2007

I HAVE yet to know of any Protestant Churches that don't distribute free booklets on the Gospel of Mark, Matthew, Luke or John to non-Christians interested to know more about the Good News manifested by Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind. If these people wish to own a Bible, it is usually given to them without charge - even though a copy can be obtained from the Singapore Bible Society at a subsidized price.

I don't see the Catholic Church in Singapore doing this? Is there a reason for this?

    Nelson Quah

Singapore 650524

By Daniel Tay

171.jpgSINGAPORE - Susan Loh passed away on the morning of Christmas Eve 2006 at the age of 71. Her funeral Mass at the Church of St. Ignatius was attended by many priests and about 800 parishioners, relatives and friends. Archbishop Nicholas Chia, chaplain of the Order of Malta of which Susan Loh was a Dame, was also at the Mass, as were many members of the Order.

Dame Susan Loh is remembered for her humility in service.

Mrs Loh is known to many as a "quiet and very humble" lady who worked in many outreach projects for the marginalized. Trained as a counsellor by the Family Life Society, she worked with families experiencing difficulties, and manned the emergency phone lines for suicidal and desperate people.

Mrs Loh also brought many enquirers to Christ through the RCIA programme in the Novena Church for five years and later at the Church of St. Ignatius for three years. She helped the aged in the parish community of St. Ignatius and at various charity homes in Singapore.

She is survived by husband Alphonsus, sons Linus and Donus, and daughter Candice.

(Written with information from Dr Gabriel Oon.)

By Daniel Tay

161.jpgSINGAPORE - Many parishioners at Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace spent New Year's Eve in prayer for Father Carlo Ly who passed away peacefully two days earlier on Dec 29.

Father Ly was born on Aug 27, 1924 in the Ning Hsia Province of China. He was ordained a priest in Rome on Dec 21, 1951. Father Ly came to Singapore in 1955 and has served in the parishes of St. Teresa, St. Francis Xavier, and Our Lady Queen of Peace where he was parish priest for 34 years till his retirement in 2001. He was also the first editor for "Hai Sing Pao", the Catholic newspaper for Chinese communities. 

"He's been here for many years, and he did a lot of the groundwork [for the groups in our parish]," shared Nicholas Lee, 59, a parishioner of Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace since he was baptized in the first batch of Chinese RCIA conducted in the parish in 1988. The Chinese RCIA first began in this parish and it was started by Father Ly. He also started the first Mandarin-speaking charismatic prayer group in the diocese, and translated the Parish Renewal Experience programme into Mandarin for his parish.

Since his collapse from a stroke on Oct 1 last year, and his subsequent admittance to the hospital, Father Ly spent his remaining two months in St. Joseph's Home where he regained some ability to speak, and was able to recognize familiar faces, until he passed away.

"He was a peaceful man, very supportive and participative of our activities," said Teresa Wong, recalling how she accompanied Father Ly in his weekly pastoral visits to parishioners at homes and hospitals. "A lot of the elderly people here recognize him."

Indeed many of them were present at the wake held in the church hall from Dec 29 to Jan 1 where the various English-speaking and Mandarin-speaking church groups took turns to pray for the soul of their much-loved priest, a reflection on the harmony between the groups encouraged by Father Ly.

The funeral Mass was celebrated at the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace on the morning of Jan 2. Father Ly leaves behind two sisters in China, and one clan nephew who is a priest in Inner Mongolia.

CatholicNews published part one of Father Albert Renckens' reflection titled "Are homosexuals welcome in the Catholic Church?" in the last issue (CN, Jan 7). We have received many letters commenting on it. Here are some of them.

Are we really ignorant?

Priest's view is disturbing

Mixed feelings

Shocked

Not in line with church teaching

More confident now in serving church

I AM GRATEFUL that after so many years, we are finally brave enough to broach this subject on homosexuality and the church. This is a rather sensitive and controversial topic that many may still not be able to accept.

I myself have orientation towards people of my own sex. For many years, hard as I tried to lead a good life and do good deeds (according to the Catholic Church) I found no peace. I couldn't understand why God or the church would be disapproving if I were to pick someone of the same sex to love faithfully and wholeheartedly. I had struggled to accept this part of the teachings.

Much as I was eager and wanted to serve in ministries, I always feared that I will not be a good witness as being homosexual seemed to be contrary to church teaching. I thus felt unaccepted and hung my head down most of the time, even those times when I served in the various church ministries.

One day, I was attending a retreat when it suddenly dawned on me, that whatever the church teaches is for us to live in harmony and build the community, not to tell us plainly right from wrong. I realized that it was my feelings of guilt of being in a homosexual relationship that kept me from being who I can be. I decided to lift this part of me to God and I found the conviction and strength to stay single.

I would not expect all homosexuals to choose to stay single. I have heard that being close or in a relationship with another may not be sinful as long as we do not engage in physical activity, just like heterosexual couples. Is it true?

I am also trying to understand what is there for them if they cannot crystallize their love in marriage and feed the relationship with loving physical gestures. Is there a way for them to let themselves fall in love yet be faithful witnesses of God?

At times I still yearn for a permanent relationship which will be acceptable and supported by my family and friends, which does not seem possible as I find it really hard to find that connection with people of the opposite sex, but I thank God for giving me all these experiences to learn and grow from and especially the peace that I get from living a celibate life.

Having read the article, I am happy and feel more confident in serving in ministries knowing that I will still be welcomed and loved by the church. I am looking forward to the next part of the article.

    "Someone trying to be faithful"

Singapore

(Editor's note: The real name of the writer is not disclosed here for obvious reasons.)

THE ARTICLE IS disturbing, to say the least, not because Christian compassion is advocated for our brothers and sisters struggling with their sexual orientations, but because Father Renckens' arguments and claims are clearly not in line with Catholic moral teaching.

Father Renckens seems to sacrifice objective truth for compassion and political correctness. As a result, everyone I know who has read this article is confused about the diocesan position on this subject.

The analogies used in comparing natural dispositions like height and race to disordered sexual orientations defy common sense and is irrelevant. There is little distinction in this article between homosexual persons and homosexual lifestyles, attitudes and practices. At certain points in this write-up, there are implicit suggestions that support such choices and cohabitations.

Father Renckens implies that homosexuals sometimes leave the Catholic Church for other churches because of the lack of openness and support in traditional Catholic teachings. Should we change doctrine then just to keep different communities happy and comfortable in the church? Reading on, it becomes hard to distinguish between relativism and human compassion. The article blurs moral boundaries for the most part and is a confusing conundrum of thoughts.

The only reference to official church teaching in this long article comes in two short paragraphs at the very end. Even then, he quotes from a privately authored book and not the Catechism of the Catholic Church or some other conciliar document. That's selective reasoning enough, but Father goes even further to question the wisdom and righteousness of church teaching in the second half of his quotation, and ends part one of his discourse with a hope that future churchdocuments will evolve to reflect his personal theology.

In all fairness, this is only part one of a two-part reflection, confined to the safe refuge of a column entitled "Viewpoints". And the author could well clarify his intentions and doctrinal fidelities in the next issue.

Nevertheless, this is the sharing of a Catholic priest published under the banner of the official diocesan newspaper, under the auspices of the archbishop, and with a major circulation. It's safe to say there is no such thing as a personal viewpoint under those conditions; especially when those views are given more than half a page.

What message is being communicated here - that the diocese tacitly endorses such reckless expositions from its priests, or that the editors of CatholicNews don't even check the orthodoxy of its content? I believe that it's neither, but simply that things sometimes slip through.

I hope that this little reminder will improve the journalistic quality of a Catholic newspaper we've all come to appreciate, and which I pray we can still confidently bring home to our families and children.

    Thomas Tan

Singapore

AS FAR AS I know, anyone (including homosexuals and six-feet tall people) are welcome in the church as long as they follow the church's teachings. I am shocked to read in this article the following phrase: "I hope that in the future documents, the homosexual orientation will be understood as a 'variant' or 'diversity' of our human condition". The church is quite clear on homosexuality.

As conclusion of the attached Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clarification dated June 2003 states: "The church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself."

    Christian Frippiat

Singapore

WE READ THE article with mixed feelings. On the one hand, we are glad that CN has taken the step to feature an article on the subject of homosexuality, to educate/inform the general public. This is long overdue. On the other hand, we are concerned that the approach taken in the article may unwittingly confuse the general public.

1) Rather than accept the labelling "homosexuals", would a reference such as "people with homosexual orientation/inclinations" be more accurate? They are man or woman, and not a third sex called "homosexuals". At the least this point should be clearly made. The person and the action (or tendency to the act) is different. If they are different, the person has a choice, a freedom of will to act. Labelling tends to combine the person and the act as one and the same.

2) The article tends to give the impression that it is a fact that such people are born (created) with this orientation - i.e. it is "natural" (which then makes it easy to say the homosexual act is "natural"). The comparison with people who are born "taller" or of a certain race, tends to again emphasize the author's opinion that this is an inborn characteristic (similar to height or race). Is this indeed the case? When we last read the many websites on this subject, the information suggested that, as yet, there is no scientific evidence to support this opinion. Does the author (or CN) have new scientific evidence accepted by the church, to support this opinion?

3) Towards the end of the article, the author states his disagreement with the church's teachings, and reiterates his opinion that "homosexual orientation" should be "understood as a 'variant' or 'diversity' of our human condition". The CN is not a publication directed at a special audience - for example, clergy - to debate the teachings of the church. The CN is a means of communicating to the general public, who may or may not be well versed in such matters. The average reader tends to accept what is written without much question (except for a minority who may or may not write in to ask for clarification). And when an article is authored by a priest, it has even greater weight/influence on the average reader.

4) The key message is that we should all treat every human being (man or woman, and not describe them as heterosexuals or homosexuals) with love. Might it not be more effective to just talk about man or woman? Or that all man or woman, however different they are (whether with homosexual inclinations or other inclinations), should be treated with the same love and respect and not be discriminated against? Or that any discrimination should be on the act, and not on the person?

5) Perhaps the second instalment of the article will address/clarify the subject. Unfortunately, some may not get to read it. Even if they do, an impression is already formed and this impression will cause the reader to be unconsciously biased, even while reading subsequent articles. If an average reader, after reading this first article, goes away with the impression that "homosexuality" is "natural" (even if the thrust of the article is on homosexual "inclinations") and cannot be  changed (i.e. controlled by free will, mistaking the reference to homosexual "inclination" as reference to the homosexual act), then further clarification on this would be an uphill task. It would have been better then, to have had one complete article instead of two instalments.

    Thomas & Cecilia Chia

Singapore

I AM NOT against our brothers and sisters with a homosexual orientation. But Father Renckens' views seem to go beyond orientation.

It was saddening to read such views from a priest and also disturbing that it was allowed to go to print. It was rather evident that Father Renckens holds quite deviant views from church teachings on the subject. While it was stated upfront that this is Father Renckens' personal views, Father Renckens surely must know that generally in this diocese, priests are still regarded very highly, and rightfully so given the holy office that they have been called for. As such, many a laity regard priests' views almost to be Gospel truth. In the Catholic social context, the priest is still regarded as the teacher of the faith.

It is quite hard to fathom a teacher sharing, on a public platform, personal views which are opposed to that which he is supposed to be teaching and upholding. Father Renckens is certainly entitled to his personal views but it is quite something else when expressed on such a forum.

Father Renckens' analogy comparing homosexuals to those born above six feet is rather odd to say the least. Points 7 and 8 in Father Renckens' article seem to point to a liberal stand towards homosexual unions.

Father draws similarity between marriage and homosexual unions solely from an economic standpoint. I quote "Both can be working outside, or one works outside while the other is part- time or full-time homemaker." I am sure Father Renckens knows that the marriage relationship goes much further and deeper than mere economics.

In point 8 Father Renckens says that the homosexual relationship does not undermine marriage since it is only open to homosexuals who are unable to enter into marriage. Father Renckens also adds that such relationships are "better than loose contacts". Does this also mean that if I am divorced, it is alright for me to enter into a permanent relationship with another woman since this will only be open to divorcees and it is better than having loose contacts?

Father Renckens clearly disagrees with church documents and expresses hope that future documents would be in line with his thoughts - individualism above the collective wisdom of the church and objectivity. I hope the above points from a lay perspective are worthy enough to be considered and that we can expect a clarification on the local church's stand on this.

I conclude with the words of our Holy Father just before the conclave in which he was elected, "Beware the dictatorship of relativism".

    Francis Pushpam

Singapore 529239

NOT ONLY DO I disagree with Father Renckens' opinions on such a topic, but I also think that both his style of writing and explanations may mislead young or lapsed Catholics into thinking that the church endorses homosexuality and homosexual unions. This is especially so when it is printed in CatholicNews.

Throughout his nine points which claim to clarify homosexuality, Father Renckens plays up empathy for homosexuals by stating that they are ostracized, lonely, have no choice over their "nature" and he suggests that such relationships can be permanent and stable. But through the article he fails to differentiate between active homosexuals who display affection openly with their partners and those who live their Christian vocation faithfully despite their difficulties. Instead, he says that there is nothing wrong with their sexual orientation and that asking homosexuals to deny their orientation is an ignorant request equivalent to asking them to change their race. This line of reasoning is highly illogical and weak.

In the first place, homosexuals are welcome in the church, as God loves us all. Secondly, the church does not force anyone to change their sexual orientation but challenges all to live chastely and responsibly. Being homosexual does not mean that one cannot be in a state of grace. However, nobody is forced to be Catholic. This is a choice every individual makes for himself and having chosen to be Catholic, he should be obedient to church teachings.

There has been tremendous debate on whether homosexuality is nature or nurtured, but there has been no conclusive scientific evidence to date. As such, I feel that it is unfair for the writer to assert such sweeping statements on their sexual orientation, and, in so doing, try to change church teachings on the subject. This is all the more regrettable when it comes from a priest.

Our priests in this diocese need to understand that their words and actions have great impact on the Catholic community and thus should exercise more responsibility in how they live, act and speak.

    Evonne Lee

Singapore 760625

Bishops concerned over effects on society and marriage.

By Father John Flynn

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA (ZENIT) - Pornography is like a plague ravaging the souls of people and destroying marriages. So warned Bishop Paul Loverde in a pastoral letter entitled "Bought With a Price: Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of God".

In the document, published late last year, the bishop of Arlington explained that the arrival of new communications technologies such as the Internet, satellite television and cell phones, is allowing pornography to reach more and more people. 

"Today perhaps more so than at any time previously, man finds his gift of sight and therefore his vision of God distorted by the evil of pornography," he wrote. "It obscures and destroys people's ability to see one another as unique and beautiful expressions of God's creation, instead darkening their vision, causing them to view others as objects to be used and manipulated." 

Bishop Loverde also noted that the experience of pornography "changes the way men and women treat one another in sometimes dramatic but often subtle ways".

Today's culture, he continued, often considers pornography as merely a private weakness, or even as a legitimate pleasure. In fact, it is a grave offence, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in No. 2354.

Its immorality stems from the distortion of the truth about human sexuality. Thus, what should be the expression of a married couple's intimate union of life and love, "is reduced to a demeaning source of entertainment and even profit for others".

In addition, the pastoral letter continued, pornography violates chastity because it introduces impure thoughts into the viewer's mind and often leads to unchaste acts, such as masturbation or adultery.

It is also an offence against justice. This is so because of the grave injury to the dignity of its participants, each one of whom becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others.

"Everyone involved in the production, distribution, sale, and use of pornography cooperates and, to some degree, makes possible this debasement of others," Bishop Loverde warned.

(continued on page 2)

Family harm

The letter also warned of pornography's harm to the family and marriage: "Since it immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world, a man's use of pornography turns his attention and affection away from his wife."

Moreover, the consumerist view of sexuality promoted by pornography damages women and makes it difficult for both men and women to prepare for married fidelity.

Within marriage the use of pornography "is a violation of the commitment of marriage", the prelate noted. Its use by one of the partners in a marriage will lead to feelings of rejection and betrayal, which, if not healed, will often lead to the permanent destruction of the marital commitment.

Bishop Loverde also rebutted the argument commonly used to defend pornography, that there are no victims. In fact, he argued, the pornography industry frequently preys on the vulnerable and the needy, enticing them into dangerous behaviour.

Downloading

The bishop's concerns are well founded. Last May 28 the British newspaper "Independent" published the results of a study on the use of the Internet to access pornography. According to a survey carried out by Nielsen NetRatings, almost 40 percent of the male population in Britain used pornographic websites in the previous year.

The survey also found that more than half of all children have encountered pornography on the Internet "while looking for something else".

Meanwhile, in Australia, the Melbourne-based "Age" newspaper warned in a Jun 4 article that Internet affairs have replaced the office romance as a main cause of marriage breakups.

The article cited marriage counsellors as saying they are seeing "more relationships shattered by secret cyber love trysts than ever, while lawyers report a rise in Internet-related divorces".

In the United States, an article in the "Christian Science Monitor" of Aug 16 dealt with the role pornography can play in fomenting criminal behaviour.

It is clear that not everyone with an addiction to pornography becomes violent or commits sexual crimes. But, warned Corydon Hammond, co-director of the Sex and Marital Therapy Clinic at the University of Utah: "I don't think I've ever yet seen an adult sex offender who was not involved with pornography."

(continued on page 3)

A cancer

Justifiably, then, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia described pornography as "a cancer upon contemporary culture".

"Violence, sexual abuse, psychological trauma and ruptured relationships are the fruit of pornography," he said. The cardinal asked that parents take steps to ensure that such material is not freely available to their children.

He also encouraged all to go beyond the superficial attractions of pornography, to what is the true beauty of marital love, "a love that is both unitive and procreative, a love that mirrors the sacrificial love of Christ for his church".

Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Florida, has advised parents to be careful about buying gadgets that will give children access to pornography. He explained that with mobile devices such as phones, PDAs, and video iPods, "your child will be able to access all the pornography available on the Internet". And if adults and marriages can be harmed by pornography, then children are more vulnerable still.

"Bought With a Price: Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of God" is available at www.arlingtondiocese.org.

When you celebrate your wedding anniversary, it is important to not just have a party and an external renewal of the marriage vow but also to have a renewal of spirit and commitment to build a happier and more intimate relationship, writes Father Henry Siew. 

WHEN YOU DO NOT choose to make adjustments to enrich your spousal relationship, you are likely to stagnate or to regress in your married life. Your current marital situation is different from that when you were just married, and different from last year's. There have been changes in you, as individuals and as a couple: in appearance; in outlook on life; in the level of physical, emotional and spiritual maturity; in your jobs, financial and social status, assets and liabilities; and in your support network and the environment. Therefore you cannot be fixated in your past manner of communication, or power sharing or role play. You need to change your time and financial management, your method of coping with stress and conflicts, etc.

Your choices must be honest, realistic and positive. Good choices enhance your marriage while poor ones inhibit it.

Areas to recommit yourself

Choose anew your spouse; make the spousal relationship the first priority in human relationships.

Make a decision to love and care for your spouse. Accept his or her expression of love for you. Learn the language of love preferred by your spouse - hold her hand; drop your work to listen to him; praise her effort to cook dinner even when she is tired; leave him alone for a while when he is upset; help to do household chores, etc.

Take the initiative and be creative. Do not expect the other to take action while you wait and see. Find ways to make your togetherness more pleasurable and intimate. Give time and heart to your marital and familial affairs; give of yourself. Do not take things and people for granted. If you sense something amiss in your relationship, have the courage to dialogue about it, to self-examine, and to find concrete ways to address the problem.

Affirm yourself and make an effort to grow your personhood. Resolve to be responsible and diligent in fulfilling your agreed roles and functions. Be courageous to express your needs and make your requests known, and be gracious enough to accept rejection and alternatives.

Nurture yourself by upgrading your skills and knowledge so that you can be of greater service to yourself and your spouse. Be courageous to abandon your bad attitudes and behaviours, and learn to acquire good habits, so that you can be a more pleasant person to live with.

(continued on page 2)

Other positive choices to make

Learn to be honest with your feelings and acquire the skills to express them amiably to your spouse. Watch out for your spouse's attempt to communicate his/her feelings by verbal or non- verbal expressions, and be attentive. Use the positive language of love to show praise, affirmation, acceptance and encouragement. Avoid the negative language of hate; do not accuse, condemn, criticize and discourage.

Be optimistic and positive. Recognize the pains, disillusions, struggles and conflicts you have experienced in marriage. But also treasure the joys and satisfactions you have experienced together. Be attentive to your own good qualities and that of your spouse.

Be patient and hopeful. Trust that your positive attitude and efforts can bear fruits of good will and happiness. Believe that by sharing the common desire to renew your marriage and that by putting action to wish, you can build a brighter tomorrow together.

Keep God as the centre of your married life. Trust him to be the source, the model and the sustainer of your love. Consider God's purposes for your marital relationship: Leave your parents and be united as one with your spouse; love your spouse as Christ loves the church; take care of your spouse just like you take care of your body; make a lifelong commitment; give life to each other and to your children; and turn to God in prayer in good times and bad.

Annually, as you approach your wedding anniversary, renew your effort to better your spousal relationship. Choose again your spouse to be the person you want to commit your affection, time and energy to. Thank God for the gift of this companion on your life journey. Decide that you will not allow work, children, entertainment or other things to distract you from your dedication to your spouse.

FrHenrySiew1.jpgFather Henry Siew, parish priest of St. Anne's Church, is the spiritual director to Mandarin Marriage Encounter Weekend.

151.jpgWASHINGTON - (CNS) - The recent announcement by scientists at Wake Forest and Harvard universities that the amniotic fluid surrounding a child in the womb can be the source of medically useful stem cells is just the latest in a series of studies showing the research value of the byproducts of live birth, according to the deputy director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

Dr. Anthony Atala is pictured in his lab at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston- Salem, N.C. The recent announcement by scientists at Wake Forest and Harvard universities that the amniotic fluid surrounding a child in the womb can be the source of medically useful stem cells is the latest in a series of studies showing the research value of the byproducts of live birth. CNS photo

Richard M. Doerflinger told Catholic News Service on Jan 8 that various studies have shown that the placenta, cord blood, the umbilical cord itself and other byproducts of birth "may all contain very versatile stem cells, with many of the advantages of embryonic stem cells without the practical disadvantages or moral problems".

"With four million live births every year in our country alone, an ample supply of these cells lies readily at hand," he added.

The study was reported on Jan 7 in the online edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology and included research by scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

The U.S. House of Representatives was expected to vote on Jan 11 on expanded federal funding of stem-cell research involving the destruction of human embryos. President George W. Bush vetoed a similar measure in July, and the 109th Congress failed to override the veto.

In the journal article, Dr. Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest institute said he and his colleagues had used stem cells derived from amniotic fluid to create muscle, bone, fat, blood, nerve and liver cells in the laboratory.

"It has been known for decades that both the placenta and amniotic fluid contain multiple progenitor cell types from the developing embryo, including fat, bone and muscle," said Atala in a statement. "We asked the question, 'Is there a possibility that within this cell population we can capture true stem cells?' The answer is yes."

Doerflinger said it is "especially ironic" that the frozen embryos that some scientists want to destroy for stem cells "may produce more beneficial stem cells if allowed to survive and be born".

"New life, not premature death, may show us the way to a brighter medical future," he added.

Up close and personal: Marist Brothers

The Marist Brothers came to Singapore in 1949 and have contributed significantly to Catholic education since, writes Sister Wendy Ooi, fsp.

131.jpg

St. Marcellin Champagnat

1789-1840

Founder and history

SAINT MARCELLIN CHAMPAGNAT was born in 1789, the ninth of 10 children of a farmer, near St. Etienne (Loire), a mountain village in the south of France. Marcellin Champagnat grew up during the French Revolution and did not begin his formal education until he was 15 years old. He surprised his family and friends when he decided to be a priest and, despite many difficulties, was ordained.

The region of Marlhes in which the young priest lived and worked had been badly affected by the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. The local community was poor and uneducated, and ignorant in religious matters. Many of the young were abandoned.

An experience of administering the last sacrament to a dying 17-year old boy who was totally ignorant of basic Catholic beliefs traumatized Marcellin. This incident moved him to encourage two young men to join him in forming the Marist Brothers in 1817. They established a network of village schools catering especially to poor children. The Brothers also ministered to the handicapped and established hostels for the young; they cared for the sick and catechized adults.

Marcellin shattered the conventional wisdom of his day when he set about to establish equal opportunities for the poor among whom he lived.

"I see the urgent need there is to create a society capable of providing children in remote villages with the same quality education that other Religious Orders are giving to children in big cities, but at a lower cost," he said.

The educational philosophy of Marcellin was simple: To teach children one must love them, and secular subjects should be well taught as a means of attracting children to the schools, where they would learn the basic elements of their faith. Marcellin saw God at the centre of life and the Virgin Mary as a model of faith and discipleship.

"Our field of work lies in every diocese of the world," he used to tell his Brothers. When he died in 1840, aged 51, there were 48 Marist schools in France and Oceania and 280 Brothers. By 1856 there were 300 houses and more than 1,500 Brothers.

The Marist Brothers Institute was formally approved in 1863 by Pope Pius IX. Marcellin was beatified in 1955, and canonized on Apr 18, 1999.

At their most numerous, the Marist Brothers numbered about 10,000. Today there are more than 4,300 Brothers working in 76 countries. Over 40,000 laypeople share the Marist mission and spirituality and together with the Brothers educate close to 500,000 children and youth worldwide.

The Marist Brothers are part of the Marist Family which comprises the Marist Fathers, the Marist Sisters, the Marist Missionary Sisters, and the Marist Laity.

(continued on page 2)

A Marian apostolic spirituality in solidarity with the poor

THE MARIST BROTHERS are religious consecrated to God, and they follow Jesus in the way that Mary did. They live in community and dedicate themselves in a special way to the education of children and young people, with a preference for those who are the most neglected.

Marcellin's motto was "All to Jesus through Mary, all to Mary for Jesus." For the Brothers, imitating Mary means bringing the world to God, serving others, being friendly and warmhearted without being famous.

The last General Chapter of the Marist Brothers states: "We feel called to insist that solidarity is an essential element of our way of educating, and to place our works at the service of the poor. Today, more than ever before, the number of the poor and marginalized is increasing, people to whom no one is announcing the Good News. Out of faithfulness to Christ and Marcellin, we feel called to breathe new life into the Montagne experience, to educate in and for solidarity as a powerful means of working for evangelization."

"How important your work is! How great! At every stage of history, people must read the signs of the times to discover how to communicate God's love to the young, to free them from the problems that they grapple with in striving to reach their full potential. Today, given the world of children and young people as it is, to be a Marist - brother or lay person - and to commit one's entire life to this endeavour is not only possible but most worthwhile," founder Marcellin wrote.

"We seek out young people wherever they may be, even at the risk of entering unexplored territory where their need for Christ is evident in their material and spiritual poverty" (Constitutions n. 83).

The Marist Brothers continue to venture into places where they have never gone before, where the light of the Gospel is having a difficult time breaking through. Throughout the Institute many efforts are underway to get in touch with alienated young people and the vexing problems they face. New communities are springing up to respond to their urgent needs. Brothers and an increasing number of lay people are working together to fulfil the Marcellin vision.

Marist goals

The three ends:

- Our salvation

- The salvation of our neighbour

- Fidelity to the Roman Catholic Church

The four cornerstones:

- Humility

- Obedience

- Poverty

- Brotherly Love

The three 'no's

We say 'no' to:

- Pride

- Power

- Greed

(continued on page 3)

Ministry in Singapore

THE MARIST BROTHERS in Singapore belong to the Singapore-Malaysia-Hong Kong-China Province. The first Brothers went to China in 1891 and to Singapore in 1949.

Their first ministry was St. Teresa Sino-English School, the school of St. Teresa parish, which had 100 students in Primary One to Four. Classes for Primary Five and Six were added in 1953 and when the Brothers left the school in 1954, the student population was 300. Also, in 1949, four Marist Brothers were invited to teach at Catholic High School in Singapore.

The school had been founded by Father Becheres, MEP, with the help of some alumni of the Marist-run Sacred Heart College in Canton (now known as Guangzhou). A year later the Brothers took responsibility for the administration of Catholic High; a primary section was opened in 1951, and then a boarding house for Catholic students. Under the care of the Brothers the school developed but in 1974 the administration was handed back to the diocese.

The school which the Marist Brothers are most known for today is Maris Stella. It was founded in 1958 by Brother Joche Chanel in response to the overwhelming demand for places in Catholic High School.

In its first year, Maris Stella had 300 students with four Primary One classes and four Secondary One classes, and a staff of 11. The school first borrowed the premises of St. Stephen School (run by the La Salle Brothers) and taught the students in the afternoon. As the classes expanded, Maris Stella functioned at different premises concurrently. It was only in 1967 that Maris Stella moved to its own premises at Mount Vernon Road, where it remains.

Brother Joche Chanel was its principal until his retirement in 1981 and he expanded the school greatly. Its present principal since 1984, Brother Anthony Tan, added many facilities, and initiated programmes to train lay teachers in sharing the Marist spirit so that today the Brothers' mission of "Making Jesus known and loved among children and young people" has become a shared mission with effective and committed lay teachers.

Maris Stella Kindergarten was started during the early 1970s in collaboration with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Sisters who carried out the day-to-day running. The Marist Brothers provided the facilities and management. The FMM Sisters headed the kindergarten until the 1990s when a lay principal was appointed. The kindergarten continues to function today under the management of the Marist Brothers with 20 staff members and 350 students in pre-Nursery, Nursery, and Kindergarten classes.

Marist Brothers in Singapore

These Marist Brothers are located in Singapore:

- Brother Kevin Doheny (nursing home)

- Brother Noel Wang (nursing home)

- Brother Joseph Dufresse Chang

- Brother Anthony Tan

- Brother Thomas Chin

Brother John Lek - the only Singaporean Marist Brother is currently a missionary abroad.

(continued on page 4)

Left to right, Marist Brothers Thomas Chin, Joseph Dufresse Chang, and Anthony Tan strive to "follow Christ as Mary did", dedicating their life to the apostolate of Christian education to the young.

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Brother Joseph Dufresse Chang, FMS, 80, was born in China. He entered the congregation in Beijing. In the late 1940s he escaped from the communists by fleeing to Hong Kong and Macau.

He came to Singapore in 1952 after studying in the United States and served as teacher and then principal (1960-1974) at Catholic High School. Fluent in Italian, French, English and Chinese, he still occasionally does translation work. He worked in Rome as the congregation's archivist for six years, returning to Singapore in 1994.

Brother Joseph loves classical music and plays the organ, piano and violin. "Religious life keeps me alive, bodily and spiritually," he said.

Brother Thomas Chin, FMS, 57 joined the Marist Brothers when he was just 12 after his parish priest introduced the congregation to him. Trained primarily in Malaysia, he was both teacher and principal in schools run by the Marist Brothers in Malaysia. He also served as Provincial Superior for nine years for the province of Singapore-Malaysia-Hong Kong-China.

Today the province has 33 Brothers and is in the process of restructuring to include the Philippines and Korea.

Since last year, Brother Thomas has been located in Singapore where he manages the Maris Stella Kindergarten and is responsible for the two elderly Marist Brothers living in nursing homes.

On what appealed him to him as a Marist Brother, Brother Thomas shared that he found the life attractive and meaningful. "It's a calling that is worth responding to; there are joys, efforts and pain. Work can be rewarding when you have direct contact with the people. Everything is worthwhile if looked at from faith."

(continued on page 5)

Brother Anthony Tan, FMS, 59, whose mother was Buddhist and father Taoist, was anti- Christian when he was young. However his experience as a student in Catholic High in Petaling Jaya (Malaysia), which was run by the Marist Brothers, changed him.

"What changed my mindset was the way the Brothers taught, and their constant, personal touch and presence to you as a person," he said. "I was taught by German and Irish Brothers and the way they carried on, their sense of purpose and compassion, really inspired me."

At 15, Anthony was baptized and started to attend daily Mass at his parish which was run by the Jesuits. At 18, he entered the Marist Brothers as he wanted to be like his teachers who had "come from all over the world, left their home to come to teach and who were leading a challenging and meaningful life".

Brother Anthony spent his formation years in Singapore, Australia and Switzerland and did his religious studies in the Philippines. He taught in Maris Stella High School for eight years before running the school as its principal for the past 22 years. Brother Anthony described his ministry as one that calls for "passion, commitment and guts".

"Our value is anchored on believing in what we're doing," he elaborated. "It's a different value system but it's a ministry that is most satisfying - you touch lives, change people's lives, affect the way they live, give them hope, help them find meaning in life, and motivate them to something." He added that the Marist Brothers' focus is "not so much school results - that is de facto - but what kind of person do we educate".

Brother Anthony takes pride in having many Maris Stella alumni and faculty members choosing to be baptized after being exposed to the Catholic faith in the school, and remaining staunch and committed Catholics.

"The ethos of the school is to nurture faith; we walk and talk our faith and the Christian message. Prayer is part of the school culture, we pray a lot, in the mornings, at meetings. We sow the seeds, the Holy Spirit will do the work," he added.

In recent years, Brother Anthony has been encouraging his Catholic teachers to attend a sponsored diploma course in Religious Education offered by the Singapore Pastoral Institute. He sees this as part of the faith journey of the school as the school depends much on its teachers. "Ultimately," said Brother Anthony, "life is not dependent on us but the providence of God in many things."

On religious life, Brother Anthony said, "It depends on how you respond to it. Trotting the road is never easy. You cannot look back, counting the cost when you face difficulties. Personal prayer and personal commitment is the key to perseverance."

More information on the Marist Brothers can be found at www.champagnat.org/en/220000000.htm. For vocation inquiries contact Brother Thomas Chin at 6281 6653 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

- View the complete list of religious orders in Singapore

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SINGAPORE - Archbishop Nicholas Chia recently launched "Called & Chosen", a collection of the vocation stories of 17 local Diocesan priests. The book launch took place at the Saint Francis Xavier Major Seminary on Dec 3.

"Called & Chosen" is produced by the Serra Club of Singapore. The 17 stories tell of the personal struggles that each priest faced and how through the grace of God, these men came to fulfil God's will for them.

Archbishop Nicholas Chia (extreme right) blesses the launch of "Called and Chosen" on Dec 3. Photo by Victor Teh

The stories were put together through various means - by interviewing the priests, transcribing the stories as they were shared at prayer sessions to pray for more vocations or from materials supplied by the priest themselves. Among the stories told are those of "veteran" priests Archbishop Nicholas Chia, Msgr Francis Lau and Father Alfred Chan and newly ordained priests Fathers Valerian Cheong, Christopher Lee, Damian De Wind and Anthony Kenny Tan.

Serra Club of Singapore is distributing the book at parishes and schools where they hold Eucharistic Adoration for Vocations or prayers for vocations and at other vocation promotion events. They are also being sold in some parishes at $4 each.

(continued on page 2)

Other Serra Club programmes

SINGAPORE - "Friends of Serra Club" launched last year by the Serra Club of Singapore have in just six months recruited 1,000 Friends.

These Friends have pledged to pray a minimum of one hour every month in front of the Blessed Sacrament for more young men to answer the call to the priesthood, for seminarians and for priests.

Sean Yeo, (second from left in photo) President of Serra Club, said that "for next year, we have set a target to recruit 2,000 more Friends".

Those interested in becoming a Friend of Serra Club, may visit www.serrasingapore.org.

The Serra Club also has a programme to collaborate with parishes, Catholic schools and universities which wish to host an hour of "Eucharistic Adoration for Vocations".

101.jpgA good head, a good heart, and good health are pre-requisites for those whishing to join the seminary, says Father William Goh, rector of St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary, in an interview with Daniel Tay of CatholicNews, to clarify the entry requirements for candidates to the seminary. 

Discernment process and entry requirements

The discernment of whether or not a person is called to the priestly vocation takes about one and a half years, said Father William. During this time, spiritual directors aid the aspirant in examining their real motives for wanting to join the priesthood.

Those with a calling undergo a purification of their real motives, and are encouraged to work in parish ministry to better understand parish life. The discernment process also includes a psychological test, and an eight-day silent retreat which helps aspirants to be more certain of their calling.

071.jpgSINGAPORE - Zhonglian Center (China Catholic Communication) has produced a hong bao with a picture of the Holy Family for the Lunar New Year to be celebrated on Feb 18 this year.

The hong bao, with money in it, is traditionally given during the festive season to the youngand the elderly, to employees and others. Zhonglian said that its hong bao design takes into consideration Chinese culture and Christian beliefs.

For example, the use of the fish symbol reminds us that the early church used the symbol of a fish to gather the early Christians. Fish ("Yu" in Chinese) has a special meaning, Zhonglian said. "Yu" meaning "abundance" in Chinese has the same pronunciation as "fish" in Chinese. "Yu" (meaning "abundance") is also used in the favourite Lunar New Year greeting of "nian nian you yu", a wish for yearly abundance. 

The hong bao project is done in collaboration with the parishes of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and St. Anne's Church which plan to give the red envelopes free to their parishioners.

Some hong baos will be made available for sale at some parishes at S$2.00 a pack of 10 and at S$2.50 at Carlo Bookshop and Novena Bookshop.

SINGAPORE - The Church of Sts. Peter & Paul organized an evening of thanksgiving for the year 2006 as well as celebrations to lead the church into the New Year 2007 on Dec 31.

The programme included candlelight Divine Mercy devotion, thanksgiving Mass, a procession of the Blessed Sacrament, healing, praise and worship. A carnival was also held.

(By Thomas Tan)

SINGAPORE - Eleven students, aged 14 to 17, participated in a mission exposure to the centre of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Tanjong Balai, Indonesia recently. The programme was organized by Young Christian Students (YCS) Singapore, and structured such that the participants would learn about the importance of stewardship of their God-given time, talent and treasures. 

They had many opportunities to practice good stewardship by sharing these gifts with those at Tanjong Balai, helping and bringing joy to the community there - including painting a chapel and house where the religious sisters lived and teaching English songs at the nearby schools.

There were also many interactive sessions, reflections and prayer during the five-day programme to ensure that learning takes place, and the transformation that results will endure, explained Daphne Koh, full-time animator and coordinator for YCS.

On the lessons she has brought home with her, participant Cheryl Goh, 15, said, "I learnt that even with the simplest things on earth, one could be satisfied, and happier than any other being with the most advanced stuff. After this mission exposure, I want to look at things from a more positive perspective and stop grumbling at my life. I hope to spread more smiles to others and be more selfless."

Prior to the mission exposure trip, members of YCS also helped raised funds for the church and schools at Tanjong Balai, by selling flags at Church of Sts. Peter & Paul, selling Christmas cards, and requesting for donations from YCS alumni members.

YCS is a Catholic student movement currently in five secondary schools - Catholic High School, Holy Innocents' High School, Montfort Secondary School, St. Joseph's Institution and CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls' School.

For more information, please email Daphne Koh at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

(Written with information from Daphne Koh.)

By Daniel Tay

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SINGAPORE - To mark the opening of the new legal year together with thanksgiving for the past year, the Catholic Lawyers Guild celebrated the Red Mass on Jan 4 at Church of St. Alphonsus (Novena Church). The Mass and the dinner which followed were attended by lawyers, academics, students and others in the legal profession.

Left, a set of court robes, which are worn by lawyers in open court hearings in the Supreme Court, are offered up. The robes are symbolic tools of the trade for lawyers in the Catholic Lawyers Guild.

The custom of a special Mass for the Bench and Bar arose in the early 13th century, with the first recorded Red Mass being celebrated in Paris in 1245.

In England, the tradition of the Red Mass began about 1310. The entire Bench and Bar attended the Red Mass together at the opening of each term of Court. The Mass was celebrated in honour of the Holy Spirit, for which red vestments were worn. The judges of the High Court at that time, who were all doctors of law, also wore red robes. Hence, the celebrations became popularly known as the Red Mass.

Today the Red Mass is attended by judges, lawyers, and officials of all faiths who ask God to bless, strengthen, and enlighten civic and religious leaders, all servants of the law, and all people of faith, so that in cooperation and mutual trust, justice and freedom for all may be more effectively achieved.

By Joyce Gan

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SINGAPORE - Archbishop Nicholas Chia ushered in the first day of the 2007 school year at Catholic High School by blessing the school on Jan 3.

Since March 2005, the school has been operating from its Bishan premises which had undergone PRIME (Programme for Rebuilding and IMproving Existing Schools) but the new buildings had not been blessed until now. 

Right, Archbishop Nicholas Chia opens the new school year at Catholic High with a Mass and blessing of the school. Here, he is making his way around the school to bless the offices and classrooms, accompanied by Catholic High teachers.

The School Management Committee and members of the Catholic High Alumni have, in the meantime, placed a crucifix in every classroom and made other improvements to the school's infrastructure from funds raised through fairs and donations.

"The school now boasts a beautiful Catholic environment where a grotto, crucifixes and Bible verses adorn the halls and gardens," said Mary Victor, a teacher in charge of Catholic activities  programmes. "We really wanted everything in place before the blessing."

Archbishop Chia observed in his homily at a Mass celebrated at the school that a lot of effort has been put in to build the school, not merely in its physical structures, "but in nurturing students as well". He called on the teachers to keep in mind Catholic High's mission and vision "to be a forerunner and beacon in Christian values … [and to inculcate] passion in life to serve others".

"You must help these children put this mission and vision into action," he reminded them. "Gospel values are human values and they are good for everyone so we should implant these in all."

By Daniel Tay

Singapore Prime Minister asks religious leaders to encourage dialogue and interaction across faiths, and to trust and accommodate one another.

Below, religious leaders from the religions in the Inter-Religious Organisation each say a silent prayer for continued growth of interfaith dialogue in Singapore.

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SINGAPORE - Inter-faith dialogue is not aimed at achieving agreement, but at building relationship, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Speaking to 2,000 members of different faiths at a dinner on Jan 2, PM Lee acknowledged it was "understandable" that "some people are not comfortable withthe idea of inter-faith  dialogue and interaction" because "there are very real and distinct differences between the faiths" despite the common preaching of similar moral standards and values.

"But in today's world, we cannot afford to be ignorant of one another, or to have enmities between different faiths," he said. "Extremist groups are seizing every advantage to sow distrust and hatred in our communities, especially between Muslims and non-Muslims," he stressed.

"To root out the stereotypes and prejudices that form the fault lines in a multi-religious society, it is crucial to have a process of dialogue and engagement," said PM Lee.

"Such dialogue is not aimed at achieving agreement, but at building relationships," he said. "When we get to know one another, we not only appreciate how others in different religious communities encounter the divine, but also enhance our understanding of our own religion. In the process, we will widen the common ground which we all share together."

The dinner at Singapore Expo Hall 1 was PM Lee's first public gathering with the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) since he assumed the office of Prime Minister on Aug 12, 2004. The dinner was one example in which people in Singapore professing different faiths could come together to "celebrate our differences and share a meal with vegetarian, kosher and halal food on the table," he said.

(continued on page 2)

Below, PM Lee Hsien Loong (left) shares a few moments of jovial conversation with Archbishop Nicholas Chia.

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Jointly organized by Ba'alwi Mosque, Hindu Endowments Board, Singapore Taoist Federation, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, it was held to usher in the New Year as a united society with people of diverse faiths.

Present at the dinner were representatives from the 10 official religions of the IRO - Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and the Baha'i faith. Also present were 150 Catholics representing the various parishes and religious communities in the diocese.

PM Lee urged all religious leaders to support the activities under the Community Engagement Programme (CEP) launched last year. "Under the CEP, we established a National Steering Committee on Racial and Religious Harmony for religious leaders to come together, strengthen their bonds of friendship and deepen mutual trust and understanding."

The Steering Committee also sets new directions for inter-racial and inter-religious cooperation, and guides the Inter-Racial Confidence Circles which focuses on activities at the local level where most people-to-people interaction takes place, he said.

PM Lee encouraged the religious leaders to "help to create opportunities for interactions" among members in different religious settings, "encourage them to cross boundaries and get to know people of other faiths".

"We should build these linkages now when conditions are tranquil, and relations are not under stress," he emphasized. "Then in times of crises, we will have a strong and resilient network to hold our society together."

PM Lee assured every religious group of fair treatment, but cautioned that "no group should press its claims too hard to the exclusion of others".

"Singaporeans of different faiths have learnt to trust one another, and to accommodate each other's different customs, traditions and ways of life," he said. "We must continue with this pragmatic and responsible approach, and work together as partners for a common cause. Then we can keep our society cohesive, and keep Singapore special and harmonious for many more years to come."

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Above left, Archbishop Nicholas Chia (right) greets a Buddhist monk.

Above right, Mufti Syed Isa Mohd Semait (left) greets Archbishop Nicholas Chia in a cheerful exchange.

 

CatholicNews asked some Catholics what resolutions they have made for 2007 and what they intend to do to tell the story of Jesus. Here are their responses:

17.jpg"I have resolved to have a tidy desktop system implemented as soon as possible, and I hope to have a more joyful and cheerful disposition in my heart throughout the day!"

- Andrew Kong, 49, Pro-Life Presenter/Trainer at Family Life Society

 

 

18.jpg"I hope to be able to make more time for people, to find a chance to talk deeply with them and not just attend meetings together. I¹ll like to tend to the formation needs of the more needy in society and to be more in contact with people outside the church so I can share faith with the other people in my life who are of different faiths."

- Wendy Louis, Director of the Singapore Pastoral Institute

 

19.jpg"I have resolved to strike a better balance between work, family and religion, and I will evangelize through the Alpha Course and Life in the Spirit Seminar."

- Derrick Chee, 46, Businessman, Church of St. Ignatius 

 

"I want to try and be a better Christian, to be more conscious of my actions and how I come across to people. To be more generous, understanding, tolerant, and more responsible and accountable for my actions; then I can show people what Jesus is all about."

- Shaun Pereira, 27, currently back on holidays from Architectural Studies in Perth, Australia, Church of the Holy Trinity

"To live life more simply and to start each day in thanksgiving to the Lord for giving me an opportunity to live and hopefully make a difference in someone's life."

- Jennifer Lim, Executive Director, Catholic Social and Community Council

"Some of our resolutions include to strengthen and deepen our prayer life and that of our family. We'll like to be an example of Jesus' life, to be able to sacrifice both in the workplace and at home. The other thing we'll like is to find time to engage in RCIA activities... Be thankful of what we have and to treasure what God has already given us. We hope to be able to see Jesus in everyone and be more generous of our love for other people."

- Peter and Cheryl D., 34 and 28 respectively, Church of the Holy Cross

"I want to put "Sharing" as my resolution for 2007. As we get older, we tend to keep more things to ourselves, such as money and other material goods. I'll like to be more generous in giving. I think I want to share more time with others too, and not just within church-based communities, and I hope to find more time and effort to do more outreach work."

- David Chong, 40, IT Consultant, Church of the Holy Spirit

"To evangelise through drama and theatre; to start talking about Christ to my family and friends; to continue to understand the Bible so I can answer questions concerning Christ."

- Justin Alexius Faith Ng, 16, Student, Church of Christ the King

By Daniel Tay

SINGAPORE - Twenty six teenage boys (juniors) and 22 young men (seniors) attended the annual Vocation Camp and Retreat held at St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary from Dec 1-3. The camp and retreat were organized by the diocesan seminarians, the Diocesan Vocation Promotion Team led by Father Valerian Cheong, and the Serra Club of Singapore. 

The camp and retreat culminated with the seminary's feast day Mass celebrated by Archbishop Nicholas Chia, when he also launched "Called & Chosen", a production by the Serra Club of Singapore comprising a collection of the vocation stories of 17 local diocesan priests.

The participants of the camp and retreat attended talks by several priests and religious such as Father Terence Pereira and Brother Michael Broughton, and watched two videos "Fishers of Men" and "Pope John XXIII". They also participated in group sharings, prayers, and gained a deeper insight into seminary life as they talked with seminarians over meals.

For some of the participants, it was the beginning of a discernment process, following which, seminary rector Father William Goh explained, "the more serious ones journey with one of us priests."

Adrian Chan, 31, from the Church of the Holy Cross, registered for the retreat because "I was not sure whether or not I had a calling". During the retreat, he learnt "tools of discernment" such as spiritual consolation and desolation, and "how to confront inner feelings" and "how to ignore bad spirits". He was also encouraged to have "a regular and good prayer life".

Jeremy Lee, 19, from the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, said that the retreat helped him to realize that "it is very important to know if it is God's call or my own [desire]" because "if it's my own, it won't sustain". "This retreat is special for me because I've been coming for recollections in the past month. I got reassurance that I'm not alone in this journey."

(The next issue of CatholicNews will carry information on the qualities candidates to the seminary should have.)

CHRISTIAN TEACHING IS handed down to us through the bishops, who received it from the apostles, who received it from Jesus.

So, if somebody asks, "What is your stand on women ordination?" I would reply that the church has not approved it. If the person asks, "Why does the church not approve it?" I think it is my duty to find out why and explain it to the enquirer. If he is not satisfied with the explanation I can leave it at that and pray for him.

My concern is that religious or priests who hold opinions contrary to church teaching should inform enquirers that these are their personal opinions and not that of the church, when asked, so as not to mislead others. To say that we love the church is to be obedient to the church, even when we find it hard to accept certain teachings. We should pray for the grace to accept.

    Longinus Dismas

    Singapore

I FULLY AGREE with one of your readers who suggested the introduction of free shuttle bus services for the elderly.

(Some) non-Catholic Christian churches have bus services that pick up worshippers from MRT stations. I have yet to see such services being introduced in Catholic churches. In my opinion such a service will be welcomed and will benefit the senior citizens in our church community. However, it should be tried on a pilot basis first to gauge the interest level and see how well it goes.

    Paul Tan

    Singapore

I WAS FORTUNATE to be present at Mass recently at Church of the Holy Family when Father Aloysius Ong delivered an eloquent and moving exhortation that we be prepared for our day of judgement.

Father Aloysius warning and appeal was impassioned but without the fire and brimstone flourishes that could have accompanied this theme, and it was based on sound reason and on our faith in God.

I feel that the homily should be made available to others in addition to the congregation. I asked him for a copy of his text to circulate among my family and friends; and he obliged.

I ask that homilies such as his be printed in CatholicNews. I am sure that there are others in the diocese that are as powerful.

Parishioners could help with suggestions so that all of us can benefit from the care and effort that our priests put into their homilies.

    Cecilia Ho

    Singapore 457038

(Editor's note: Father Aloysius Ong's homily can be found here.)

I WAS CONVERTED to the Catholic faith 40 years ago. My mother, who is 88 and previously a Protestant, was received into the Catholic Church because she was fortunate to have Andrew Goh come to explain to her in Hokkien the Bible and the Catholic faith. Mr Goh led her to our Lord and she was confirmed with Mr Goh's help.

I am writing this letter because I have yet to hear the Gospels preached in the Hokkien dialect, which is spoken by a big proportion of Chinese people. I pray that the Lord will see to the needs of the illiterate section of the Hokkien community and take steps to reach out to them.

    Catherine Soh Soo Peng

    Singapore

Some Catholic homosexuals in Singapore have the impression that they are not welcome in our church and, consequently, they have left us for some other church. Father Albert Renckens writes. Is their impression wrong, or are homosexuals not welcome indeed? Here is part one of a two-part deeply felt personal reflection by Father Renckens on the treatment of homosexuals in the church.

THIS QUESTION LOOKS to me a bit strange. What would you think of the question "Are people taller than six feet welcome in the Catholic Church?" Does the question not suggest that there may be something wrong with people taller than six feet, so that we are questioning whether or not they belong to us? So does the question about homosexuals not imply the same presumption?

Unfortunately some Catholic homosexuals in Singapore do have the impression that they are not welcome in our church and consequently they have left us for some other church. Is their impression wrong, or are homosexuals not welcome indeed? Are we right in rejecting them or are we guilty of pushing these people out of the church due to our ignorance? This is the reason for this article.

To answer the question "Is there something wrong with homosexual people?" we should ask first: "What are actually homosexual people?" Homosexuals are human beings with a different sexual orientation from the majority. Most people (about 90-95 percent) are heterosexuals; that means they are sexually interested in and attracted to humans of the opposite (hetero) gender (sex). Homosexuals (5-10 percent of people) are humans who are sexually inclined towards people of the same (homo) gender (sex). Women of this kind are sometimes called lesbians.

What is in the sexual nature of heterosexuals (or straight people) - to be attracted to, to admire, to fall in love with, to hold hands, to hold each other, to dance with, to be in each other's company, to kiss each other, to have the desire to be one body; all these with somebody of the opposite sex - is also in the nature of homosexuals (or gays, as they are sometimes called), but with people of their own sex.

Heterosexuals find this natural inclination of homosexuals hard to understand and may even see it as repugnant. But is it wrong for Christians to have a homosexual orientation?

In this first part we do not question the behaviour of homosexuals which, as with behaviour of people taller than six feet, can be good or bad; that will be the content of the second article. Now we talk about these people as they are, as a group. Is it wrong to have this orientation? Let me first clarify some aspects of being homosexual:

1. Belonging to any minority group is never easy in society, as you are easily avoided or misunderstood and will anyhow not be that popular.

2. Where homosexuals are concerned, they are easily misunderstood because other people do not expect and cannot imagine them to be homosexual. Due to a taboo in the past, most parents have never been prepared to expect that one of their children might be homosexual. On the contrary they expect their children to get married and they hope to be grandparents. As a result when they are told by their child that she or he is homosexual, they feel disappointed and have difficulty accepting it. They advise such a child to get over it, to try to change.

3. As a result many homosexuals wait a long time before "coming out". This means that they have to hide their true identity from their loved ones, which psychologically can be damaging and make them feel lonely during their younger years.

4. Homosexuals have not made themselves what they are. It is also not their choice to be different. They find themselves to be homosexual in the same way people find themselves female, or Chinese, or short, or shortsighted. So, to ask them to change is a sign of ignorance. It is like asking somebody who is Chinese to be Indian instead.

5. It is true that some heterosexuals do get involved in homosexual activities due to circumstances (living conditions, sleeping accommodation, peer pressure, fear, loneliness), and can even get used and attached to it. This way they may get confused about themselves and certainly need help to rediscover their true identity, which was not changed but only obscured by their homosexual experiences. The same can happen to homosexuals.

6. One of the consequences of being homosexual is that you are unable to enter into a valid marriage, as you cannot promise to be a loving sexual partner to somebody of the opposite sex. As a matter of fact, quite a few homosexuals do get married, but that happens out of ignorance about themselves, the desire to change, parental and social pressure, business or job interest, social status, etc.

7. Homosexuals, however, are able to enter into a permanent relationship of love and care with a partner of their own sex. In such a homosexual relationship there is a kind of similarity with marriage, as one partner is more the male type and the other the female type. As such they can divide the responsibilities: Both can be working outside, or one works outside while the other is part-time or full-time homemaker.

8. This kind of stable homosexual relationship is, of course, much better than loose contacts. It is in no way an alternative to or an undermining of the marriage relationship (as it is often stated) because it is only open to homosexuals who are anyhow unable to enter into marriage. In many countries this relationship can be legally regulated.

9. However good this homosexual relationship may be, the "couple" will suffer for not having children of their own (though in some countries the are allowed to adopt them). This loss is sometimes partly compensated by their job or involvement in social or church work. Homosexuals, being different, sometimes have special gifts that heterosexuals don't have: Because of the special mixture of male-female elements in them, they are often very dedicated and good at specific jobs (as teachers, nurses, artists, fashion designers, hairdressers, etc) and they are also often very religious (and keen to serve the church).

After all this do we still have to ask the question, "What is wrong with being a homosexual?" Is the orientation itself wrong? I refer now to the present official teaching of the Catholic Church. Among other things it says:

1. All people are asked to get beyond the superficial identities of being "heterosexual" or "homosexual" and contemplate one's fundamental identity as a creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.

2. "Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder." (Refer "The Homosexual Person" by J. F. Harvey, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 1987, p.16-23)

The first point stresses rightly that all discrimination is wrong: All people, without distinction or condition, are loved by God as they are.

The first line of point 2 is very important: It is not a sin and you are not less loved by God when you are homosexual.

The rest of point 2, however, I fail to understand. The term "objective disorder" is clearly based on the Thomistic philosophy of human nature from the 13th century. I hope that in future documents the homosexual orientation will be understood as a "variant" or "diversity" of our human condition.

For now there is enough to chew on. In our next article we will write about what the church expects from homosexual Christians. In the meantime it is already clear that we and they should learn to thank God for all that they are and for the variety that they bring to our human family and to the church.

Marriage does not mean the end of individuality. Personal space and personal time are essential to a healthy marriage, writes Father Henry Siew. 

In his book "The Prophet", Lebanese American poet Kahlil Gibran wrote this on marriage:

The strings of a lute are alone though

they quiver with the same music

Give your hearts,

but not into each other's keeping.

For only the hand of Life

can contain your hearts.

And stand together,

yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple

stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress

grow not in each other's shadow.

TWO PERSONS BECOME "one" in their marriage, but this does not mean the destruction of individuality. On the contrary, married persons must continue to keep their own personalities and give weight to self-development while ensuring that their relationship is always their top priority.

From this foundation, spouses can then work towards having their own personal time and space. But before going into that, I would like to stress the importance of rest and relaxation. Many people do not know how to rest and relax. Some even bring their work with them while on holiday. The requirement for Jews to observe strictly the Sabbath is for a good reason - many people do not value rest time, so it has to be "forced" on them.

It is good that married couples who treasure their relationship want to spend their leisure time together. However, they also need to have their own personal space and time for recreation, self-improvement or building relationships.

(continued on page 2)

If your spouse wants to know your every move, you would feel uncomfortable, irritated and resentful and you might bring these feelings into the bedroom and thus negatively affect both you and your spouse's emotional and sexual life.

Generally, a man needs his personal time and private space more than a woman. Women tend to prefer intimacy and appreciate the company of her spouse and her children more. Even so, like a man, a woman should have her own space and time. Personal space and time buffer individuals from the stress and irritations inherent in family life and could help make couples appreciate each other more.

If you truly love your spouse, you would encourage and support his or her hobbies, the occasional gathering of friends and participation in enrichment programmes.

For example, the guys can get together to enjoy watching a football game and fellowship until the wee hours of the morning, even take leave from work if necessary. The wives can go shopping or watch a musical together. Such activities will give the couple stories to share with each other.

Thus, on the one hand, marriage life means accommodating each other and sacrificing oneself for the other; on the other hand, it also means encouraging and supporting the other to actualize himself or herself. A marriage relationship is unhealthy if only one person's interest and needs are catered for.

Married couples should not ignore the importance of self-improvement to enhance the quality of their life together. They should find time to learn new skills or improve their knowledge, either for professional or recreational reasons. For instance, they can take up courses on car repairing, language, cooking, marriage enrichment or parenting. When one does not strive to improve oneself, or relax or pursue an interest, life may become stagnant and boring.

Life without small achievements, surprises and laughter will breed discontentment and some people may seek to compensate for this by drinking, gambling, video watching or work - and marriage will be adversely affected.

FrHenrySiew.jpgFor a spousal relationship to grow and mature, both husband and wife should be aware of the need to take care of their own physical and emotional health; their human relations; and their intellectual and spiritual growth. Be sure to support each other too.

Father Henry Siew, parish priest of St. Anne's Church, is the spiritual director to Mandarin Marriage Encounter Weekend.

By Joyce Gan

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The Chin quintuplets - Adriel, Alicia, Amanda, Annabelle and Andre - were featured in CatholicNews on Aug 24, 1997 after their baptism. CatholicNews visited them again - and their parents, Dorothy and Humphrey Chin too -after their First Holy Communion on Nov 11, 2006 at Church of St. Mary of the Angels. The quintuplets are now nine years old. 

From left, Sister Christine Noris, Alicia, Amanda, Annabelle, Andre and Adriel take a photo after their First Holy Communion together with Father John-Paul Tan and their father, Humphrey Chin (right).

THE JOY SHOWED by the five Chin children at receiving First Holy Communion is one indication of the importance of bringing children to Mass when they are young. The Chin family attended Mass together with Dorothy's mother and two maids when the children were younger but, even with such support, managing five children of the same age for an hour at Mass was no easy task.

"Of course they made noise," Dorothy said. "Children being children, you have to remind them constantly [to behave]." We should not keep them away from Mass even though they may be a distraction sometimes as it is easier to mould their behaviour from young, Dorothy said.

Till today, the Chins prepare for Mass by making sure the children ease themselves before going into church and deciding in advance where each will be seated. These and other measures help to minimize distractions and "we get almost 80 percent concentration at Mass", Humphrey said.

(continued on page 2)

WHEN DOROTHY WAS told by the doctor that she was carrying quadruplets - yes, quadruplets - she and her husband Humphrey felt no anxiety at all. "We were not worried... we were just looking forward to the day I deliver the babies," Dorothy recalled. Dorothy and Humphrey were both 32 then. They were also both civil servants - she in the Navy and he in the Airforce - from then till now. She attributed their calm response to circumstances that would normally have worried most parents-to-be and brought turmoil to their lives, to the presence of the Lord.

Dorothy and Humphrey discovered they were going to have quintuplets instead of quadruplets only on the birth day. "There was some surprise with the fifth but we took it in our stride," laughed Humphrey. "But it's good news!"

Humphrey said their network of family support was important, especially in the early days. Both grandmothers helped out when the children were babies and this allowed Humphrey and Dorothy to catch some sleep. Even now, Dorothy's mother helps to take care of the children while Dorothy and Humphrey are at work; a domestic helper does the household chores.

Most importantly, husband and wife must make a team effort to raise their children, they said. From the time the children were babies, the couple divided their responsibilities - bathing and feeding by Dorothy and the grandparents; preparation of meals by Humphrey and the domestic helpers. They prepared a timetable to ensure that everyone knew exactly what was needed to be done and when, especially at medicine time. It is no surprise that the couple have to cope with many challenges from raising five kids of the same age, and who are growing older, more energetic and smarter.

Dorothy sometimes thinks about quitting her job to spend more time with the children but puts off the decision because of the drop in family income that would entail. Being practical parents, the Chins do what they reasonably can to stretch the dollar; they use hand-me-downs like books and clothings from cousins, and buy catechism books from the parish thrift shop. The children have different characters and desires - some  are more articulate and persistent and get what they want more easily - and all want their parents' attention. Balancing all these demands takes effort and wisdom.

Although we're kept busy, we do enjoy ourselves with them and don't find it a chore," Dorothy said. "Our priority is our family."

The children have influenced the couple's activities but in a positive way, said Dorothy. Increased family time makes up for a reduction in couple time, Humphrey explained. "Having children is a labour of love," he added, and it helps to see the quintuplets "as a multiplication of love".

"Children are gifts from God," Dorothy said. They make life more wholesome although "it's a lot of effort setting the right examples and instilling good values", she added. "The beautiful part is you'll see the fruits of your labour later," Dorothy said.

"Just take it step by step," Humphrey advised young couples thinking of starting a family. "Let the blessings come."

(continued on page 3)

NOW THAT THE children have received their First Holy Communion, Dorothy and Humphrey feel it is important to continue to nourish them in the faith.

One person who has helped them along is Canosssian Sister Christine Noris, whom the couple described as a "Godsend". "She gives us lots of ideas, like, what to do for the children during school holidays, etc," Dorothy smiled. She is also the inspiration for Dorothy and Humphrey to be prayerful always.

"We are trying to make praying the Rosary a habit especially since we have five children and each can recite a decade. How meaningful and joyful this experience will be!" Humphrey said excitedly.

The happy parents said the family is only at the beginning of a journey and they "will need the good Lord's guidance in the years ahead".

09.jpgReverence due to the Most Holy Eucharist is Part Two of a series of articles written by the Archdiocesan Liturgy Commission to help us live as witnesses of that true presence of Jesus Christ. 

THE CELEBRATION OF Mass proclaims the sublime mystery of the Lord's presence under the Eucharistic elements. The church teaches us that the Most Holy Eucharist is the real, true and substantial Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present under the appearances of bread and wine. After the Consecration at Mass, only the physical characteristics (accidents) of bread and wine remain; now the Substance (essence) on the Altar is Jesus Christ. 

Faith in the Divine presence calls each and every one of us to that spirit and expression of reverence and adoration whenever the Eucharistic liturgy is carried out.

To Jesus Christ, God and Man, in the sacrifice and sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we give due honour, reverence, adoration, and thanksgiving. St. Thomas Aquinas, (Philosopher, Theologian and Doctor of the Church) tells us: "Since we are composed of a twofold nature, intellectual and sensible, we offer God a twofold adoration; namely a spiritual adoration, consisting in the internal devotion of the mind; and a bodily adoration, which consists in an exterior humbling of the body." He adds: "And since in all acts of 'latria' (Greek term used in Catholic theology to mean adoration, which is the highest form of worship or reverence and is directed only to God), that which is without is referred to that which is within as being of greater import, it follows that exterior adoration is offered on account of interior adoration ..." This interior adoration is the reason for the exterior adoration. How then do we demonstrate our interior/exterior adoration or reverence due to the Most Holy Eucharist at Mass?

(continued on page 2)

(1) Every Catholic has the responsibility to ensure that he or she is in a state of grace when receiving Holy Communion. We should confess to a priest in the Sacrament of Penance our mortal sins that we have not yet confessed. (A mortal sin is a thought, word, desire, action or omission that involves "grave matter" with sufficient reflection and full consent of the will.) Frequent confession of venial sins is strongly encouraged.

(2) We adore our Eucharistic Lord when we prepare to receive him worthily by fasting from food or drink (except plain water) for one hour before Holy Communion.

(3) When we enter the church and make the sign of the cross, "let it be with a real sign of the cross. Instead of a small cramped gesture that gives no notion of its meaning, let us make a large unhurried sign, from forehead to breast, from shoulder to shoulder, consciously feeling how it includes the whole of us, our thoughts, our attitudes, our body and soul, every part of us at once... how it consecrates and sanctifies us". (Romano Guardini, Sacred Signs, 1927))

(4) Upon entering and leaving the church, we face the Tabernacle where Jesus is reposed and genuflect. A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, is a sign of adoration. It is therefore reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament. This act requires that it be performed in a recollected way. In order that the heart may bow before God in profound reverence, the genuflection must be neither hurried nor careless.

(5) We make every effort to be punctual and to be appropriately dressed. God deserves no less.

(6) We join in the "full, active and conscious participation" as called for in our Liturgy, through singing, responding to the prayers and listening attentively.

(7) Our faith, devotion and reverence at Mass, is further manifested through the various gestures and postures (standing, kneeling, sitting, bowing) prescribed by the church, as we express in a unified exterior manner what the interior disposition holds so dearly. These gestures and postures have profound meaning and when done with understanding, can enhance our personal participation at Mass.

(continued on page 3)

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Standing - is a sign of respect and honour. We stand as the priest who represents Christ enters and leaves the assembly. This posture has been understood as the stance of those who are risen with Christ. When we stand for prayer we assume our full stature before God, not in pride, but in humble gratitude. We stand for the Gospel, the pinnacle of divine revelation.

Kneeling - is an expression of our humble submission before the majesty of God, penance and a spirit of repentance, adoration and reverence in prayer. We kneel, when we reach our pews. We also kneel during part of the Eucharistic Prayer.

A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, is a sign of adoration. The genuflection is made facing the Tabernacle, on entering and leaving the church, and must be neither hurried nor careless.

Sitting - is the posture of listening and meditation. We sit up straight and, with a quiet composure and alertness, open our hearts to listen to the Word of God. Bowing - is a sign of reverence and honour. "A bow of the head is made when the three divine persons are named together and at the name of Jesus, Mary, and the saint in whose honour Mass is celebrated. A bow of the body, or profound bow, is made:

(i) toward the altar if there is no tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament;

(ii) within the profession of faith at the words which commemorate the incarnation: "by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man"; in Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer 1) at the words: "Almighty God, we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven. Then, as we receive from this altar the sacred body and blood of your Son, let us be filled with every grace and blessing."

The church has always required from the faithful respect and reverence for the Eucharist at the moment of receiving it. While we are coming up in procession, we are instructed to make a bow or other customary gesture of reverence before receiving the Sacrament.

(continued on page 4)

(8) Folding our hands - our hands, like every part of the body is an expressive instrument of the soul. When we enter into ourselves and the soul is alone with God, our hands closely interlock, finger clasped in finger, in a gesture of compression and control (Romano Guardini, Sacred Signs, 1927). The "Caeremoniale Episcoporum", published in 1985, prescribes the manner of folding hands: "palms extended and joined together in front of the breast, with the right thumb over the left in the form of a cross" (#107, n.80). This action reflects a sign of intimate and personal prayer to God.

(9) Silence has its place and importance as a help toward the promotion of the required interior disposition to prayer. "At the proper times, all should observe a reverent silence" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 30). A period of silence before Mass begins is a help to recollection. After the readings and the homily, a suitable period of silence can help us to meditate and interiorize what we have heard. We should refrain from chatting away... or SMS-ing on the phone. Silence helps us to bask in the indescribable glory of the Blessed Sacrament.

(10) We are also called to show reverence to the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass, in such public acts as Corpus Christi processions, by making the sign of the cross when one passes by a church, by visiting the Blessed Sacrament during the day or night. We all need a renewal of the spirit expressed in our prayer: "O Sacred Banquet in which Christ becomes our food, the memory of his passion is celebrated, the soul is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.

V. You gave them bread from heaven.

R. Containing every blessing.

Let us pray:

O God in this wonderful Sacrament you have left us a memorial of your passion. Help us, we beg you, so to reverence the sacred mysteries of your body and blood that we may constantly feel in our lives the effects of your redemption. Who live and reign forever. Amen.

SINGAPORE - Archbishop Nicholas Chia announced several transfers and appointments of priests at the Annual Advent Gathering of Priests at Church of St. Vincent de Paul on Dec 20, 2006. The new appointments will take effect on Jan 7, 2007. 

 

Church of St. Joseph, Bukit Timah

05.jpgFather Lawrence Yeo steps down as Parish Priest of St. Joseph due to ill health.

The new Parish Priest will be Father Edmund Chong (left).

The new Assistant Priest will be Father Alex Chua who is back from his sabbatical.

 

Church of the Holy Spirit, Thomson Road

Father John Nguyen van Dich will be the new Assistant priest.

Father Peter Paul (Petru) a new priest from Myanmar will minister to the foreign nationals from Myanmar.

 

Church of St. Francis of Assisi, Boon Lay Road

06.jpgFather David Thexeira (left) of Holy Spirit will be the new Assistant Priest replacing Father John Nguyen van Dich.

 

 

Blessed Sacrament Church, Queenstown

Father Remi Liando, SS.CC from Indonesia joins the parish as an Assistant Priest.

 

Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Ophir Road

Father K. M. Arockiyasamy has already joined the parish to minister to the Indian nationals.

 

07.jpgFather Paul Goh (left) will continue another two years as Spiritual Director to the Marriage Encounter Movement. Please lift up in your prayers, especially during this season, Archbishop Emeritus Gregory Yong and Father Carlo Lee, both of whom are at St. Joseph's Home, Jurong Road.

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SINGAPORE - The Singapore Catholic Deaf Community (SCDC) - Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) group (photo) celebrated International Day for the Deaf on Oct 1 by setting up a booth outside the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church hall to sell handicrafts made by members, and by performing "The Lord's Prayer". The event raised funds for the deaf community and built awareness among IHM parishioners.

SCDC was first established in 1978 by the late Canossian Sister Helen Fernandez and Sister Angela Garavaglia, now based in Rome. In 1985, SCDC merged with another group for the deaf started with hearing-impaired leaders Charles Chang, Patrick Anthony and Franciscan Brother Rowland Yeo.

The group is located at the Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre along Highland Road. It has more than 80 members and 15 hearing volunteers  who conduct and participate in retreats, talks, sign language classes, Bible classes, and RCIA for non-Catholics. Members gather every Sunday at 11.00am at IHM Church to celebrate the Eucharist with parishioners.

Anyone who is interested to volunteer in the community or any deaf person who is interested to participate in SCDC weekly activities, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(Written with information from Sarah Chia)

SINGAPORE - About 30 Communion Ministers from five City District churches were asking themselves if they were truly worthy of the ministry after attending a retreat directed by Father William Goh at the St. Francis Xavier's Major Seminary from Dec 14-16. 

"What struck me most was that Christ humbled himself to allow us to hold him in our unworthy hands," said Kenneth Ho, from the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

Father Goh took retreatants through various aspects of the Eucharist to help them appreciate the dignity of the office of Communion Minister.

He encouraged them to reflect on the Word and spend more time in the adoration room. "Above all, they must strive to grow in holiness, because fervour (for the role) comes with a life of holiness," Father Goh emphasized.

Clare Lee, one of the six new women Communion Ministers from Church of St. Bernadette, said, "We now have a clear perspective of our role and disposition, including promoting communion and unity within the family, community and the world at large."

Joseph Chew, who organized the retreat and who has been a Communion Minister for the past eight years, said, "It was indeed an eye-opener. More than a mere function, I realize that the office is a calling in life."

Church of St. Teresa's Christopher Lee was deeply inspired and felt that all Communion Ministers in the diocese should experience such a retreat.

(Written with information from Michael Chua.)

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SINGAPORE - The priests of Church of St. Teresa and 112 parishioners (photo) made a pilgrimage to Melaka from Nov 25-26 to commemorate the 500th birth anniversary of St. Francis Xavier. They remembered the various events in the life of St. Francis Xavier - apostle of the East and patron of the missions - during visits to the churches of St. Francis Xavier, St. Peter, St. Mary, St. Theresa and at the burial site of St. Francis at St. Paul's Hill. 

The group also visited Ayer Salak Melaka to meet relatives of the late Father Stephen Lee, the builder and first parish priest of St. Teresa, and to celebrate Mass there for him and his relatives.

03.jpgSINGAPORE - Photo shows Jesuit Father Colin Tan getting ready for a 21.1 km run on Dec 3. By participating, he raised S$5,227 for charity. This is what he says of the run:

"When I first signed up for the Dec 3 StanChart Marathon run, I was filled with anxiety about whether I had bitten more than I could chew. I was afraid that I might not finish the half marathon (21.1 km) as I had never ran that distance before.

"I had to convince myself that I could do it. One way that I could motivate myself was to run for a charitable cause and so I decided that I was going to donate the sponsorship money to Catholic Social and Community Council to help the poor and needy.

"I was glad that I had set myself a goal and to remind myself that I was not just running for my own glory. It was also to transcend my own selfish needs and to think of others who have less than myself. At least I wanted to let them know that they are not forgotten.

"Since I do not have any personal wealth, the least I could share with them for Advent is the gift of running and health and not to take them for granted.

"During the run, I said prayers of gratitude for the gift of life and reminded myself that I was running for God's glory and for the well being of others. In short, I wanted to be able to give of myself during this Advent more than to simply receive."

Please mail your 'My Advent Gift' envelopes directly to CSCC or drop it in your parish's offertory collection boxes.

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SINGAPORE - Almost 200 students, all older than 50, received their graduation certificate for successfully completing 100 hours of Certificate in Lifelong Learning programme. They were cheered on by about 900 relatives and friends during the ceremony at the Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre on Dec 3.

Left, Gerard Ee, Chairman of the National Kidney Foundation, presents a graduation certificate to Chow Yoke Sai, one of almost 200 students, who was happy to complete her course with more newfound friends.

Through this course, students acquire knowledge of ageing and communication skills. They also learned about financial management, mental health and home safety from professionals in these fields.

Chow Yoke Sai, 84, was the recipient of the Spirit of Lifelong Learning Award. She said that besides acquiring new knowledge, she had made new friends. Like her, many of the graduates said that the course had made an impact in their lives.

The programme is organized by the YAH! Community College, a project by the Marine Parade Family Service Centre (FSC) to provide lifelong learning opportunities for senior citizens. Marine Parade FSC is a joint community project by Catholic Welfare Services, the Brothers of St. Gabriel and the South East Community Development Council.

For more details on the courses organized by YAH! Community College, please call 6445 0300.

By Joyce Gan

01.jpgSINGAPORE - The first batch of 31 Family Life Society (FLS) lay counsellors graduated on Saturday Dec 16 after completing their year-long course.

The 31 graduates from FLS' year-long counselling course are ready to use what they have learnt to help those in need of their counsel. Archbishop Nicholas Chia, who celebrated Mass for them, reminded them that Jesus comes in the people who seek the graduates' counsel.

At a Mass to celebrate the graduation, Archbishop Nicholas Chia advised the graduates that in ministering to others they are serving Jesus himself. "Be grateful when people come to you; it is not just you who are giving something but they are giving you a chance to meet Jesus," he said.

At the ceremony, Father Charles Sim, Course Director and President of FLS, thanked course lecturers Drs Seng Boon Keng and Francis Heng, Sue Richmond, Brother Colin Wee, Catherine Tyler, Natalie Lim and Geraldine Wong for their contribution.

The new graduates will be sent to the different counselling centres located at various parishes where they will serve as lay counsellors for at least one year, during which they will continue to be guided by their supervisors (who are professional counsellors).

Maria Van Der Straaten, a catechist from the Church of the Holy Cross, is excited about beginning her new phase in counselling at parishes. "Wherever we go, it is God's call, so I will just go wherever I am assigned," she said.

 

Thank you for the wonderful article on "Reverence due to the Most Holy Eucharist" in your recent issue of the Catholic News. It was an eye-opener and serve as a reminder how we should show reverence to Jesus in the Eucharist.

The article mentioned "The genuflection is made facing the Tabernacle (where Jesus is reposed), on entering and leaving the church, and must be neither hurried nor careless". As most churches have a crucifix at the centre of the church, I had always assumed we have to genuflect at the sight of the Cross until I read your article. I have a question, if you say the Tabernacle, is the sacred home to the "Most Holy Eucharist" which is "the real, true and substantial Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ", why is the Tabernacle not the main focus in some churches. I have observed that at some churches here, the Tabernacle is placed at an obscure corner, away from the centre of the church and the altar.... does this mean I have to make my way to that corner and genuflect, before walking to the seat at the pew and leaving the church. Could someone please enlighten me?

    Grace Low

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