SINGAPORE - Catholic members of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) gathered for Mass at Church of the Sacred Heart on Jun 30 to celebrate SAF Day. SAF Day, Jul 1, is also the day when many SAF personnel receive their promotions.
Left, BG Philip Lim Feng (centre) and 2WO Matthew Koh offer the gifts of the Singapore National flag and the four SAF emblems during the Offertory procession.
The SAF has been involved in peacekeeping duties and humanitarian operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Dec 26, 2004 tsunami, the Central Java earthquake, as well as the war in Iraq.
"We want to give thanks to God for the many blessings that SAF personnel have received throughout the year â€¦ and in all these things that the good Lord has taken care of our servicemen," said First Warrant Officer (1WO) Francis Ang.
In his homily, Jesuit Father Charles Sim reminded those present that each morning that they put on their military uniform, they are also carrying their "invisible identity as Catholics" which can only be seen "in the way we conduct ourselves".
"Be not afraid to tell the message of Christ to others around you," he encouraged the congregation of about 50.
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At the Church of the Sacred Heart, 1WO Francis Ang (right) announced plans to start a Catholic Military Apostolate by the end of this year.
Together with his core team consisting of Brigadier General (BG) Philip Lim Feng, Dr Francis Heng, Colonel Dominic Soh, Major Dorothy Tan, Captain (CPT) Abel Goh, and Master Warrant Officer Christopher Noel, 1WO Francis said that the military apostolate, once established, would helpSAF Catholics to better "witness for Christ in the workplace".
The military is known to be a difficult place to witness for Christ, often with values conflicting with Christian values. For example, to even get the simplest of tasks done, there is usually much use of swearing and vulgarities. "There is no need for it," acknowledged 1WO Francis. "Things can still be done. It's a habit built up over the years. It's a question of whether you want to change."
At present, 1WO Francis sends out daily Bible reflections via e-mail to about 300 Catholics in the SAF. In order for a military apostolate to be set up, the core team recognizes the need to "get ourselves organized first", said 1WO Francis.
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"The military is a large organization and touches many lives," said BG Philip Lim. "There is a lot of compatibility between what we talk about in church and what we do in the office," he added in reference to the abovementioned humanitarian operations carried out by the SAF. BG Philip is responsible for logistics in the SAF.
1WO Andre Ravi, who goes for Mass on weekends at the Church of the Holy Trinity, hopes that parishes will encourage SAF personnel to come in uniform and "acknowledge their efforts" on SAF Day.
CPT Abel Goh, a naval engineering officer, hopes that the establishment of the military apostolate will help parishes to "accept us as a formal group" which will make it easier for them to organize Masses in churches near to major SAF camps.
The SAF Catholics who are actively sharing their faith in their workplace today began as a small group of 18 Catholics who met every Wednesday for Bible-sharing and rosary sessions at the Anglican St. George's Church when the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) building was located in Tanglin. Their spiritual director then was Sister Teresa Lee, FMM.
When MINDEF relocated to Gombak Drive in 1989, the rosary sessions continued on Tuesdays in the nearby Church of St. Mary of the Angels. They also started their First Friday Masses in May 1996, which lasted until the main church hall was pulled down for rebuilding.