Better coordination and more commitment from local Catholics are needed to better serve Chinese migrant workers attending activities in parishes.
This was a comment made by parish coordinators serving some of the 200 or so blue-collar workers – both Catholic and non-Catholic – who attend activities in at least six parishes.
These are the parishes of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sts Peter and Paul, St Mary of the Angels, St Vincent de Paul, Holy Trinity and Risen Christ.
As part of its ongoing series featuring foreign Catholic communities in Singapore, CatholicNews spoke to some of these parish coordinators to find out more about these activities.
Activities in parishes
Nativity Church caters to about 100 non-Catholic Chinese workers, said Mr John Lim, a local Catholic from the Gospel Station, the parish’s outreach body serving these migrants.
For the first three Sundays of the month, the parish holds talks on “the Catholic faith and social issues in China”, said Mr Lim.
Following this are fellowship and dinner. Every week, Mr Lim forks out money from his own pocket to help pay for the meals. “I don’t mind because as volunteers, we should take care of them,” he said.
On the last Sunday of the month, “we have a large gathering where about 70 to 100 migrant workers come to Nativity Church for fun activities,” he added.
Some of these include Chinese dumpling-making. “We provide them the ingredients so the workers can make and eat Chinese food,” said Mr Lim.
Traditional Chinese medicine consultations and free haircuts by volunteers are also given.
“Hopefully, through these activities, the non-Catholic Chinese migrant workers would become one of us Catholics,” said Mr Lim.
Some workers told CatholicNews they enjoy the activities.
Mr Zhou Guo Sheng, 47, a construction worker from Jiangsu province, said that after attending a Christmas party at Nativity Church three years ago, “I felt that people here are just like my brothers and sisters, like coming back home.”
Mr Liu Mo, 23, a welder from Shanxi province, shared, “We just want a place which feels like home.”
At the Church of St Mary of the Angels, activities are held for about 50 Chinese workers.
Canossian Sr Josephine Ng told CatholicNews that English lessons, Bible sharing, karaoke sessions and dinner are held on the second Sunday of the month starting at 8.45pm.
A Christmas party was held on Dec 14, she said.
At the Church of the Risen Christ, a coordinator who gave her name as Meiling, said the parish organises free legal services every second Monday of the month and English, ukelele and piano lessons every fourth Sunday of the month.
Challenges the community faces
Currently, Masses for these workers are held on the first and third Sundays of the month at 8 pm at the parishes of Sts Peter and Paul and St Vincent de Paul respectively.
An organiser for these Masses, who declined to be named, said it is a big challenge to hold weekly Masses.
He noted that most migrant workers finish work after 5pm. Furthermore, after requesting for volunteers from parishes to serve as Mass lectors, Eucharistic ministers or choir singers, there have been occasions where they were unavailable, he said.
“If these challenges can be brought to the archdiocesan level, I think it would definitely help,” he added.
Ms Meiling from Church of the Risen Christ suggests setting up “a committee for Chinese migrants in the diocese”.
Sr Josephine agrees, saying that there is need for such a body to coordinate “the activities for the Chinese migrant community overall”.
Mr Lim from Nativity Church also acknowledged the need for “committed Catholics who are willing to volunteer”.
Sr Josephine noted that some migrant Chinese workers choose to “join Protestant churches as they hold weekly services” for them.
Mr Joseph Ho, organising secretary for the Commission for the Apostolate of Mandarin Speaking (CAMS), which coordinates Mandarin-speaking groups in the archdiocese, told Catholic News that activities for this group “are held independently within the different parishes”.
“At CAMS, we will continue to offer support,” he said.
By Lorna O’Hara