By Joyce Gan

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Father Louis Loiseau, MEP, celebrated his 80th birthday anniversary with Mass and dinner organized by parishioners at the Church of the Risen Christ where he is assistant priest, on Jun 25.

"IT WAS THE MOST BUSY DAY I HAD," he remarked in English laced with a French accent. He awakened that Sunday at 6am, heard confession before 7am, and preached and gave Communion for the 7am, 8.15am, 9.30am and 11am Masses.

"Then I gave a service for a Frenchman who died at the age of 38, just before his child was to be baptized in France," he said. The day continued with a French scouts Mass at Lim Chu Kang. Then came the Mass at the parish to commemorate his birthday.

Father Loiseau presided at the Thanksgiving Mass himself because "he did not want anyone to say nice things about him" explained Msgr Eugene Vaz who concelebrated the Mass.

The Mass was well attended by parishioners, old friends, priests, religious and members of the French-speaking community.

Valerie Ng, a member of the organizing team, noted that Father Loiseau's sermon reflected his unwavering faith - reminding the congregation to trust in the Lord despite things happening in life that are beyond our comprehension.

About 800 people attended dinner at a restaurant near the Risen Christ parish. An auction for two bottles of wine raised $2,100 for the poor.

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From left, Msgr Eugene Vaz, Deacon Gerard Louis, Fathers Louis Loiseau and Joseph Jeannequin concelebrated a Thanksgiving Mass for Father Loiseau's 80th birthday celebrations at the Risen Christ parish.

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Called at age 11

Louis Loiseau was born the second child in a family of five in Anjou, a village about 200 miles from Paris. His father was a farmer.

He grew up with stories of the struggles of Catholics during the French and Spanish Revolutions, and these inspired him to become a missionary. From the age of 10, he had wanted to become a priest. In September 1937, at the tender age of 11, he entered the Minor Seminary and in 1946 he joined the Paris Foreign Missions (MEP) seminary. Louis Loiseau was ordained priest on Pentecost Sunday 1950.

His first mission was in Rangoon (in Myanmar) where he served 14 years.

"There was once, when the villagers were looking for a priest because someone was dying… I only knew how to speak Latin (then)!" Father Loiseau reminisced. He remembered how he travelled 20 terrifying hours in the dark on a river - "10 hours to go and 10 hours to come back!" - to get to the village and back.

He was only 25 then. "I just said to the Lord, 'Alright! I'll follow you.' And I just did what I could."

Father Loiseau came to Singapore in 1968 and served in the parishes of St. Bernadette, the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Our Lady of Perpetual Succour before being posted to Risen Christ in 1990. He has been at the parish since. In a few more years, he would exceed the service record of more than 19 years at the parish set by Father Francis Lee.

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Father Loiseau conducts RCIA sessions and Bible classes, and is spiritual director to five praesidia of the Legion of Mary and the Curia, as well as to the Council North of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Conference. Outside the parish, Father Loiseau has also served with the Matrimonial Tribunal, the Senatus Legion of Mary, Marriage Encounter, Engaged Encounter, CHOICE and Retrovaille.

His experiences with Marriage Encounter since the 1980s has led him to know "something like 700 couples outside the parish… and have met more than 1600 couples", he revealed after some mental calculation.

He is also the Chaplain to the French-speaking community in Singapore, ministering to them since 1991. There is a whole community at the Marymount Chapel, he elaborated, which includes more than 160 French children, catechists, liturgists and prayer groups. "Couples who are getting married in France see me for preparation," he said.

Sharing on a French way of meditating in the 17th century on how to love, he said, "If you love your husband, use your head, heart and hands."

"Use your head to understand him, your heart to love him and your hands for actions. The hands show your resolution 'to do'. This theory is applicable everywhere!"

Ever the caring and dedicated priest and missionary, Father Loiseau encourages Catholics here to know more about the faith so as to be able to explain it correctly to others who may have questions.

"You are not obliged to be a Charismatic… you are not obliged to be a Divine Mercy devotee, but you are obliged to be a child of God," he said and added cheerfully, "And God wants us to be happy…"

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