, Church of the Holy Trinity parishioners decided to purchase daily necessities for them.

Paper tags indicating the items needed were hung on a Christmas tree in the church foyer before the start of Advent. Parishioners then took home the tags, bought the items stated and took them back to the church during Advent.

Items included sugar, rice, cooking oil, tinned fruit, Milo and bath towel sets.

Also included were chocolates and cake rolls. Some needy Catholic families will also receive log cakes and ham for Christmas.