Is there ever a perfect marriage?
There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, according to 41-year old Colin Yeow, who is married to Audra Lim, 37. “And couple mentoring is a very concrete way of understanding this reality,” he adds. The couple, who have been married for 10 years, felt a mutual prompting to answer the call to be couple mentors in the CMJ programme a few months ago.
She recalls that the initial years were even more challenging when their two children came along. “What helped us stay sane was meeting other marrieds and hearing about their very similar struggles with their spouses and children. And then we felt normal,” she reveals, citing the confidence they garnered just by knowing that other couples went through similar circumstances and overcame them.
“We have our own marriage battle scars and we know that in the lowest of the low moments, it can seem quite impossible for a marriage to recover… but it does – with prayer, lots of effort and making a constant choice to choose love. We want to help other young marrieds know that it is worth the journey,” says Audra, who feels that the time she is supposed to set aside for the CMJ progamme is manageable, even with three young children.
Older couples to journey with younger couples
According to ACF, it is currently seeking couples who are married for at least five years to journey with younger couples in their own parishes who are just starting out. A typical journey would span from pre wedding to the second year of their marriage. “The idea is to nurture a strong marriage through friendship,” says Caroline Theseira, Codirector of the Couple Mentor Journey, with her husband Roderick. They have been married for 24 years.
“We need happy and successful marriages to be more visible,” she adds. “When more experienced couples share their marriage experiences with younger couples, their determination and perseverance in having overcome many hurdles shine through and become benchmarks for the mentees.”
Roderick cuts in: “What’s more, the ability of the mentor couple to look back and laugh at themselves, find humour in once-painful situations, is both encouraging and inspiring to the younger ones.”
According to Caroline, CMJ allows important lessons to be naturally passed on through the real-life stories of the mentors. “In addition, couple mentors can point out possible pitfalls ahead and help to dramatically shorten the learning curve for the young couples”.
One young man who is looking forward to learning the ropes via couple mentoring is 27-year-old Jeremy Chan, who was recently engaged. Jeremy explains why: “There is the fear of not having a successful marriage, but the bigger reason is that we want our marriage to be fruitful, loving and safe for our children.”
For 35-year-old Henry Soediarko, who married Irma Kusuma four months ago, CMJ’s juxtaposition in the marriage life cycle is ideal. He says, “When we completed our EE (Engaged Encounter) weekend, we felt grateful and scared at the same time. While we found EE very helpful in preparing us for marriage, we felt it would have been nicer if there was something after EE,” The new husband adds, “Plus, we all know that empirically, marital trouble starts in the early stages - so help in any form, is more than welcome!”
ACF Chairman John Hui elaborates: “Engaged Encounter and Marriage Preparation Course are very good programmes that help engaged couples prepare for marriage. However, there needs to be a follow-up – as with any journey. Leaving the newly married couples inadequately supported in the early years of marriage leaves them vulnerable to the storms that can cause great damage during this period. It is important, therefore, for a programme to keep newly married couples supported, at least until they continue their marriage enrichment journeys in any of the marriage enrichment programmes that are available in our Archdiocese.”
ACF is currently searching for potential couple mentors to minister to younger couples with their shared stories and experiences. If you feel a strong calling to serve in this couple ministry, visit CatholicFamily.org.sg for more information.
Are our churches family friendly for Sunday Masses? Edited by Joanne Koh-Pereira
Our churches are becoming more family-friendly, beginning with priests showing more understanding should a baby cry. At St Francis Xavier’s, there is a Children’s Liturgy during the 11am Mass. Although SFX does not have a separate section for parents with little ones, I think it is good to have these young families attend Mass with everyone anyway. It will teach the little ones to behave appropriately in Church while parents with toddlers who need to walk about can sit closer to the back to minimise distraction to others. A church should be a place where children grow in faith, feeling welcomed.”
Ms Caroline Mowe, Mother of two boys aged 8 - 12 Church of St Francis Xavier (SFX)
Most churches have a children’s liturgy and some have a soundproof room for parents and little ones to sit in during Mass. When my younger children are making too much noise, I take them out of the church. The audio-visual system at St Ignatius is very adequate so even if I’m outside, I am able to see and hear the Mass, and participate as best I can. By reaching out to families through various church activities, the parish community also builds on the emphasis of keeping children and the youth in touch with their faith that extends beyond attending Mass.”
Ms Dominique Chew, Mother of five boys aged 4 - 10 Church of St Ignatius
Churches have become more family friendly. But has this made it more distracting for us? When we attend Mass at Holy Trinity Church, the crying room has become a picnic ground where parents allow their kids to have fun and eat during Mass. During Mass, we also see parishioners browsing their mobile devices, which doesn’t set a good example for the children and youths. For my family, we believe that we should better ourselves to serve the church and not otherwise. For this reason, I feel that we should ask ourselves whether “Are our families church-friendly during Masses.”
Mr Colin Braberry, Father of four children aged 6 - 13 Church of the Holy Trinity
At Nativity Church, we try to make everyone feel welcome, whether those coming with children or not. The wardens will greet the church goers, and assist them in finding seats. One Mass on Sunday is designated as “Children’s Mass”, where children are involved in various duties, such as proclaiming the Word, leading the intercessory prayer, greetings, and collection of donations. Sunday canteen service also provides fellowship and interaction for parish families.”
Rev Fr Henry Siew, Parish Priest Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
In this monthly column, we feature Catholic personalities and their favourite memory of being ‘family’. We kick off with media personality, Bernard Lim, who is also a parishioner of St Bernadette’s Church.
I have always been a family person. Being the only son in a house with three seniors, the ‘duty’ of looking after my mum, dad and single aunt was always before me.
In April 2014, I suffered a sudden Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) - a stroke of the brain. It happened on a Saturday night and I was rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital in an ambulance. They had to cut my head to drain blood out of my head and fix a broken vessel. I remained unconscious till Monday evening in the ICU.
I spent about seven weeks in the hospital, including for physiotherapy. I asked many questions, like why me? Why now, when my physical health was at its best? Was this a sign from God? I also started to count my blessings as I recovered with no defects.
My dad took the responsibility of looking after me. He took very good care of me by delivering food to me three times a day. Lunch and dinner were usually home cooked by my aunt. He showed everyone that he was the pillar of strength at a time like this. I felt very blessed to have him around the family, and I thank him for all that he has done for me.
Indeed this was my family moment – when three old folks looked after me instead of the other way around. I hope to remain healthy to serve them in their later years as I continue to pray for their good health.
By Bernard Lim
Catholic singer-songwriter Corrinne May shares her thoughts on various family moments and matters being a daughter, sister, wife and mother in Singapore and Los Angeles in this monthly column.
Everything in His time
This Easter, my husband, Kavin Joseph Hoo (he chose ‘Joseph’ for his confirmation name, seeking to be a good father and husband like St. Joseph) was received into the Catholic Church and received Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time. God truly had a plan for Kavin’s conversion, and it was in God’s time.
“There is an appointed time for everything and a time for every affair under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
When I first met Kavin back in 1996, he was a fallen-away Protestant, disillusioned with God, and hesitant about accepting my invitation to go for mass at the university parish I attended in Boston, USA. But go for that first mass he did; I remember him joking about the holy water being sprinkled saying :”It burns! It burns!”.
After dating for a few years, we were married in September 2003. We sat down with a priest for the pre-marriage interview and Kavin promised to baptise and raise as Catholic, any children we received from God.
Kavin kept his promise and we baptised our firstborn, Claire. We started attending mass as a family soon after. When Claire turned three, we started family prayer every night before bedtime. Through our prayers I could tell that Kavin’s faith was growing. For the Lord says, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst”. (Matthew 18:20)
Faith never grows in a vacuum. Just like a plant, the gift of faith needs to be nurtured in a garden. However, Los Angeles was hardly the spiritual garden that Kavin needed. We nurtured our creativity and many great friendships in our 17 years living in Los Angeles, but we longed for a spiritual community in which to grow.
Thankfully, the Lord blessed us with such a community in Singapore. In 2012, we found our kampong : a group of devoted Catholic families who showed us, through their daily life, an abundance of loving examples of how our Catholic faith could be lived out in family and community life. Once Kavin was plugged in to this community, his faith blossomed.
Amazingly, four members of our kampong were received into the Catholic Church at the same Easter Vigil. The Lord works in mysterious and wonderful ways! For “Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:7). Alleluia!
By Corrinne May
This section is produced by the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family and is published on the last issue of each month. For more information on Catholic family life matters, visit catholicfamily.org.sg.