HANOI – Vietnam Church leaders say that extended visits by the country’s non-resident pontifical representative have strengthened solidarity among the faithful and increased understanding between the local Church and Rome.
Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli was named non-resident pontifical representative in January and has since paid five two-week visits to the country, travelling to all 26 dioceses. In his latest trip, from Nov 25-Dec 10, he visited the dioceses of Hung Hoa, Phat Diem, Thai Binh, Thanh Hoa and Vinh, as well as Ha Noi archdiocese.
“At each diocese, Archbishop Girelli united all Catholics and strengthened solidarity among them,” said one bishop who asked not to be named.
The bishop, from a southern diocese, said the papal representative was warmly received by thousands of Catholics who have been hoping for a papal visit for many years.
“The Vatican envoy is really a spiritual gift,” the bishop said.
In addition to visiting local priests, laypeople and Church-run healthcare facilities, the envoy also met government officials.
Use social media to engage youths
The effective use of social media can certainly help the Church better engage teenagers/young adults as this group spends a substantial amount of time on Facebook, Twitter and email.
Some parishes have started a Facebook fan page, but that is not sufficient. The church should actively encourage parishioners to check for updates on Facebook and post interesting updates on parish happenings to keep teenagers and young adults interested.
My perception of serving in the Church is that it is very time consuming and demands a high level of commitment.
Perhaps the Church can look at engaging teenagers and young adults through short-term or ad hoc involvements, such as helping out at the canteen, serving with the wardens or helping to clean the church once a month.
This will encourage those with a busy lifestyle to get involved and serve the Church.
Community bonding activities such as bowling or movie nights are good ways to get parishioners acquainted with each other.
I hope the Church can get more actively involved in serving the homeless and those in need. It will be good if more homes can be built by the Catholic Church in Singapore to take care of the homeless or to provide food and medical treatment for the needy, regardless of religion.
Each year, Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, publishes a list of pastoral workers who died violently. The 2011 list was released on Dec 30.
The agency said that over the course of the year, it registered the deaths of 18 priests, four Religious women and four laypeople.
Twenty-five church workers were killed in 2010, a figure down from an unusually high number of 37 workers murdered in 2009.
VATICAN CITY – Knowing one is loved by God gives life meaning and gives one the energy to live with joy, even in difficult situations, Pope Benedict XVI told top Vatican officials.
The pope said the World Youth Day in August was a ‘remedy against faith fatigue and one that held lessons for the Church’. CNS file photo
Meeting members of the Roman Curia on Dec 22 for his annual exchange of Christmas greetings, the pope said the “faith fatigue” seen in various areas of Church life contrasts sharply with the faith and joy he witnessed at World Youth Day in Madrid and during his November trip to Benin, in Africa.
The two trips, he said, hold lessons for the Church.
In what usually amounts to a review of the past year, the pope’s speech included acknowledgment of the global financial crisis, particularly in Europe, as well as of the dwindling number of practising Catholics and the priest shortage on the continent.
The Church’s commitment to a new evangelisation push can help both situations, he said.
As he has said many times, Pope Benedict told the Curia members that the economic crisis is ultimately an ethical crisis that continues, in part, because “the motivation is often lacking for individuals and large sectors of society to practise renunciation and make sacrifices”.
WASHINGTON – According to a new study, there are currently 2.18 billion Christians in more than 200 countries around the world, representing nearly a third of the estimated 6.9 billion global population in 2010.
The study, conducted by the US-based Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, found Christians to be so geographically widespread that no single continent or region can indisputably claim to be the centre of global Christianity.
The study, Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population, cites that 100 years ago, two-thirds of the world’s Christians lived in Europe but today only about a quarter of all Christians live there.
JOHOR BARU, MALAYSIA – A controversy over the Ministry of Education’s appointment of a Muslim principal to a Catholic school has been resolved after she was replaced with a Catholic one.
The dispute arose when Ms Zavirah Mohd Shaari was appointed to take over as principal of the Convent Bukit Nanas (CBN) in Kuala Lumpur. The former principal, Ms Ann Khoo, retired in November.
Ms Zavirah’s arrival at the school on Dec 7 surprised the school’s owners – the Infant Jesus (IJ) Sisters Provincialate and the school’s board of governors.
According to the IJ Provincialate, Ms Zavirah’s name was not on the list of names submitted to the education ministry. Normally, the selection of principals of Catholic mission schools is based on consultation between the school’s owners, the board of governors and the education ministry, said IJ Provincial Sr Rosalind Tan.
I may not be the best Catholic, nor do I claim to be a very good one. In fact, I may be what many call a “Sunday Catholic”. But at least I know that when one goes to God’s house, one dresses the best he or she can.
You don’t go sloppily dressed to a funeral, wedding or any other function that requires a dress code. You don’t disrespect the host of the function by dressing down, you dress up.
Mr Cheong’s criticism over Latin is unfounded. Many murmur not because they are insincere in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, but because they are unfamiliar with the text which is in a different language.
Over time, as the congregation becomes used to it, I believe that people will be more willing to recite it loudly. Saying that murmuring and the text being in a different language make one less sincere in worshipping the Lord is actually quite worrying.
When I first read Aloysius Cheong’s letter, Of Flip Flops, Latin and Kneeling at Mass (CN, Dec 25), expressing disappointment at the church’s treatment of his wife, I must admit that my first reaction was to take the side of the warden and the church administration which set out the rules.
After all, restaurant diners do not complain if they are told of a dress code in a restaurant and would duly adhere to the code.
Be that as it may, it was pointed out to me subsequently that in Africa, parishioners go to church barefoot and I was forced to rethink this issue.
While it is tempting to take sides, either with Mr Cheong or the church, it is too simple a dichotomy to make. What we need to do is to go back to the fundamentals.
As a Religious and Catholic priest, I am often saddened to hear how some fellow priests and a few of their high-handed ministers have become more like canonical “gate-keepers” and sartorial enforcers of the Church than servants of the Lord.
Applications must be submitted by Feb 1 to Carlo Catholic Society. Applications for polytechnic and university students start on May 15.
The bursaries aim to help needy Catholic students and form part of Carlo’s social and outreach service to Church and society.
The group of 57 confirmands, including 11 teenagers with special needs, pose for a photo with Archbishop Chia.
Eleven teenagers with special needs were confirmed on Dec 18 at Blessed Sacrament Church.
They were part of a group of 57 adults and youths from the parish who received the sacrament, administered by Archbishop Nicholas Chia.
The 11 confirmands with special needs, together with their parents and godparents, had earlier attended preparatory sessions.
The movie portrays the attitudes of five men – four police officers and a Hispanic odd-job labourer – towards their responsibilities as fathers.
The turning point of the movie occurs when police officer Adam Mitchell (Alex Kendrick) loses his young daughter in an accident. In his regret for not spending enough quality time with his daughter, he decides to re-examine his parenting skills.
Above: A scene from the movie. Below: Archbishop Nicholas Chia said the movie Courageous also promotes values of justice and truth.
The movie Courageous raises good points about fatherhood and defines the responsibility of the father in the family, said Archbishop Nicholas Chia.
The film also promotes the values of justice and truth, especially when one of the characters refuses to resort to dishonesty to keep his job, he added.
Archbishop Chia was speaking to CatholicNews after attending the film’s premiere at The Grand Cathay on Jan 2.
The Church of St Mary of the Angels has launched a ministry called The Angelic Inn to reach out to Chinese migrants.
The parish began the ministry on Dec 11 with a Christmas party attended by about 70 migrant workers. Organisers chartered a bus to ferry some of them from their dormitories in the Jurong Road and Jurong West areas to the church, while others made their own way to the venue.
Canossian Sr Josephine Ng, parish pastoral worker for the Mandarin-speaking community, shared with the guests the meaning of Christmas for Christians – the gift of Christ to the world.
Registration is now open for foreign domestic workers of all nationalities eager to learn various skills.
FILODEP (Filipino Ongoing Development Programme), founded by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) and a former Philippine ambassador, starts registration for its 2012 courses in January.
The courses are in baking, dress-making, facial aromatherapy, massage, guitar, hair styling, handicraft, cooking, Mandarin, English and taekwondo.
The celebration of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been brought forward in Singapore because of the Lunar New Year holidays.
The special week is usually observed from Jan 18-25.
Because of the upcoming holidays, the Committee for Ecumenical Movement (CEM) of Singapore archdiocese requested permission from Archbishop Nicholas Chia and from Rome to bring it forward to Jan 15-22.
Above: The Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ performed its Christmas concert at the CHIJMES chapel to a crowd that included envoys of various countries. Below: Singapore’s Foreign Minister K Shanmugam lights a candle for peace.
The former CHIJMES chapel came to life on Dec 18 when the Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ presented its annual Christmas concert to a small but distinguished audience.
The choir, led by its founder director, Sir Peter Low, performed to a crowd that included Singapore Foreign Minister K Shanmugam, the ambassadors of Belgium, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Peru, Ukraine, the Vatican, and the High Commissioners of Canada, India, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
The first half of the evening’s programme was a more serious paraliturgical presentation of hymns, carols and six short readings from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hebrews and Luke, foretelling the birth of the Messiah.
Above: NUS Catholic Medical Society members (in dark blue) pose for a photo with the ACTS team (in light blue) at the Don Bosco vocational school for girls in Battambang. Below: A Singapore medical student dispenses medication to Cambodians.
Eighteen students from the NUS Catholic Medical Society provided medical care and conducted health education in Cambodia recently.
The inaugural student-run mission to Battambang, from Dec 10-16, also saw the participation of four doctors from the Catholic Medical Guild and Mr Malcolm Wong, assistant principal of St Joseph’s Institution.
The team, dubbed Mission Srolanh (srolanh means “love” in Khmer), was conceived as a result of a request for medical aid from Msgr Enrique Figaredo, apostolic prefect of Battambang.
Members of two Singapore parishes delivered food to residents of Indonesia’s Karimun island and took part in a carolling programme for them over a recent weekend.
Forty-nine Catholics from the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Church of Nativity visited needy families living in wooden and zinc houses on Dec 10 evening.
A total of 50 families each received a 20-kg sack of rice, dry noodles and another bag of food, paid for from church donations and participant contributions.
Singaporean Catholics play with children at a school for the deaf in Pattaya.
To evangelise the poor and be evangelised by them. This was the goal of the Redemptorist Overseas Mission Trip (R.O.M.E) to Pattaya, Thailand, that took place from Dec 1-9.
Led by Fr Simon Pereira, R.O.M.E brought together two seminarians and 51 laypeople, including parents, young adults and youths from parishes and mission schools all over Singapore.
The outreach was to serve poor and abandoned people supported by the Father Ray Foundation, a Catholic organisation.
More than 1,000 Indian Catholic migrants as well as migrants from other Asian countries attended a special Christmas concert organised for them at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Migrants from Indian states such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala, together with others from Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, packed the church premises for the Dec 25 event.
The concert, hosted by MediaCorp artiste Patpanaban Ramesh, included performances from popular artistes Abdul Rahman and Malarvizli, a bhangra dance, and a show by Singapore illusionist, Amazing Bosco.
The refurbished St Theresa’s Convent at Lower Delta Road now has a new block for classrooms and a full-size hockey pitch.
In the early morning of Dec 29, four school girls were seen running along Lower Delta waving a blue flag. As they approached the school on a hill, a loud cheer from hundreds of school girls and teachers rang out.
Thus began celebrations marking the return of CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent to its former premises.
The school moved from its former site two years ago as a result of the Education Ministry’s Programme for Rebuilding and IMproving Existing Schools (PRIME).
VATICAN CITY – When young people recognise the dignity and beauty of every human life, including their own, and are supported in their natural desire to make the world a better place, they become agents of justice and peace in the world, Pope Benedict XVI said.
Peace and justice are built on “a profound respect for every human being and helping others to live a life consonant with this supreme dignity”, the pope said in his message for the World Day of Peace 2012.
The Catholic Church celebrates World Peace Day on Jan 1. The pope’s message for the occasion was released last month at the Vatican and sent, through Vatican ambassadors, to the leaders of nations around the world.
Recommendations for Year of Faith issued. Pope Benedict XVI wants the Year of Faith, which runs from Oct 11, 2012, to Nov 24, 2013, to help the Church focus its attention on ‘Jesus Christ and the beauty of having faith in Him’.
As we celebrate the Lunar New Year and welcome in the Year of the Dragon, I would like to express my best wishes to all Chinese Singaporeans that this feast may bring about happiness and joy for you and your families.
Joy is an expression of being in harmony with ourselves. To truly be in harmony with ourselves, we must also be in harmony with God, with others and with nature.
The dragon is a symbol of power and good fortune. As we welcome the Year of the Dragon, let us share our success with those less fortunate and use our “power” to look beyond our own needs and serve the greater good.
By now, or at the latest before the Lunar New Year, you should have received a letter from your Columbarium.
If for any reason you have not, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR COLUMBARIUM immediately, or you can call the Hotline at Tel no. 6656-2428, with your details, who will then inform your Columbarium on your behalf.
The Romney campaign released the ambassadors’ statement on Jan 7, three days before the New Hampshire primary, customarily the first such primary in the nation every presidential election year.
The former ambassadors, all Catholics, said in their statement they were “united in our wholehearted support for the candidacy of Mitt Romney for the presidency of the United States because of his commitment to and support of the values that we feel are critical in a national leader.”
They called Mr Romney’s “superior understanding of America’s key role in our increasingly interdependent world and his appreciation of the fact that sound economic and social policies must rest on a healthy culture” as the basis for their decision.
This is apparently the first time in the history of the diocese in which married couples from all language groups renewed their marital vows during Masses.
In most churches, couples were asked to renew their vows while standing in their pews while in some smaller parishes, priests urged couples to go forward to the altar.
“This was the best thing that ever happened to us in the past 32 years of married life,” one couple, Joseph Teng and Katherine Yong, told CatholicNews.
Holy Mother Church has always been wise to introduce right postures at the right time and places. Cardinal Francis Arinze once said that “the way you pray reflects the way you believe”.
The church is not only a building but a sacred place of worship – “holy ground”.
St Paul said: “He who eats and drinks unworthily the Body and Blood of Christ brings judgement to themselves.” At the Name of Jesus, every knee in Heaven and on earth shall bow and every tongue shall give praise to Almighty God.
I attended a 150th anniversary celebration of the Catholic faith coming to Papua New Guinea two years ago, in which many tribes attended.
Those from towns wore shoes, those from mountains only flip top slippers, and many were even without footwear. Many were also bare-bodied – men, children and even women.
I even attended a Palm Sunday Service in a remote mountain, where there was drumming and a dance up to the altar. Here the procession was done very solemnly.
For some time, I have watched with increasing despair the turn-off that the Church regularly serves out to the very people it should be welcoming to our faith community.
The image of priests who lambast churchgoers who dare to approach them for a blessing is horrifying and that of priests who lash out at worried or grieving caregivers at hospital wards is distressing, if not callous.
Add these to the mechanical manner with which some priests go about their “job” while they celebrate Mass and we get an inkling why some Catholics leave the Church and why the Catholic Church struggles to convert a mere thousand each year while the other denominations are attracting people in droves.
ANOTHER year has begun, bringing with it the dawn of new hope. Where there is hope, I recall Jesus’ words: “I have come that they may have life, life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10)
God has planted in the gar- den of each of our souls the seeds for fullness of life. Seeds are meant to grow – into great gorgeous trees accommodating birds that carry the sky on their backs, and all kinds of creatures who live in harmony with one another.
This capacity for fullness of life is God’s gift to us, and yet, there are many who may not even be aware of it. How can we learn to tap into this source of goodness, overflowing in abundance, of God’s love?
SINGAPORE – On the weekend of Jan 7-8, 380 people of different faith traditions learnt how “the shared experience of silence in meditation can enhance inter-religious dialogue”.
Archbishop Nicholas Chia gave the opening address. The aim of the seminar, he said, was to contribute to inter-religious dialogue by deepening the spirit of friendship and collaboration among all faiths in Singapore and the region. The focus was the contemplative practice of religion.
A simple ceremony opened the seminar proceedings. Representatives of 10 faiths individually, in silence, walked on stage with a lit candle and placed it to form a circle on the floor. A quiet, reverent voice led the way:
The newly renovated St Joseph Church (Bukit Timah) opened its doors to parishioners on Christmas Eve last year.
Among the changes are the installation of air-conditioning and an overhead projection system. It is now also handicapped-friendly.
Other changes include the moving of the tabernacle from the side to the centre. The sanctuary has also been extended and the altar moved forward so that parishioners can have a better view of Mass proceedings.
Despite the different techniques used in meditation for various faiths, this practice holds common ground for different religions, say participants who attended a recent seminar.
Common Ground: A Seminar on The Contemplative Dimension of Faith was held from Jan 7-8 at the Catholic Junior College Performing Arts Centre.
Hundreds of participants from various religions attended the event, which was organised by the Archdiocesan Council for Inter-Religious and Ecumenical Dialogue (IRED), The World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) and supported by the Inter-Religious Organisation, Singapore (IRO).
Archbishop Nicholas Chia, together with representatives of different religions, conducted a blessing ceremony at a site in Yishun which will be home to a Catholic-run home for the elderly.
The Villa Francis Home for the Aged in Mandai, which was built in the 1970s and which serves people of all faiths, will relocate to a new building at Yishun Central Avenue 4 in two years’ time.
The choir at the Catholic Prayer Society thanksgiving Mass on Jan 6.
The Catholic Prayer Society (CPS) plans to start a weekday lunchtime Mass in the Marina Bay Financial Centre. This is because the former Wednesday lunchtime Masses at Victoria Memorial Hall have ceased due to renovation.
The new proposed Mass centre is “in response to the recent movement of many businesses and banking organisations from Raffles Place and Suntec City to this new area”, CPS said.
For this initiative, CPS is looking for volunteers to assist and serve at the new proposed venue. Volunteers to help set up the Mass celebration, organise the offertory and collection, are needed as well as communion ministers, lectors, commentators and a music ministry.
Detail from Boys’ Town website. The charity is enhancing its mentoring and leadership programme, while the Boys’ Town Alumni will launch a new programme this March.
Boys’ Town and alumni strengthen and launch programmes for youths
Boys’ Town Alumni (BTA) is implementing a mentoring programme to provide a peer support network for needy and deserving students in Assumption English School, Assumption Pathway School, and Boys’ Town Home.
The alumni, along with representatives from these institutions, have formed a working committee to manage and run the programme which is planned for March this year.