Over 150 people turned up for this year’s Catholic Family Dialogue on 23 July at Catholic Junior College. Organised by the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family (ACF), the event sought to explore the relevance of the Catholic Family in today’s challenging world.
It was due to the apparent decline of the practice of the faith at home that prompted the organisers to go for the theme ‘Will the Catholic Family Still be Relevant Tomorrow’.
Mr Kevin Simon, 27, was among the participants who signed up for the event. A volunteer at a youth centre, he went with the hope of learning how to reach out to troubled teenagers. He was accompanied by his mother, Mdm Debbie Ng, 58, who hopes to help her grandchildren grow in the Catholic faith despite life’s distractions.
In his opening address, the Spiritual Director of ACF, Msgr Ambrose Vaz, cited that a recent survey showed a decline of church attendance. He cautioned, “It is a worrying trend that can translate to a waning quality of family life.” He also stressed the importance of the family home as the environment that allows us to first encounter God. “This home experience teaches us that God is love and moulds our identity to love.”
The half-day event was a plethora of experiences shared by veteran family therapist and keynote speaker Brother Collin Wee and expert panellists from all walks of life.
Brother Collin compared his growing-up years in a Catholic family with how many of today’s Catholic children at home lack the touch points of the faith.
He cited a host of reasons, like issues relating to spousal, financial, educational needs; household chores and other practical tensions pulling in different directions.
His advice: “Journey with your children at their pace. Accompany them through life to help them become the persons they are meant to be.”
He added that parents should be the central focus in the family – always leading by example and respecting differences. “Families should be safe places for them to come back to.”
Grooming entrepreneur Jean Yip and her family also took to the stage to share their guiding principles of living the Catholic faith in the midst of their busy corporate life: showing love and leading by example.
Jean recounted how her education in a Catholic school taught her to do good deeds while her husband, Mervin Wee, related the importance of receiving the sacraments regularly and joining a ministry. Actress-daughter Cheryl Wee shared how she would keep the faith alive even when she was overseas by staying near churches so that she could go to Mass regularly.
Participants were encouraged to dig deeper into the theme at the breakout group discussion, where they tackled challenges faced by Catholics today and how they could encourage the practice of the faith at home.
Families with inter-faith couples was a hot issue, with many giving their views on the matter. “It’s good to hear what other inter-faith couples have to say and know that I’m not alone,” said Ms Sharon Quek, 39, who is married to a non-Catholic and seeks to be able to express her faith openly at home.
Other challenges cited were the distractions of social media, opposing tension of time and priorities, lack of formation of parents themselves and even not having enough Catholic teachers in our Catholic schools to help influence Catholic students.
Suggestions on how to promote the practice of the faith domestically included drawing in young people through social media, having at least one meal together as a family each week, using communities as influencers instead of only relying on the Church and getting the Church to be more explicit in welcoming those struggling with issues such as divorce and same sex attraction.
The day’s event included a panel discussion on the theme ‘Will the Catholic Family Still Be Relevant Tomorrow?’ Moderated by media anchorman Augustine Anthuvan, the panel comprised political and social commentator Eugene Tan, Monfort Junior School principal Wilbur Wong, an inter-faith couple Jeremy and Samantha Ang, a senior couple Vincent and Rebecca Lye and student Michelle Thio. A full recording of the discussion can be found at catholicfamily.org.sg/cfd2016.
The general consensus of the entire event was that families should instil more consciousness of the faith and “to allow Gospel values to be more real” at home. One way to bring about this is to join a family life ministry at their parish, where activities can help to instil such awareness and growth in informal ways. Parishes that are keen to start a family life group or need ideas on how to grow such a group can go into the ACF website catholicfamily.org.sg/pet.
By Joanne Koh-Pereira and Jeanette Alexander
St Anne’s Church to host Couple Empowerment Programme (CEP) starting August 2016
The Couple Empower Programme (CEP) is designed to help married couples deal with common issues that plague modern-day marriages, such as work-life balance, spousal intimacy, sexuality, relationship with in-laws, and parenting responsibilities. The programme stays faithful to the Catholic Church’s teachings and incorporates well-studied life skills expounded by marriage sociologists, psychologists and psychiatrists. CEP is for married couples who wish to build steadfast marriages, and raise emotionally resilient and well-balanced children.
“Both of us had an edifying experience at CEP!” remarked Kevin who is married to Michelle for two years. They attended CEP in Church of the Holy Spirit in May. Michelle said, “CEP gives us faith and hope in the face of secularism and relativism. The authentic and deep sharings by the presenting couples inspire us. Their life stories make the beautiful Catholic teachings on marriage come alive for us.”
|First session: Sun, 14 Aug 2016 (1 - 5.30 pm).
Subsequent sessions: 19 and 26 Aug (7 - 10.30 pm); 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 Sep (7 - 10.30 pm); 1 Oct (4 - 10.30 pm); and 2 Oct
Child-minding service: Child-minders will watch over your children while you and your spouse spend quality couple time during the programme.
For more information, visit: www.cep-sg.org, www.facebook.com/SG.CEP/
"I thank God that many families, which are far from considering themselves perfect, live in love, fulfil their calling and keep moving forward, even if they fall many times along the way. The Synod’s reflections show us that there is no stereo-type of the ideal family, but rather a challenging mosaic made up of many different realities, with all their joys, hopes and problems. The situations that concern us are challenges. We should not be trapped into wasting our energy in doleful laments, but rather seek new forms of missionary creativity. In every situation that presents itself, “the Church is conscious of the need to offer a word of truth and hope… The great values of marriage and the Christian family correspond to a yearning that is part and parcel of human existence”
- an excerpt from Amoris laetitia (Latin: The Joy of Love) a post-synodal apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis released in April 2016.
In this monthly column, we feature Catholic personalities and their favourite memories of being ‘family’. In this issue, Monsignor Philip Heng, S.J., Rector of the soon-to-be reopened Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, shares why this is special…
Both my paternal and maternal grandparents were already Catholics when they immigrated to Malaysia from China. Likewise, my parents and all of us were born Catholics. I grew up with three sisters and four brothers. We prayed the family rosary and Litanies every night, without fail.
I recall the happy and joyous family moments where all of us siblings would gather around dad and mom after prayers. Very often they would tell us stories about their life experiences and the miraculous events, for example, of God’s intervention that saved the family’s life during the World War II. While mom would be very much part of the great joy we shared in the family, I thoroughly enjoyed dad’s stories; he was literally my ‘hero’. He had the gift of telling his stories vividly, graphically and with a great sense of humour.
In all of these, while mom was deeply caring and loving, she was particularly compassionate to the poor and needy. Dad, on the other hand, shared how he was very poor when he was a child and how he worked hard to become a successful businessman to provide for the family. Living the Catholic faith was part of our natural growing-up experiences. I remember vividly, one night, my dad saying to all of us, his children, “All of you can become priests and nuns, but do not leave if you join; you must be faithful.” I began serving Mass at the age of six and enjoyed it very much.
So, naturally, when my younger brother, Paschal, and I were studying in the UK, we would say our rosary every night, go for daily Mass and frequent confessions. When I felt ‘called’ and wrote to my dad about my intention to join the priesthood after my final examinations in my accountancy studies, his reply was, “Sure, but finish your studies first.” He then added, “Well, I am not surprised that you want to be a priest because in the last three years, your letters were getting holier and holier!”
Mom died when I was 21 years of age. Dad expressed his deepest desire to be present at my priestly ordination while he was very ill, but he passed away, a year earlier.
As we are not getting any younger, my siblings and I make it a point to go for our annual family bonding vacation. We have done this for the past six years, each time filled with joy, laughter, daily Masses and the rosary.
As a priest, I embody the happy memories of my family experiences, especially those of my mom and dad. I realise how deeply blessed I am to have such wonderful parents who in many ways, I mirror in the way I relate and serve people as a priest.
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.
Light for the World
To the secular world, the Catholic faith and family are often deemed irrelevant and out-of-touch with the modern world. But, it is precisely this stark contrast between the secular world and our Catholic faith that makes the Catholic faith and family more relevant than ever before, for light shines brightest in the darkest night.
A lighthouse cannot turn on as and when it chooses to. It has to stay on throughout the dark night to warn the storm-tossed ships of the impending rocky dangers hidden beneath.
In the same vein, we cannot afford to be ‘Cafeteria Catholics’, picking and choosing which tenets of faith we choose to believe in and practise. He has called us to truth and faithfulness, not to popularity.
And yet, oftentimes, many of us, myself included, fail to be that light. We fear being unpopular in the eyes of the world.
So we unwittingly end up becoming ‘Cafeteria Catholics’ who support events that run counter to our Catholic values, embrace contraception, engage in pre-marital sex, look to conceive children via in-vitro fertilization, think nothing of embryonic stem cell research, skip mass to attend a praise and worship service at a megachurch...
John 17:14 cites “I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”
It is scary to think that if we were truly living our Catholic faith, the world would “hate” us.
When I told my friend that I was saving my virginity for when I got married, she was incredulous. When a female friend decided to marry a woman and invited me to her wedding, I declined her invitation and she hasn’t spoken to me since. When I was invited to sing at an event that promoted same sex union, I turned down the invitation because I did not want to promote an agenda that ran contrary to my Catholic faith. When I took to the streets with thousands of fellow Catholics in San Francisco to take part in the pro-life, anti-abortion walk ‘March for Life’, we encountered many people who jeered and taunted us and called us names.
It is not easy to be a light in the darkness. But that’s why St. John Paul II’s exhortation to ‘Be Not Afraid’ should resound ever more strongly in our hearts.
We are fighting a spiritual battle. The enemy wreaks great damage by sowing seeds of discord amongst the bedrock of society, ie. the family. Thus we increasingly see the marital bond between man and woman treated with contempt, the role of fathers and mothers undermined. Marriages are unravelling more than ever before because the world cannot see beyond pain and chooses instead to run from suffering.
This is where the Catholic family needs to shine its brightest light, to pray as a family, live in love and find our joy even in the midst of sorrow, to inoculate our children against the moral relativism of this age. We cannot afford not to know the answer to Pilate’s question ‘What is truth?’