Celebration also saw blessing of commemorative stone and laying of new time capsule

People pack the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd for its opening Mass on Nov 20. The celebration was the first in about three years since the cathedral underwent renovation.

After three years of renovation and restoration, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd re-opened its doors for an opening Mass on Nov 20.

Such was the anticipation among the public for the special occasion that the pews in the cathedral were filled up an hour and a half before Mass started.

Many took the opportunity to admire the new architecture and the features of the old building which have been lovingly restored.

About 2,000 people attended the celebration which also marked the Solemnity of Christ the King, the closing of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the 30th anniversary of St John Paul II’s visit to Singapore.

Before the start of Mass, Archbishop William Goh blessed the commemorative stone and laid a new time capsule which was placed in the same column where an earlier one was found.

A 173-year-old time capsule was found under one of the cathedral’s columns on Jan 29 this year during its restoration project. It contained 18th and 19th-century artefacts such as British and French coins, a copy of the Singapore Free
Press and the service booklet used during the laying of the cornerstone on June 18, 1843.

Archbishop William Goh incensing a replica of the Pieta, Michaelangelo’s famous sculpture depicting Mary holding the body of Jesus.

Items placed in the new time capsule included reports fromCatholicNews, The Straits Times and Hai Sing Pao on the cathedral, magazines on the cathedral’s history and restoration works, and current Singapore coins.

A replica of the Pieta – Michaelangelo’s famous sculpture depicting the body of Jesus lying on the lap of Mary after He was taken down from the cross – was also blessed. The new statue is an exact replica of the original found in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

In his homily, Archbishop Goh said: “Now that the cathedral has been restored, the more important work begins.”
“The cathedral is only a building, only a means. What is important really is to build the interior life of the people of God,” he said.

Some of items placed in the new time capsule include newspaper reports on the cathedral’s history and commemorative magazines.

He emphasised the importance of restoring “the people of God, to bring them to a level of faith that is vibrant, evangelistic and missionary.”

He said that “the cathedral, as the Mother Church in Singapore, must provide pastoral leadership to all parishes.”

Elaborating on the theme of leadership, Archbishop Goh shared what it takes to be a good shepherd.

‘Mother Church must provide pastoral leadership to all parishes’

“The primary task of a leader, whether in church, at work or in your own family – your role is to foster unity,” he said.

“A leader must be inclusive, a leader must embrace all without exception. When we say that the cathedral is the Mother Church, it means that it embraces all human beings – Catholics, lapsed Catholics and those seeking for God, rich and poor alike,” he said.

“Jesus is the one we should imitate,” he stressed.

Archbishop William Goh

The Mass also saw the blessing and commissioning of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion of the cathedral.

In a short speech at the end of Mass, Archbishop Goh thanked Fr Adrian Anthony, former cathedral rector, for his efforts in starting the restoration project. He also thanked Msgr Philip Heng, current rector, who took over the helm from Fr Anthony and oversaw the completion of the church.

Members of the public were invited to visit the new Heritage Gallery which has artefacts showcasing the history and tradition of the Catholic Church in Singapore.

Artefacts such as the papal items used by St John Paul II when he was in Singapore in 1986, Gothic brass candlesticks and a crucifix donated by the French government in 1897 and the 18th and 19th-century coins found in the old time capsule were on display in the gallery.

Children visit the Heritage Gallery that showcases artefacts depicting the history and tradition of the Catholic Church in Singapore.

Some people shared with CatholicNews their thoughts after the celebration.

Ms Linda Koh, 39, a parishioner at the nearby Church of Sts Peter and Paul, shared that she was impressed with the “cathedral’s new look”.

“Although some of the architecture now looks pretty state-of-the-art, I am also glad they kept the traditional look of the main building which in itself symbolises the cathedral as the Mother Church in Singapore,” she said.

Mr Desmond Tan, 48, who attended the celebration with his family, shared that they were former cathedral parishioners and that they were “looking forward to exploring the compound to see what has changed.”

The official dedication of the cathedral will be celebrated next year on Feb 14, to coincide with the 120th anniversary of its original dedication. 

Features of the cathedral

The cathedral’s main church is fully renovated with a new altar, pews, flooring, colour-scheme and air-conditioning.

Some of its restored items include the ceiling, statues, stained glass, Way of the Cross paintings, plaques and the 1912 Bevington and Sons organ, Singapore’s oldest working pipe organ.

Located in the cathedral basement are the adoration room, the crypt and the St Laurent Imbert multi-purpose hall, named after the saint which inspired the name of the cathedral.

A new three-storey annex building houses the Heritage Gallery, two multi-purpose halls and meeting rooms.

The two-storey rectory, also known as the parochial house, was built in 1911. It is the office and residence of the rector and also houses the cathedral administration office.

The Archbishop’s House, built in 1859 as the original parochial house, now functions as the office and residence of Archbishop Goh.

By Jared Ng
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