“It is my hope that the Church will sustain and grow in Singapore so that all Catholics will benefit.”
Archbishop William Goh made this statement at a conference at the Catholic Junior College on June 21.
Over 300 representatives of archdiocesan organisations had gathered for the event to listen to the archbishop’s 10-year pastoral plan for the local Church. On May 3, he had met with representatives of parish ministries.
In his address, Archbishop Goh also highlighted the areas that have opportunities for growth, with certain issues like marriages, where the Catholic percentage of divorces is higher than the national average; in Catholic schools, to recapture a creative evangelistic spirit and Catholic ethos; and in catechesis, where youth and neophytes leave after Confirmation or baptism.
The archbishop also noted how the Catholic migrants “give us a false feeling of complacency”.
“Our churches are full, yes, but easily about half are migrants,” he said. “I always have the impression that the migrants are filling up the churches for us, more than our evangelical zeal.”
To solve this issue, Archbishop Goh said, “We cannot run the Catholic Church as if it’s a corporate organisation. Everybody must have a place in the Church.”
The archbishop’s pastoral vision is to build an evangelistic and missionary Church.
“If you’re not evangelistic, you’re not Christian, because a good Christian wants to share the Good News,” he exhorted.
Archbishop Goh estimated that there are about 300,000 Catholics in Singapore today. If each person were to bring just one new person to the Church each year, there would be an increase of 300,000 Catholics annually.
“We could easily build another 30 churches in 10 years!” he exclaimed.
Archbishop Goh also spoke of the structure he has put in place for an evangelistic and missionary Church. He gave credit to his vicar generals Msgr Ambrose Vaz and Msgr Philip Heng, chancellor Fr John-Paul Tan, episcopal vicar for new evangelisation Fr Erbin Fernandez, financial administrator Deacon Clement Chen, judicial vicar Fr Terence Pereira and executive secretary to consultors Fr Ignatius Yeo.
Archbishop Goh also spoke of his work plan for the next 10 years since he assumed office in 2013. In his first year, he said he got in touch with the parishes and priests, and set up archdiocesan offices like the Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore (CTIS) and the Office for New Evangelisation (ONE).
For the next nine years, he said, there would be restructuring for an evangelistic and missionary Church, like the setting up of ONE in parishes, having all offices and commissions operational, and perhaps a diocesan synod too.
Following the archbishop’s address, the participants had small group discussions over lunch. Thereafter, there was a question-and-answer session, as well as presentations by Fr Erbin and Msgr Heng.
Fr Erbin gave an introduction to ONE, and the mandates that the office is introducing in response to Archbishop Goh’s address and to build up the new evangelisation.
He said that there are many methods of carrying out new evangelisation, but “we are in the process of trying to work something out for our archdiocese that would fit our current situation”.
These include “the formation of a mature community”, “an attitude of disciple-making in all that we do”, and to “re-learn or re-visit the way that we pray” so as to “introduce a stronger sense of prayer”.
Msgr Heng told the audience, he welcomed information on “where your ministry or commission is heading to in terms of needs, space and finance.”
He added, “I think it’s important too to give us your feedback so it can be put in this strategic plan.”
Ms Jennifer Anthoney, 34, a participant representing the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission told CatholicNews, “I’m glad the bishop took the time to speak to us now, through lots of prayer and lots of discernment.” She added that she will bring back what she learnt to the commission to “look at how we can add value to the bishop’s plan”.
Another member of the audience, executive director of Abilities Beyond Limitations and Expectations (ABLE) Gene Lee said that the archbishop “gives us a very clear understanding of his vision and how he wants to move forward over the next 10 years”.
By Clara Lai
related article: Archbishop outlines his 10-year plan for Church