The crowd at the Catholics Come Home Mass at the cathedral on Feb 23.

“I left the Catholic Church shortly after my confirmation at 17 years. It was not intentional but a sequence of events drew me further and further away from God.”

So shared Mr Augustine Low during the Catholics Come Home Mass at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd on Feb 23.

The Mass, held as part of the celebrations of the cathedral’s dedication, was to pray for Catholics who have been away from the Church and to invite them to return.

In his testimony at the end of the Mass, Mr Low shared that when he was a teenager, he “couldn’t find meaning in the Mass”. Time on Sundays for teenagers was precious, and his faith then “was a transactional faith”.

“I had believed that if I prayed a certain amount, served a certain amount of time in church, I would be granted my wishes from God. … When I didn’t see the results in my prayer, it was a ‘bad transaction’,” he shared.

Mr Augustine Low shared how a Church programme helped him return to Church. 

Mr Low, now 37, left the Church for 12 years, and called himself an atheist.

Then he met his wife-to-be, a practising Catholic, and was attracted to the vibrant Church community she was in.

He then decided to join Landings, a 10-week programme that welcomes back Catholics who have left the Church.

During one series of Landings in 2009, “I found myself drawn towards the musicians who were practising; they invited me to pick up the guitar and jam along with them,” he shared.

“As I played and sang along, it was like part of me came back to life … This was the first time in a long while I felt God being present. I felt a sense of belonging I didn’t know was missing. It was as if I had come home in a way.”

It was the beginning of his return to the Catholic Church “with a supportive community” in which he could share his struggles.

“Spiritually, I’ve been given the opportunity to know Jesus better,” said Mr Low.

During his homily, Archbishop William Goh told the packed cathedral that a recent survey showed that about two-thirds of Catholics in Singapore are not regular Sunday Massgoers.

There are 383,000 Catholics in archdiocese and only about 140,000 come for Sunday Mass regularly, he said.

“Why do people lose faith in God? Why do people stop coming to Church? Why do people leave the Church?” Archbishop Goh asked.

The reasons include complacency about one’s spiritual life, presumption – taking one’s faith for granted – and pride, preferring to place value on things like one’s own intelligence, money and power, he said.

Another factor for people leaving the Church is disillusionment with Church leadership and the hypocrisy that they see in the lives of fellow Catholics, he said.

“I know many Catholics have left the Church because of us priests, bishops and lay leaders,” said Archbishop Goh, adding that many have been scandalised by the harsh and unreasonable behaviour of priests.

The Landings booth seen outside the cathedral. Landings is a programme that reaches out to Catholics who have been away from the Church.

“This evening I just want to take the occasion to apologise to all of you, at least on my part, for the priests. Myself and the priests, we know we are not perfect… we are sinners,” said Archbishop Goh.

Yet another factor for Catholics leaving is a lack of love within the Church community. “We have people fighting, failing to show good example,” said Archbishop Goh.

Catholics have to “play our part to help people return to Jesus. There is no other way except by love,” he said.

“Love is the first step, not doctrines,” Archbishop Goh stressed.

“Secondly, we have to give people a sense of community. They left the Church because they had no community.”

The Mass also saw cathedral rector, Msgr Philip Heng, conducting a healing service with the Blessed Sacrament as Archbishop Goh prayed prayers of healing and reconciliation.

The Landings website is 

By Christopher Khoo
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