EXCITING AN ENTHUSIASM FOR JESUS
The archdiocese’s vision is a response to the call of the Universal Church for a New Evangelisation. Anthony Yoong shares how the Office for the New Evangelisation (ONE) seeks to catalyse evangelisation in the archdiocese so that Catholics will be excited about Jesus and live the faith in all its richness.
Igniting the light of Christ: The first batch of participants of the Nativity Community of Intentional Disciples programme of the Church of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary pose with parish priest, Fr Henry Siew (second row, extreme right). Photo: Office for the New Evangelisation
When the Archdiocese of Singapore first embarked on a new pastoral vision in 2013 to be more vibrant, missionary and evangelistic, the Office for the New Evangelisation (ONE) was established as an important step to catalyse the Church’s growth.
ONE’s role is to take on the tall task of bringing about a renewed enthusiasm amongst Catholics in Singapore for the mission of the Church. But how should this be done? According to Fr Terence Pereira, Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelisation, formation is key.
He said, “The New Evangelisation is not only about reaching out to the non-baptised. It is also about exciting our faithful, forming them, and forging strong bonds internally within the Body of Christ, who then reach out to the non-baptised through their lives.”
Though the challenges are many, there are already clear signs of God’s grace in ONE’s work in the archdiocese. The transformation which continues to take place at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is one such example.
Embarking on a journey
Nativity was one of the first parishes in the local archdiocese to work with the Office for the New Evangelisation (ONE).
“Fr Erbin, the then director of ONE, introduced a book written by Sherry Weddell on Forming Intentional Disciples. The idea of ‘intentional disciples’ inspired us to act concretely to initiate the formation of communities of intentional disciples as a way to propel the parish to greater participation in the New Evangelisation”, said Fr Henry Siew, parish priest of Nativity.
A pioneer programme, termed the “Nativity Community of Intentional Disciples” (NCID), as inspired by Sherry Weddell’s book, was launched in March 2015. Some 30 lay parishioners, which included a mixed group of leaders and members of various parish ministries, participated in the nine-month long programme.
They benefitted from weekly formation sessions, retreats, and monthly faith-sharing group meetings. The programme was facilitated by ONE staff and collaborators, comprising a team of religious sisters and lay formators.
The programme focused on three areas: prayer, community and discipleship. These areas were identified through meetings between priests of the Church of Nativity and ONE’s team of facilitators, who tailor their resources and programmes to each parish they work with.
Since the first NCID was conducted, many fruits have been observed not just in the personal lives of the participants, but also in the ministries they are involved in, and the whole parish.
“The participants of NCID have grown to be rooted in prayer and community, growing to be Christ-like, and desiring to be in communion with fellow disciples,” said Fr Henry.
In a feedback session conducted in October 2016, the participants shared, in typical Hougang language, “We cannot do without a time of prayer now, and we don’t even want to ‘siam’ (Hokkien for ‘avoid’) prayer.”
The session showed that praying ‘intentionally’ now holds a particular significance for the participants, who until today, are including prayer in their daily routines and constantly nurturing a desire to make room for God.
Participants of the NCID programme taking part in a formation session. Photo: Office for the New Evangelisation
A consequence of their prayer life is a new love for ministry. “As I learned to listen to the Holy Spirit, I have grown in confidence to serve and to encourage others to be formed. I no longer work in isolation or doubt how I can offer my talents, because God has shown me the goodness of a community with whom I can share both the joys and challenges of putting the hand to the plough together,” said Bernard Braberry, Parish Administrator.
A second run of NCID was launched in March 2016 with another 30 participants. This time, however, the participants of the first programme stepped up to be the facilitators of the second programme.
“As we move ahead in 2017, I hope all Catholics will be united in realising the vision and mission of the archdiocese. To grow in worship of the Lord and obedience to His Word, to strengthen the spirituality of communion and to exercise our responsibility of evangelisation and witnessing,” said Fr Henry.
Transforming the Archdiocese
Apart from its outreach to parishes, ONE also provides training for leaders from other parishes, establishes platforms for archdiocesan organisations to collaborate, publishes resources for community and individual reflection during liturgical seasons, organises events and develops programmes to engage different stakeholders.
Fr Terence Pereira added, “To transform the archdiocese, each baptised faithful must be personally transformed through a relationship with Jesus Christ, so that collectively as a Church, we may be disciples who live out our mission to evangelise. We need to build the capacity of lay disciples through holistic formation. But one of the challenges we face is the lack of resources.”
Thankfully, in November 2016, the Giving in Faith & Thankfulness Campaign was introduced in the archdiocese to raise more funds for the operations of various archdiocesan organisations, including ONE.
As the archdiocese continues to work toward its vision, every Catholic is challenged to continue igniting an enthusiasm for Christ, and to unite in greater support of all the good work the Church does.