DECEMBER 30, 2012 Vol 62, No 26


Archbishop’s Christmas message

We have all heard that families are the cells of society. However, in the practical matter of governance, development continues to be measured more in economic terms than in less tangible, but perhaps more important terms. Have families in Singapore progressed and developed as much as other aspects of Singapore?

For Catholics, the problem of development is an important one. We must contribute in our unique and irreplaceable way to the development of the world. Families have a role to play in this development. And Catholic families will have their own specific contributions to offer. But do Catholic families have something unique to contribute? The document Familiaris Consortio (FC) offers an insight into this matter.


Archbishop’s Christmas message
I would like to state my displeasure with the article, Bishop: Halloween Is Not For Catholics (CN, Dec 2, 2012).

The bishop mentions the secular celebration of Halloween which has no place for Catholics. But the very word Halloween is “eve of All Hallows”, which is the eve of All Saints Day, a day of obligation.

When teaching my catechism students, I have always taught that although this has pagan roots, our Irish Catholics have used this as a time to prepare for the two feasts of All Saints and All Souls, and the importance of praying for our departed dear ones.

The ghosts I tell them is our human way of explaining the dead – that we should not fear them but rather pray for the souls of all those who have passed away – especially those whom they know. Viewing Halloween – with all its secularism – as not for Catholics, I feel, is the same way as how Christmas is looked at.
I refer to Audrey Thng’s letter, How To Promote Reverence In Church (CN Dec 16, 2012). I agree wholeheartedly that the spirit of prayerfulness and reverence among many Catholic parishioners leaves much to be desired in our churches.

As I was brought up in a Protestant family, I used to look upon the lackadaisical attitude of the Sunday Catholic churchgoers with some degree of disdain.

However, during my recent conversion to Catholicism, one dawning fact that opened my eyes to our universal Church was that we are a Church made up of broken and flawed people.

  The Musallam family puts final touches on a Christmas tree at their apartment in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Dec 15. CNS photo The Musallam family puts final touches on a Christmas tree at their apartment in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Dec 15. CNS photo

VATICAN CITY – The light of Christ has not dimmed over the past 2,000 years, but Christians today have an obligation to resist attempts to extinguish it, knowing that whenever societies have tried to pretend God did not exist, tragedy followed, Pope Benedict XVI said.

He made his remarks on Dec 14 during a morning audience with civic leaders and pilgrims from the town of Pescopennataro and the province of Isneria, which donated a 24-m silver fir tree for St Peter’s Square.
  Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, said the government-sanctioned Chinese bishops’ conference has no power to revoke Shanghai Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma’s appointment. Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, said the government-sanctioned Chinese bishops’ conference has no power to revoke Shanghai Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma’s appointment.SHANGHAI, CHINA – A Vatican official has sharply criticised the revocation of a China bishop’s appointment by the government-sanctioned bishops’ conference, saying that it “lacks any juridical value”.

In a statement released at the Vatican on Dec 13, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, said even legitimately established and Vatican-recognised bishops’ conferences “do not have the power to name or approve a bishop, to revoke his mandate or to impose sanctions on him”.

The Chinese bishops’ conference, which is not recognised by the Vatican, has even less power to revoke Shanghai Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin’s appointment, he said.

According to the Asian Church news agency ucanews.com, the bishops’ conference said the bishop violated their rules for episcopal ordinations.

Mr Joseph Liu Yuanlong, a vice chair of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, confirmed on Dec 12 that the association and the bishops’ conference decided to revoke Bishop Ma’s approval letter as “coadjutor” bishop and dismiss him from all posts in the association and conference.

  Mothers with their newborns wait for checkups at a hospital in Manila. Both houses of the Philippine congress have passed the Reproductive Health bill. CNS photo Mothers with their newborns wait for checkups at a hospital in Manila. Both houses of the Philippine congress have passed the Reproductive Health bill. CNS photo

The Philippine Reproductive Health bill ‘is against the goodness of family, the stability of marriage’.

– Msgr Joselito Asis, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

MANILA – Philippine Catholic leaders said they would appeal to the Supreme Court if the Reproductive Health Bill – versions of which passed the House and Senate on Dec 17 – gets signed into law.

During a news conference on Dec 18, Msgr Joselito Asis, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said if President Benigno Aquino later signs the legislation into law, the bishops would support an appeal by Catholic lawyers who claim it is unconstitutional.

“The RH bill is against the goodness of family, the stability of marriage,” Msgr Asis said. He explained that in other countries the ready availability of contraceptives had resulted in “promiscuity, premarital sex and extramarital affairs”.
SHIJIAZHUANG, CHINA – What is believed to be the first electronic Catholic calendar in mainland China became available to the public recently, tapping into the growing use of smartphones and the Internet.

Incorporating the Gregorian and Chinese lunar calendars with the Church’s Ordo (the calendar that prescribes daily Mass), the calendar also includes the breviary to make daily prayers more convenient for laity’s spiritual lives.

The “Perpetual Calendar of the Church [beta]” can be accessed via the website of Faith Press, a major Catholic publisher in northern China.
  Mary and the Christ Child are depicted in a contemporary icon.  CNS photo Mary and the Christ Child are depicted in a contemporary icon. CNS photoDear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The proclamation of Christmas is a light that shines for all people. “Emmanuel”, God-with-us, comes to dwell in our midst bringing with Him the universal message of love, hope and peace.

As we eagerly await the coming of our Saviour, we share with Mary her joyful anticipation of the Child Jesus. This great and fascinating mystery of God’s incarnation is what we celebrate at Christmas.

Jesus, “The-Word-Made-Flesh”, desires to be close to us. Amidst the glow of Christmas, we are reminded of how God so humbled Himself to take the form of a child to live with us.

Mr Tommy Ng hands out chocolate cake to young Indonesians on Rempang island.Mr Tommy Ng hands out chocolate cake to young Indonesians on Rempang island.This Christmas season, the Epiphany Mission group from the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, together with parishioners from other churches went on mission trips to Indonesia’s Riau Islands to spread Christmas cheer.

On Dec 9, the mission group and members of other parishes spent time with students of the St Ignatius Loyola School, located on Rempang island southeast of Batam.
This is a little gem of a book.

Its 61 pages condense spiritual advice from a seasoned spiritual director, a masterly summary of the case for solitude in our busy lives, and a succinct summary of three established methods of meditation and contemplation in the Christian tradition.

Written by Good Shepherd Sr Elizabeth Lim with freelance writer and regular retreatant Melanie Lee, it works at one level as a commemorative book on the Oasis centre, a serene retreat house at Marymount, nestled on a hillock overlooking MacRitchie Reservoir.

Good Shepherd Sr Elizabeth Lim (left) and Ms Melanie Lee pose with their book.Good Shepherd Sr Elizabeth Lim (left) and Ms Melanie Lee pose with their book.

Quiet Journeys explores what it means to embark on a spiritual journey through solitude, meditation and reflection

It was with the thought of encouraging people to embark on a retreat, to cultivate a habit of stillness and meditation that prompted Good Shepherd Sr Elizabeth Lim and a lay Anglican, Melanie Lee, to collaborate on a book.

Quiet Journeys: Finding Stillness in Chaos, explores what it means to embark on a quiet spiritual journey through solitude, meditation and reflection.

Campers seen here at St Anne’s Church, having completed their mission during their ‘Amazing Race’ event.Campers seen here at St Anne’s Church, having completed their mission during their ‘Amazing Race’ event.

Several Mandarin-speaking young people participated in youth camps earlier this month.

Eighty young people from Singapore and Malacca aged 12 to 21 attended the Camp held by Commission for Apostolate of Mandarin Speaking in Singapore (CAMS) at Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Nativity from Dec 13 to 16.

Forty-four local young people joined their 36 Malaysian counterparts to foster relationships, interaction and mutual learning between the two groups while deepening their own relationship with God.
Prof Tracey RowlandProf Tracey RowlandWell-known theologian Prof Tracey Rowland delivered a talk on the thinking of Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI on Dec 16.

The event was organised by the Apostolate for Catholic Truth and held in a café in South Bridge Road.

The Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ led by Sir Peter Low performing its Away in a Manger concert on Dec 16.The Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ led by Sir Peter Low performing its Away in a Manger concert on Dec 16.

Diplomats from 28 countries, along with Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, placed decorations on a Christmas tree during a concert at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd recently.

They then sang Let there be Peace on Earth together with the Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ.

The special guests were among 800 people who attended the Dec 16 choral concert titled Away in a Manger.
Dr Anne Lee poses with her recently launched books: Short Circuits, Catching Connections and Sing a Song of Mankind (Landmark Books).Dr Anne Lee poses with her recently launched books: Short Circuits, Catching Connections and Sing a Song of Mankind (Landmark Books).Dr Anne Lee’s latest collections of poems and personal sharings give the reader an insight into her remarkable journey of faith

Reading Singaporean poet Anne Lee Tzu Pheng’s latest works is akin to witnessing an artist’s spiritual journey as she shares her reflections on faith, literature and various other matters.

“Of late, I’m very much conscious of … the working of the Spirit through words,” the parishioner of the Church of St Mary of the Angels said during the launch of her three latest books at the church’s St Clare Hall.
Dr Aloysius LeongThe Church of the Risen Christ is working towards setting up a youth orchestra to provide young people with another avenue of serving the Church.

The initiative came about when Dr Aloysius Leong, who attends the church, approached parish priest Fr John Sim about performing orchestral music in the church to raise funds for cancer-stricken children.

Dr Leong is head of string music at the Australian International School.
Mr Bernard Yeo (below) handcrafted items in the Nativity scene for the church, such as the inn (above), which had no room for Mary and Joseph.Mr Bernard Yeo (below) handcrafted items in the Nativity scene for the church, such as the inn (above), which had no room for Mary and Joseph.Visitors to the Church of St Ignatius these days would be greeted by an intricately crafted Nativity scene measuring 6.7 m by 4 m.

The display, in front of the main church, is largely the work of parishioner Bernard Yeo, a businessman.

In addition to the familiar figurines of the Holy Family and the three kings, which were provided by the church, Mr Yeo handcrafted the inn that was too full to take in Mary and Joseph, a market building, a side house, a well, furniture, farm animals and a stream flowing through a miniature village.

The mission team from Singapore brings blind youths on a beach outing in Pattaya.The mission team from Singapore brings blind youths on a beach outing in Pattaya.

A group of young people from Singapore went to Pattaya, Thailand, where they interacted with orphaned children, practised English with disabled students and took blind children to the beach.

Redemptorist Fr Simon Pereira led the group of 60 young people on a Redemptorist Overseas Mission Exposure (R.O.M.E.) trip from Dec 1-9.

The primary aim of the mission was to expose the group to the culture and lifestyle of the underprivileged in Pattaya and to spread God’s love to them.

R.O.M.E trips started a couple of years ago. Seeing how it had benefited the young people in the past, Fr Simon and his team invited young people from Maris Stella High School, CHIJ Katong Convent Secondary, Church of Divine Mercy and Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour on the mission trip.
The participants experience the hard work of harvesting tapioca.The participants experience the hard work of harvesting tapioca.“Mission trips can be so fun and enriching!” said Sophia Goh, 12, from the Church of the Holy Cross, “I didn’t expect it to be so awesome. The kids I met brought smiles to my face every waking hour. I realised that we are truly blessed in Singapore.”

Goh was among the 42 participants, consisting of 17 adults, 23 children and two Verbum Dei Missionaries, who attended a five-day Family Mission Trip from Dec 5-9. The trip was organised by the Verbum Dei Missionaries to reach out to the needy people of Tagaytay City, Philippines.

“We have always organised mission trips for young working adults, but this was our very first mission trip organised for families with children from five to 15 years old,” commented Sr Sandra Seow, one of the organisers of the trip.