St Joseph Church (Bukit Timah) has launched a comprehensively researched book on its own history as part of its 170th anniversary celebrations,
The author, Church historian Clement Liew, presented a copy of the book to Archbishop William Goh during the 11 am Confirmation Mass on July 3.
In his preface to the book, titled Mission on a Hill Far, Far Away, Dr Liew said the aim was to produce a work that the general Catholic community could appreciate, and also to help parishioners know the story of their church and community.
Mission on a Hill is about the journey of a church community, that had settled in the interior of Singapore almost two centuries ago, growing from a once isolated mission to a thriving parish today.
The book traces how French priest, Fr Anatole Mauduit, set up the first missionary chapel in 1846 for a small group of Chinese Christians and potential converts.
Through the years, the parish endured numerous challenges and hardships. These included attacks by the hoeys (secret societies) who considered the missionary activities a direct threat to their influence, wild animals such as snakes, alligators and tigers lurking in the bushes, and the Japanese Occupation (1942 to 1945).
One chapter tells how a priest, Fr Stephen Lee, helped a large group of Catholic refugees from Swatow, China, to settle in a safe haven at Mandai. This group was subsequently placed under the care of St Joseph Church.
The Catholic community at Bukit Timah also enjoyed a “golden age” under Fr Joachim Teng’s stewardship, during which St Joseph’s spearheaded the progress of the Catholic Church in Singapore in the north and western parts of the island. The outstations of St Joseph’s eventually became full parishes themselves – the Churches of St Anthony, Our Lady Star of the Sea, St Francis of Assisi and St Mary of the Angels.
Other chapters cover the work of other clergy of the parish, such as Fr R. Challet and Fr Augustine Tay, recounted by some parishioners.