The Church in Singapore can only move forward if there is unity among parishes, ministries and archdiocesan organisations. Without such a communion, the Church would not be dynamic, vibrant and evangelical.
This was the sobering message that Archbishop William Goh and Fr Terence Pereira, Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelisation, had for representatives of parishes gathered at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Aug 22.
The morning meeting was convened to launch the Four Tenets of the New Evangelisation – Word, Worship, Communion and Witness (see story below) – with the emphasis on communion.
Archbishop Goh, in his opening address, highlighted the consequences of constant disagreement among Church bodies.
“If we do not have one mind, one heart, one soul, one conviction, we will never move forward. That’s the problem we have in the Church now,” he said, “disagreeing with everything among ourselves”.
“How can we tell people that our mission is communion when we are divided, [when] we are fighting with each other?” he asked. “As Church, communion is fundamental. Without communion, everything falls apart.”
Fr Terence, in his address, noted that “one thing that is happening right now is that the organisations, the archdiocesan commissions and the parishes are working separately”.
If everyone is “doing their thing”, this “won’t produce the kinds of results or objectives and goals that we want to reach – a dynamic, vibrant, evangelical Church”, he said.
“If all of us work towards communion for the next one, two, three years, we will have a certain foundation to build the other tenets as well.”
Participants then broke up into their own parishes. They were asked to identify a few “strengths” in their parish that promote communion and how their parish could build on these.
They were also asked to identify a few “weaknesses” that hinder communion, and what needed to be done to address
During the plenary session that followed, parish representatives shared either a “strength” or “weakness” with the whole assembly.
Some of the “strengths” included “strong fellowship” among members, joint projects by parish communities, and a strong welcoming spirit, especially to foreigners.
Some of the weaknesses included parish ministries “operating in silos”, in isolation from one another; being task-driven as opposed to being relationship- and community-oriented; a lack of formation for individual ministries; and a lack of sense of community.
Fr Terence, in summing up, said that “honestly looking at ourselves and our weaknesses will allow us to focus on where we need to grow”.
He urged participants to “continue this dialogue” with their parish and ministry members. He added that such a dialogue should include the various archdiocesan commissions as well.
Participants said they agreed with the message the workshop delivered.
Ms Angela Schooling, 62, from the Church of St Bernadette, said there is definitely a need for better communion among parish groups.
She added that parish ministries tend to be “inward” looking, focusing on their own work, and felt there should be inter-ministry interaction for better evangelisation.
She compared ministries to “family members” in a parish. “If I do not get to know them, there’s no way to have a good bonding,” she said.
Ms Mary Jean Bautista, 27, from the Church of the Holy Trinity, said such a session allowed people to “hear more” about the direction of the archdiocese, and to “align accordingly”.
However, she felt that the workshop could have allowed for more interaction between different parishes, especially those with similar characteristics, so that they could “learn from one another”.
Another session was held in the afternoon for Religious, archdiocesan organisations and groups, which saw about 170 people participating.
Msgr Philip Heng delivered the archbishop’s message to the crowd, who were later divided into groups to discuss how they could contribute in communion to support the archdiocese.
Various ideas of how groups could collaborate with one another were shared during the plenary.
The tenets of the New Evangelisation
The four tenets of the New Evangelisation, as outlined by the Office for the New Evangelisation are:
The Word: We seek and experience with joy a personal relationship with Jesus through a personal encounter and re-encounter with Him that leads to continual conversion and a deepening of commitment to Him.
Worship: We renew the vibrancy of liturgical celebrations, especially the Eucharist, by wholehearted and prayerful preparation and participation, and we celebrate the sacraments authentically by living them out in our daily lives.
Communion: We live, love and serve in communion with God, and with each other within the Church (priests, Religious and laity) so as to bring all peoples to communion with God and with each other.
Witness: We share our faith in every sphere of life through our proclamation of the Good News and the witness of our life, according to our charism and discerned vocation, and using approaches, methods and expressions relevant to today’s society, specially reaching out in love and service to the poor, marginalised and disadvantaged in society.