She’s an actress, singer and entrepreneur but meet her on any given Sunday and you’ll be forgiven for thinking that she’s just an ordinary parishioner. But 29-year old Cheryl Wee is anything but ordinary.
Daughter of Mervin Wee and Jean Yip, of the famed Jean Yip chain of hair and beauty outlets, she juggles a busy schedule of film shoots, being the ambassador for Jean Yip and managing her first entrepreneurial venture, Cheryl W, a wellness and weight management centre. Despite all this, the “Mata Mata” actress makes it a point to attend Mass with her family when she’s not working and even serves as lector with her father at Church of the Sacred Heart.
Cheryl’s devotion to the Catholic faith is an example of her family’s love for God. “My parents, grandparents and aunts are devout Catholics, not only through words but by actions, and that has been my guidance and morals to live by,” said Cheryl.
With faith as her guiding light, she pulled through the lonely and difficult times when she moved to Taiwan after signing with Taiwanese management agency, Gin Star Entertainment. “There were times when I felt I was losing faith. Then I came across a prayer to be used when you feel you’re distancing away. I found myself saying this prayer often when I was in Taiwan as I was losing focus on what was important,” Cheryl revealed. According to this eldest of three children in the Wee family, the prayer was a plea for the Lord to hold on to her so that she would not drift. As it turned out, she came out stronger and continues to be a doting moral influence on her siblings, Rachel, 28, and Russell, 21.
Growing up, her parents instilled the love of God in her and her siblings through prayer. Even when Cheryl and her siblings studied abroad, the first place that they looked for once they settled in was the nearest Catholic Church so that they could attend Mass on Sundays.
It was not plain sailing, though. During the years that Mervin and Jean were building up their hair and beauty business, there were times when they overlooked their Catholic observances, prayers and Masses. But the couple’s faith never wavered.
“Twenty years ago, I joined MOW (Ministry of the Word at St Alphonsus or Novena Church) and I proclaim the Word for both the lunch-time and weekend masses. In this manner, I try to build up my faith and that of my family’s,” said Mervin, who is also an active lector at Sacred Heart Church and the Cathedral. The ministry inspires its members to be a ‘living faith community where the Word of God is lived by action and shared in proclamation’.
Through Mervin’s encouragement, both Cheryl and her sister are members of MOW while her brother used to serve as an altar boy before he was enlisted for National Service. While they are among some of Singapore’s most high profile families, Cheryl, Jean and Mervin remain down to earth about their success and celebrity status. “We acknowledge our many blessings and how God has been merciful to us in so many ways and at various times and places,” said Mervin.
“Success, for me, is being able to faithfully use all the talents God has given me in my work and family life,” added Jean. “I carry out my job with love, passion, commitment and a very positive mindset. I try to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the business that I run and in my family.”
Catholic Family Dialogue
Jean, Mervin and Cheryl will be featured in the coming Catholic Family Dialogue 2016, where they will share with the attendees their experience on work-life balance and the faith.
The event, organised by the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family, is a follow-up of the inaugural Dialogue in November 2014. This year’s event will be held on July 23 at the Catholic Junior College auditorium. Themed ‘Will the Catholic Family still be relevant tomorrow?’, the organisers hope to discuss how the observance and practice of the faith in Catholic families have degenerated over the years.
The Catholic Family Dialogue will also include a talk by veteran family therapist Brother Collin Wee, who will trace the backsliding of this domestic Church from the seventies to modern day and show how this has affected families, and ultimately, the children. A panel discussion involving two educators, four parents including an inter-faith couple, and a teenager, will try to explore ways to remedy the situation.
By Joanne Koh-Pereira
Catholic families who are interested to attend the Catholic Family Dialogue 2016 can sign up at catholicfamily.org.sg/cfd2016. Seats are limited.
The Vatican issued Pope Francis’ latest Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) last month, following the Synods on the Family held in 2014 and 2015. Amoris Laetitia essentially discusses the various aspects of family life, including the joys and challenges. We reproduce an excerpt from the document, which reinforces the role of the family as the first Church.
Passing on the faith
“Raising children calls for an orderly process of handing on the faith. This is made difficult by current lifestyles, work schedules and the complexity of today’s world, where many people keep up a frenetic pace just to survive. Even so, the home must continue to be the place where we learn to appreciate the meaning and beauty of the faith, to pray and to serve our neighbour. This begins with baptism, in which, as Saint Augustine said, mothers who bring their children “cooperate in the sacred birthing”. Thus begins the journey of growth in that new life. Faith is God’s gift, received in baptism, and not our own work, yet parents are the means that God uses for it to grow and develop. Hence “it is beautiful when mothers teach their little children to blow a kiss to Jesus or to Our Lady. How much love there is in that! At that moment the child’s heart becomes a place of prayer”. Handing on the faith presumes that parents themselves genuinely trust God, seek him and sense their need for him, for only in this way does “one generation laud your works to another, and declare your mighty acts” (Ps 144:4) and “fathers make known to children your faithfulness” (Is 38:19). This means that we need to ask God to act in their hearts, in places where we ourselves cannot reach.” - Pope Francis (Amoris Laetitia, 287)
To read the full document, visit catholicfamily.org.sg/amoris.
In this monthly column, we feature Catholic personalities and their favourite memory of being ‘family’. In this issue, radio personality, Jean Danker, who is also a parishioner of St Michael’s Church, shares why this is special…
There were music, homemade meals, laughter and play in our house when I was growing up. Dad always filled the air with his favourite songs from his massive cassette collection. My mum, who’s Hainanese, was the best cook in the world and my elder sister and I often got up to mischief.
In later years when my mother got sick, I was rushing to make all the moments count. I made sure we celebrated every single occasion like birthdays, anniversaries, mooncake festivals, CNY, Christmas, etc.
I wanted to spend as much quality time with my family and capture these happy moments while we still had them. I spent all my waking hours when I was not on radio, with my mum.
This is the last picture of us together. Just the five of us: mom, dad, my sister and her only daughter. When we took this picture (above), I knew in my heart that it would most likely be my mum’s last birthday photograph. I was so happy everyone had the brightest of smiles, especially my mum and dad. It certainly was a memorable birthday for all of us. I have this framed up at my house.
My mum passed away eight months after. It’s been three years since, yet I still struggle with this new normal—a life without her. Yet I know for sure she is watching over me and is proud of her little girl.
I think this quote by Dodie Smith perfectly sums up my feelings for my family. “The family - that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to”.
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.
Claire woke up the other morning, looked at me and said, “Mama, guess which mother I love the most?” to which I replied, puzzled, “But you only have one mother,” to which she replied, indignantly, “No, I have two mothers, remember? Mother Mary?”.
I smiled and gave myself a silent pat on the back for teaching her that Mary is her mother, too.
My own journey towards Marian devotion began when I started delving more into Pope John Paul II’s motto of ‘Totus Tuus’ (“Totally Yours” in Latin), his personal consecration to Mary.
He writes in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope: “Totus Tuus. This phrase is not only an expression of piety, or simply an expression of devotion. It is more ... Thanks to St Louis de Montfort, I came to understand that true devotion to the Mother of God is actually Christocentric. Indeed, it is very profoundly rooted in the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption” (pp. 212-213).
I found a copy of True Devotion to Mary and read it. It changed the way I saw Mary’s role in my life. In it, St. Louis De Montfort writes: “As all perfection consists in our being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus, it naturally follows that the most perfect of all devotions is that which conforms, unites, and consecrates us most completely to Jesus. Now of all God’s creatures, Mary is the most conformed to Jesus. It therefore follows that ... The more one is consecrated to Mary, the more one is consecrated to Jesus.” Once we give ourselves to Jesus through Mary, she forms us in her spiritual womb to become like her son Jesus!
I was moved to make an act of consecration to Mary in 2007. Once I did so, our blessed Mother was quick to bring me to her son Jesus. I started to yearn for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and started attending daily Masses for a couple of months. I also found new joy in praying the daily rosary. She brought me to a greater love for our Lord, and out of that love grew the songs that became the album Beautiful Seed.
This month being Mary’s month and the month of the rosary, Kavin, Claire and I pray the family rosary at least once a week.
May she who knows Him best, guide us to a greater love of God and neighbour and to live, as Pope John Paul II did, the motto ‘Totus Tuus, I am completely thine, Mary’.
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.