My Vocation Story

I was born in August 1954 to a very traditional family of six. My parents were good Catholics. Upon my mother’s insistence, we became regular attendees of morning mass at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


A young Fr Edward with his cousin and brother.

My father worked as a British army clerk. During the weekends, we had many good memories around our kampung in Hougang. He invented a coconut grinding ‘machine’ because my mother loved to cook. My father made a grinder from nails and attached it to a bicycle. He asked us to peddle while my mother pushed a coconut against it.

He cut the top and sealed the bottom of a bomb shell, so that Nativity Church could use it as a flower vase. Even though I was very young, I still remember that he was able to make a fire so hot, it could melt a coin.

A father’s love

During the weekends, we had many good memories around our kampung in Hougang. He invented a coconut grinding ‘machine’ because my mother loved to cook. My father made a grinder from nails and attached it to a bicycle. He asked us to peddle while my mother pushed a coconut against it.

One day, my brother and I were helping him to start the fire. My uncle came by and insisted that I should go and stay in his home. So I left.

The experiment exploded and my father was burnt. Medicine was not advanced then so they wrapped him in bandages at the hospital. He died soon after – I was only five.

After the loss, my mother looked after us. The British army had a fund to support widows and orphans, so we did not have much of a problem financially.

My family continued to attend morning mass, and I remember stealing looks into the seminary just across the road. In it, there were people clad in black robes. The seminary seemed holy and peaceful. Looking back, I think that’s the point where my vocation started.

I was very playful at Montfort Junior School. I didn’t do well there. I failed my Primary School Leaving Examination and was sent to repeat it in a government school, Serangoon Garden North.

The teachers were very dedicated and conducted many extra classes. I was a late bloomer; I did well.

During that time, technical education was popular and preferred over the academic stream. When I received my results, I was still thinking about religious life. So I wanted to go to St Gabriel’s Secondary School and hopefully join the Gabrielite Brothers.

They didn’t have a place for me in the technical stream, so I chose Serangoon Garden Technical School.

I was still active in church, as part of the Young Christian Students’ group. We were a group of youth from government schools, including the late Sister Susan Chia, who came together to conduct activities. We also started Willing Hands at Nativity Church.

God’s soft call

My family continued to attend morning mass, and I remember stealing looks into the seminary just across the road. In it, there were people clad in black robes. The seminary seemed holy and peaceful. Looking back, I think that’s the point
where my vocation started.


Photographs of Fr Edward through the years.

When I was in secondary two, I told my mother that I wanted to join the seminary. ‘If you pass your exams, you can go,’ she said. She died a year later. Doctors could not figure out why my mother was losing weight.

My priorities changed after my mother’s death. I was the family’s second youngest, so I wanted to do my national service, go out to work, save money and be financially independent. I did not want to rely on my brothers and sisters.

Still, I did not have a peace of mind. I passed my ‘O’ Levels and had a constant urge to join the seminary. It was so strong that I was unable to eat and sleep.

Because I was a very shy and quiet person, even a Priest discouraged me. But Archbishop Michael Olcomendy accepted my application and I joined St Francis Xavier Minor Seminary on 1st April 1973.

There were strict rules including silence from 9pm to 8am every day. We would kneel in prayer in the chapel until our trousers were worn out.

After mass on every first Sunday of the month, we had to weigh ourselves. If our weight dropped, we would be called in by the rector for questioning. It would be a sign of no vocation. Because if you are happy, you should eat well. Silence in the seminary suited me as I was an introvert.


Fr Edward (second row, fifth from left) with his batchmates at St Francis Xavier Minor Seminary.


A portrait of Fr Edward in 1974, after joining the seminary.

After two years in the minor seminary, I went to Penang to continue seminary studies in philosophy and enlisted for national service in 1976.


Fr Edward and his platoon mates.

After national service, I didn’t want to go back. As with every community, there were politics and I could not accept that.

I wanted to forget everything and continue my life outside, so I requested for a break. In fact, I was hoping to lose my vocation so that God would not haunt me any more.

Fr Edward out on the field during his army days.

A break from vocation

As with every community, there were politics and I could not accept that. I wanted to forget everything and continue my life outside, so I requested for a break. In fact, I was hoping to lose my vocation so that God would not haunt me any more.

When I got a job, my cousin, who is now Fr Eugene Chong worked in the same office as me. He just left the Trappist Monastery.

Every day at lunch time, we talked and shared about our lives. It made me feel very guilty because I knew that I was running away from God. Four months later, I decided to go back to the Major Seminary to do my studies in theology.

The years went by smoothly and I was ordained a Deacon at Nativity Church on 24th February 1983.

Unlike many Priests, I don’t have mentors who heavily influenced me. Because I lost my mother, I was close to Mother Mary and prayed the rosary whenever I could.

On 27th May 1983, I was ordained a Priest at the Church of Christ the King.


Fr Edward at his ordination to the diaconate, together with Vincent Lee and Raymond Soh.


Deacon Edward, together with Deacons Raymond and Vincent, celebrate mass with Archbishop Gregory Yong.


Deacon Edward with well-wishers at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


Fr Edward lies prostrate on the floor during his ordination.


Archbishop Gregory Yong lays his hands on Fr Edward during his ordination in 1983.

At my first posting to the Church of St Francis of Assisi, I got along with people well and was popular with parishioners.

It took awhile to say ‘good morning’ because we were not allowed to talk to anyone before breakfast in the seminary.

Before I entered the Priesthood, I didn’t know much about any other orders besides the Diocesan one. I started reading up and told my spiritual director that I was interested in the Brothers of Mercy. They focus on care for the sick and had very few priests.

In May 1985, I left for Germany to get to know the order. Through the experience, I felt that it was not my calling.


Fr Edward blesses his eldest brother Lawrence at the end of the ordination ceremony.


Thanking his relatives at the Church of Christ the King.


Fr Edward at a thanksgiving dinner after his ordination.

I came back and was appointed Assistant Parish Priest at the Church of St Michael. The church was very quiet, so I helped the Canossian Sisters with moral education for the deaf and dumb.

I had a dictionary of sign language and tried to explain things to my students, who were in primary school. The Sisters and teachers helped me along and I enjoyed it very much. I mastered sign language there.

Preaching His word

The church was very quiet, so I helped the Canossian Sisters with moral education for the deaf and dumb. I had a dictionary of sign language and tried to explain things to my students, who were in primary school.

Towards the end of my posting, I was due for a sabbatical. Archbishop Gregory Yong recommended that I take a course titled “Spiritual Transformation” in India, to be trained as a novice master.

Before I left, I had to go for an operation to prevent a slipped disc from rupturing. I recovered quickly enough and left for India in 1989. During the course, I picked up skills in counselling and spiritual direction. I use them in my pastoral work.

The course also included yoga and spending 10 days in a Buddhist monastery to learn Buddhist meditation.
In 1990, I returned and was appointed Assistant Parish Priest at the Church of the Holy Trinity.


Fr Edward attends a wedding buffet.

I had a second spinal operation in 1991 as another disc was sliding out from my back. A CT scan showed that the disc was changing colour, meaning that it will collapse.


Fr Edward Lim during his Sabbatical leave in India.


Participating in church events at the Church of the Holy Trinity.

Doctors at Mount Alvernia Hospital took four pints of blood before the operation, in case I needed it during the procedure. They feared that donors would unknowingly transmit HIV.

It took four hours for them to straighten my tangled nerves. The blood was returned to me post-operation, but I was already very weak.

Immediately after the procedure, I was in bed saying the rosary. Suddenly, I felt a warmth at the top of my head, that went down to the tip of my toes.

Two angels appeared by the cross in the ward. I know I wasn’t dreaming because I had just finished my rosary.
The angels had golden hair and were a little chubby, in maroon dresses. They didn’t say anything. After awhile, they vanished.

Strength from above

Immediately after the procedure, I was in bed saying the rosary. Suddenly, I felt a warmth at the top of my head, that went down to the tip of my toes. Two angels appeared by the cross in the ward. I know I wasn’t dreaming because
I had just finished my rosary.


Fr Edward assisting at mass at the Church of the Holy Trinity.

Ask Fr Edward

CN: How did you feel when you saw the angels?

Fr Edward: I felt frightened. As a Priest, I’ve heard stories from families who said that their loved ones saw Jesus and the devil before passing away. So when I saw angels, I expected to see the devils next, then I would be gone. There was quite abit of fear.

When I got well enough to resume priestly duties, I started to collect angel figurines. Every time I saw an angel, I would be tempted to buy it.


Fr Edward’s favourite angel figurine.

Following the operation, I was wearing a cast around my waist and couldn’t put weight on my left leg. During that time, the same politics started to weigh on me.

I confided in Sister Briege McKenna at a retreat. ‘Maybe He wants you to leave the country,’ she said.

I love my people and I know they love me, I responded. If God wants me to leave the country, He must give me good health.

That year, I became a diabetic. I had the symptoms that my mother experienced before she passed away. I lost 10kg and the disease affected my kidney and eyesight.

In 1996, I was well enough to go to Taiwan to study mandarin. After that, I requested to go to New Zealand on a
mission, for health and personal reasons.

My friend, who is a medical doctor in New Zealand, said that it was a good environment for my health. I ran small parishes in Auckland that had around 600 parishioners each.


Fr Edward and his parishioners at his farewell in New Zealand.


Fr Edward Lim in Auckland for a mission in 1998.


Posing with young parishioners outside a church in New Zealand.

I managed to get the rest I needed while running small parishes. Experiencing a different culture taught me to be firm when needed.

When my time in New Zealand was up, the Archdiocese of Perth offered me a Parish Priest posting.

There was an urge in me to leave the country for good, but deep inside I knew that God wanted me to be back in Singapore.

Ask Fr Edward

CN: What is the Bible verse that resonates most with you?

Fr Edward: It will have to be John 6:68. ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life.’ Putting aside my will for what God wants is important to me.

In 2002, I served as Assistant Parish Priest at the Church of St Joseph. A year later, former Archbishop Nicholas Chia offered me a Parish Priest position at the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea.

In the parish, I was firm to put everything straight and in order. I told them that there are two ways of running a parish.

One, I will employ minimum staff but you need to help me. If not, I will fill staff positions to ensure that work is done.

That’s bad for them because when people are touched by the grace of God, they often want to help out in church, and there will be very little to do.

We managed to strike a balance. It was a very challenging time and I thought that they would complain to Archbishop Chia, but none of them did.

I believe that as a Priest you have to do what is right. When matters are wrong, you need to fix them instead of keeping quiet about it.

Gathering His flock

A year later, former Archbishop Nicholas Chia offered me a Parish Priest position at the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea. In the parish, I was firm to put everything straight and in order.

Ask Fr Edward

CN: Do you have any advice for those considering the Priesthood?

Fr Edward: Once you feel that there is a call, answer it. If you don’t, it will always be at the back of your mind. In answering God, you will find that life is very fulfilling. Things happen, but there’s always an assurance that God is with me.

In October 2009, I was appointed Parish Priest at the Church of the Holy Trinity. The people here are helping me to run the parish.


Fr Edward assists at mass celebrated by Archbishop William Goh, together with Fr Albert Ng and Fr Joseph Zhang.

We are a close-knit and happy community. Parishioners cooperate with one another. Over the years, our kindergarten is doing very well. Our principal is recognised by The Early Childhood & Development Agency. We have visitors from Australia, Japan, Korea, China and Thailand.

Although I want a few more years here, it is almost time to move to another parish. I’m happy to go.
Doing God’s will has kept me happy. I have witnessed many miracles and met wonderful people; it is a life with no regrets.


A framed drawing in Fr Edward’s office in the Church of the Holy Trinity.

Fr Edward Lim’s Vocation Journey

3rd August 1954 : Born to a traditional Catholic family of six

1960 : Father passed away after an accident

1961 : Started studies at Montfort Junior School

1966 : Went to Serangoon Garden North School

1967 : Started studies at Serangoon Garden Technical School

1970 : Mother passed away from diabetes

1st April 1973 : Joined St Francis Xavier Minor Seminary

February 1975 : Continued studies at the Major Seminary in Penang

October 1976 : Enlisted for national service

1978 : Requested for a break from the seminary

February 1979 : Returned to the Major Seminary in Penang

24th February 1983 : Ordained a Deacon at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

27th May 1983 : Ordained a Priest at the Church of Christ the King

1983 : Assistant Parish Priest at the Church of St Francis of Assisi

1985 : Assistant Parish Priest at the Church of St Michael

1989 : First spinal operation for ruptured slipped disc

October 1989 : Sabbatical leave in India to attend a course in “Spiritual Transformation”

1990 : Assistant Parish Priest at the Church of the Holy Trinity

1991 : Went for a second spinal operation, diagnosed with diabetes

1997 : Sabbatical leave in Taiwan to study Mandarin

1998 : Mission in Auckland, New Zealand

2002 : Assistant Parish Priest at the Church of St Joseph

2003 : Parish Priest at the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea

2008 : Celebrated 25 years of priestly service

October 2009 : Parish Priest at the Church of the Holy Trinity


For enquiries on vocations to the diocesan priesthood contact:

Fr Valerian Cheong
Diocesan Vocation Director
Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For updates on all diocesan vocation promotion activities in the archdiocese visit www.sfxms.org.sg

Editorial Team
Graphics               :    Christopher Wong
Editor                  :    Annabelle Liang
Managing Editor    :    Fr Richards Ambrose

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