DECEMBER 27, 2015, Vol 65, No 26

In his address at the Prayer Vigil for the Festival of the Families in Philadelphia in September, Pope Francis said families should be the “living symbol of the loving plan of which our Heavenly Father dreamed.”

However, the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family (ACF) feels that this ideal is quite removed from the reality here. According to ACF, our pre-marital and underage sex rates have increased to levels of concern. Recent surveys suggest that about 60 percent of Catholics have had pre-marital sex by the time they leave tertiary institutions. Families are being torn apart by ever increasing rates of divorce, which have trebled since 1985.

It was precisely to address these and other issues which affect the family that ACF was formed in June 2014, at the behest of Archbishop William Goh.
Q: Recently, I was invited to a Protestant church service as it was in memorial of my late father who passed away. During the service, bread and wine were offered to those who were baptised. Question: Can baptised Catholics partake of these? - Eunice Smith

A: As Catholics living in a country that often see Catholics marrying Christians of other denominations, this is an important issue that needs to be answered for pastoral, ecumenical, liturgical and catechetical reasons.
 
Understanding them on all these different levels will help us to appreciate the richness of our faith as well as the ramifications of receiving the Eucharist each time we participate consciously in Holy Communion. It will also help us to understand the oft-misunderstood prohibition of receiving communion outside of a state of grace.

Do note, however, that an answer in a publication like the CatholicNews may have a different timbre as compared to engaging in a theological and spiritual conversation face to face with someone, principally because there are nuances involved.
CHIJ St Nicholas Girls Primary student Lynette Tay, who is hearing-impaired, scored a PSLE aggregate score of 257.CHIJ St Nicholas Girls Primary student Lynette Tay, who is hearing-impaired, scored a PSLE aggregate score of 257.
It was two days before the PSLE listening comprehension exam when CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ Primary student Lynette Tay had a scare.

Her cochlear implant, a surgically implanted electronic device to aid the hearing-impaired, had stopped working, leaving her mother with little option but to rush to the hospital for a replacement.

“We went to get a replacement the next day from the hospital but it also broke down,” said Mrs Tay, 46, Lynette’s mother.

Mrs Tay eventually got the cochlear implant to work, but 12-year-old Lynette shared that she felt “anxious” during the listening comprehension for fear of the implant turning off again.

Born deaf, Lynette had her first cochlear implant surgically fitted into her right ear when she was only about a year old.

Subsequently, she had to undergo intensive training that taught her how to pick up sounds and react to them accordingly.
Children dancing during the Bible camp, held from Nov 24-28.Children dancing during the Bible camp, held from Nov 24-28.

Over the course of five mornings from Nov 24-28, more than 100 children aged five to 12 from the West district parishes gathered at the Church of St Ignatius to get to know Christ better through fun and faith-filled activities.

The aim of the programme, titled Cathletics – Training to be Champions of Christ, was to familiarise children with the life of Christ with teachings on  the Commandments, the Beatitudes and the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.
 
The children were grouped into five different teams and rotated around five stations that offered challenges based on the daily theme, virtue and scripture verse.

Whether it was stacking up s’mores at the snack station, stringing colourful beads at the craft station, striking a ball at the games station, sustaining their spirits at the faith station or dancing their hearts out at the music station, each child was inspired to become a champion for Christ in his or her own way.
CHARIS volunteers and Philippine villagers form a human chain to pass along bags of sand to build shelters for typhoon victims.  Photos: KENNY TAN and GABRIEL LEECHARIS volunteers and Philippine villagers form a human chain to pass along bags of sand to build shelters for typhoon victims. Photos: KENNY TAN and GABRIEL LEE
For seven days, 25 CHARIS volunteers worked alongside victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, shovelling sand and soil into sacks and helping to lay foundations for houses. The Singapore volunteers also built a water filtration system for villagers in Bogo City, Cebu, to help them have clean and safe drinking.

“It was a wonderful experience coming here and helping the people to improve their lives,” said Singapore volunteer Tania Roy.

“It was good to note that despite the language barrier, we are coming together as a community in solidarity to support one another.”

Ms Roy and her fellow volunteers were in Bogo City from Nov 29-Dec 5 working on a shelter-building site that CHARIS (Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiatives, Singapore) supports with donations from the Singapore Catholic community.
Singapore Institute of Management Catholic Society students putting on a skit for children from the Canossaville Children’s Home.Singapore Institute of Management Catholic Society students putting on a skit for children from the Canossaville Children’s Home.
Members of the Singapore Institute of Management Catholic Society brought cheer to children from the Canossaville Children’s Home with an Advent skit on the true spirit of Christmas.

The skit, planned with the help of members of Ubi Caritas, the Catholic society in Yale-NUS College, depicted how Christmas was not about presents or decorations but about giving from the heart.

It was one of several activities organised during the home’s Family Bonding Carnival held on Dec 5. According to the home director, Ms Wong Lai Chun, the carnival aimed to teach the children to “not only receive goodwill from others but also to give back to the community”.

The event saw the home’s children creating and selling their handicraft bookmarks and Christmas cards. One of the children had come up with the idea of creating a handicraft booth.

The Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ performing at its concert, Christmas in Singapore SG50 – Peace in the World, on Dec 6.The Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ performing at its concert, Christmas in Singapore SG50 – Peace in the World, on Dec 6.

The Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ’s Christmas concert this year was extra special in various ways. The concert celebrated Singapore’s 50th anniversary as well the choir’s own half century of existence.

In the segment when Singapore representatives and heads of foreign delegations hung ornaments on a Christmas tree to symbolise peace, Dr Lee Suan Yew, brother of the late Lee Kuan Yew, placed an ornament bearing the silhouette of Singapore’s founding father against a background of a crescent and five stars.

The concert, held at St Joseph’s Church (Victoria St) on Dec 6, also saw the 80-strong choir singing a Christmas carol for Singapore titled Light to the World, composed by the choir’s founder-director Peter Low.

The concert began with excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, interspersed with four short readings from the Old Testament foretelling the birth of the Christ.

Risen Christ Youth Symphony performing a concert titled A Light to the World on Dec 5.Risen Christ Youth Symphony performing a concert titled A Light to the World on Dec 5.
The audience in the Church of the Risen Christ listened in rapt attention as vocal, violin and flute soloists displayed their virtuosity, and as the orchestra performed music from Lord of the Rings and familiar Christmas classics.

The 60-member strong Risen Christ Youth Symphony staged A Light to the World, a concert in aid of the Syrian refugees in Europe on Dec 5.

The concert also saw the premiere performance of a Childhood Scenes of Singapore, a piece composed by the orchestra’s conductor, Dr Aloysius Leong.

Dr Leong explained to the audience that as a result of the terror attacks in Paris, more doors in Europe will now be closed to the refugees who are already living in dire conditions.
Laypeople and Religious taking part in the walk. Photos: RICHARD LIMLaypeople and Religious taking part in the walk. Photos: RICHARD LIM
More than 100 Catholics from 17 parishes took part in a “Mercy Walk” for peace to mark the International Year of Consecrated life as well as the start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy on Dec 8.

Laypeople joined Daughters of St Paul, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, Good Shepherd and Canossian nuns, and Jesuit and Franciscan priests, in walking from Changi Prison Museum to the Church of Divine Mercy to participate in the Jubilee Year Mass.

The idea of starting the 5.2-km journey from Changi Prison Museum came from Fr Johnson Fernandez, parish priest of Divine Mercy.

He explained that “the venue is symbolic because we want the Church to remember those who have most need of God’s love and mercy – namely the prisoners themselves. The Holy Father calls us to be merciful to others just as God is merciful to us.”

The walk was an initiative of the Conference of Religious Major Superiors and organised by Jesuit Fr Colin Tan and some volunteers who served as group leaders.
The four other designated parishes opened their Holy Doors during Masses over the weekend of Dec 12-13.
holycross porta santaCHURCH OF THE HOLY CROSS: Parish priest Fr Richards Ambrose opened the Holy Door during the Sunday 11.30 am Mass. The door is open daily from 6 am-7 pm except on public holidays.

Archbishop Goh launches the Year of Mercy as he opens the Holy Door at Divine Mercy Church
Archbishop William Goh blesses the Holy Door at the Church of Divine Mercy with holy water. The door is open from 7 am-9 pm daily. Photo: ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF SINGAPOREArchbishop William Goh blesses the Holy Door at the Church of Divine Mercy with holy water. The door is open from 7 am-9 pm daily. Photo: ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF SINGAPORE

“May the doors of our hearts be wide open to His call and may the doors of all our parishes be open to all who seek the living God,” said Archbishop William Goh as he launched the Jubilee Year of Mercy on Dec 8.

In a solemn ceremony outside the designated Holy Door at the Church of Divine Mercy, Archbishop Goh said, “Jesus is the door. In the words of Pope Francis, there is only one way that opens wide the entrance into a life of communion with God.”

He told the 1,800-strong  crowd gathered for the event on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception that “today as we enter through …this Holy Door, let it be a reminder to all who pass through here that Jesus is the way to salvation.”

He added that the Holy Door “serves as a symbol of God’s everlasting mercy and His constant invitation for us to return home to Him.”

Archbishop Goh then blessed the door with holy water and incensed it.

My dear brothers and sisters,

We have just inaugurated the Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy. Celebrating Christmas is truly a celebration of God’s mercy for humanity. We were once living like orphans in exile, without knowing our true identity and our destiny.

As St Paul wrote in his letter to Titus, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

Indeed, the great joy of Christmas is that God who has always been invoked as a God of mercy, even among other monotheistic religions, has now come to us in person to show us His divine mercy, not because we deserve His grace but purely out of His mercy and compassion.