A look at how the parish conducts these and other initiatives in this ongoing parish series
Blessed Sacrament Church, located at Commonwealth, was granted conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 2005.
Quaint, rustic and peaceful. These are some impressions that one might get when visiting Blessed Sacrament Church.
The church’s most iconic feature is its blue slate roof, constructed in folds resembling the shape of a tent. The parish website highlights how the structure is meant to symbolise the “tent of meeting” in the Old Testament where Moses spoke to God.
The roof also appears to drape over the church, with certain portions touching the ground, resembling anchoring pegs.
The church was granted conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in 2005.
Headed by the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary (SS.CC.) priests since its opening in 1965, the parish serves about 3,000, mostly elderly, people.
Confirmands and the Fishermen of Christ community during a social outing to Sentosa.
“A lot of the younger couples are moving into the upcoming estates away from here. However you still see a few of them return to the parish for Mass,” said parish priest Fr Thomas Sukotriraharjo, who is from Central Java, Indonesia.
He shared with CatholicNews the wide variety of Masses available in the parish. Apart from weekly Mandarin Masses, a Tamil Mass takes place every third Sunday of the month. A Tagalog Mass is held every second and fourth Sunday and an Indonesian Mass is available on the fifth Sunday of certain months. The parish also has Malayalam, healing and vigil Masses.
Every Sunday, the largely Filipino El Shaddai community comes to the church for Bible study and prayer sessions. The community also organises a praise and worship session followed by Mass.
Fr Thomas Sukotriraharjo, 53, has been parish priest for almost three years.
One unique feature of the parish is the vigil Mass held on the first Friday of every month. It is an overnight programme consisting of Bible teaching and adoration. “The whole programme is from 10pm-5am. It starts with Mass and closes with Mass,” said Fr Thomas, adding that about 40 parishioners attend the sessions.
One of the ministries of the parish, the Father Damien Society, reaches out to needy children from the region such as Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Ministry members travel to these countries about twice a year to provide medical and social assistance, and education.
In Singapore, the ministry reaches out to residents of the Singapore Leprosy Relief Association.
The Damien Centre Kindergarten, located within the church compound, serves about 200 children. According to Fr Thomas, about 80 percent of the children are of other faiths.
A file photo showing beneficiaries of Blessed Sacrament Church’s Meals from the Heart project receiving free packed lunches from volunteers. The initiative serves the needy regardless of race or religion.
The name of the above two organisations are inspired by St Damien de Veuster, who was an SS.CC. priest. He won recognition for his ministry to people with leprosy in Hawaii from 1873 to 1889. A life-size statue of St Damien can be found within the church compound.
As part of its outreach programme to the needy, a ministry called Meals From The Heart provides daily meals, sponsored by the parish, to the poor living around the neighbourhood.
The project, initiated by assistant priest Fr Anthony Hutjes in 2011, serves the needy regardless of race or religion.
In an effort to reach out to youths who left the Church after their confirmation, the Fishermen of Christ youth community was started in June 2015. “The goal of the community is to bring back those who have left Church and ... to ensure that those confirmed can stay on in a vibrant youth community,” said youth coordinator Graeme Ortega.
Youth leaders from the community attended the 2016 confirmation Mass as a sign of solidarity and also organised a social outing to Sentosa for all confirmands. There are currently about 25 members in the community and they meet twice a week on Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon.
The youths of Blessed Sacrament Church are also involved in a Lenten campaign which sees them holding fundraising activities every alternate weekend during the season. The money collected will then be given to Caritas to assist the poor.
Some activities being held this year include the selling of muffins and self-made rosaries.
Parish buildings, situated behind the main church, include the Damien Centre Kindergarten and canteen.
On the weekends when there are no fundraising activities, a Lenten reflection session is held for the whole parish.
Organised by the Youth Council in collaboration with the Neighbourhood Christian Communities, the aim of these sessions – primarily on prayer, fasting and almsgiving – is to provide spiritual input for parishioners. It also provides a platform for the youth and older parishioners to have fellowship.
History of the parish
A 1965 picture of Blessed Sacrament Church.
According to the parish’s Golden Jubilee magazine, Archbishop Michael Olcomendy was looking to minister to Catholics living in the Queenstown area in the early 1950s. The development plan for Queenstown provided places for worship and thus Archbishop Olcomendy applied and was allotted the land where Blessed Sacrament Church stands today.
During that time, he asked the SS.CC. for help with the new church and in 1958, Fr William van Soest and Fr Odo Tiggeloven arrived in Singapore.
Fundraising for the church construction was the main challenge facing Fr van Soest.
The money was raised through activities such as food and fun fairs and even circus performances. There were advertisements in newspapers that also mentioned the fundraising efforts of the church.
The parish hall was first built on Nov 17, 1963, and provided the people from Queenstown a place to attend Mass.
On May 8, 1965, the main church building was blessed and declared open by Archbishop Olcomendy.
It was named Blessed Sacrament Church because of the SS.CC. Fathers’ devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.