SINGAPORE – Several youths preparing for their stint in National Service (NS) had the opportunity to voice their anxieties and to seek the advice of Catholics who had gone through the process.

The session was organised by Captain Paul Lee, a full-time staff from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and a member of the Catholic Military Apostolate. It was held at Church of St. Ignatius.

The small-group session enabled the pre-enlistees to share their concerns regarding NS and to freely interact with the facilitators.

When asked about their feelings about NS, most of the participants expressed uncertainty and a slight fear of what they expected.

Captain Lee shared with the participants that in NS “there are situations where our values and beliefs may be challenged”. Such situations could be “small things” such as swearing and the use of foul language. Though seemingly trivial, it was in daily choices like these that young men face the risk of one?s spirit “becoming hardened” and “coarse”, he explained.

Major Gerard Ng, a Catholic military regular from Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, shared the sentiments of Paul. There are many temptations that one will encounter in NS life, many of which may run counter to the Church?s teaching and morality, he told the participants.

Captain Yap Kwong Weng found NS to be like a wilderness process, whereby “we start ?nding God in times that are bad”.

He shared his personal encounter while overseas after a training exercise in the United States where he met with a serious accident. He broke several ribs, punctured a lung and was rendered unconscious.

Captain Yap eventually recovered from the injuries. This incident brought him even closer to God, he told the youth.

Jesuit Father Colin Tan shared that “we can have the Lord Jesus as our buddy in NS and grow in our relationship with our Lord”. Father Colin encouraged the youth to “journey with Him” and “cultivate a contemplative awareness of the Lord?s presence”.

He also urged them to make the right decisions when their faith is challenged. Moreover, he reminded them, “when called to be Christ to others, be there for them”. One such situation he cited was the rendering of support to and the helping of the weakest person in one?s platoon.

Apart from the personal sharing and interaction, a video was screened giving the pre-enlistees an insight into life in NS, allowing them to know what to expect when they enlist for NS.
- By Leonard Yeo

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