Simei CNG members take a group photo at St. Joseph Church (Bukit Timah) after Stations of the Cross prayers during Lent. Photo provided by Simei CNG
The Catholic Neighbourhood Group (CNG) at Simei was formed 20 years ago to help build up the parish community of Church of the Holy Trinity. Long-time member Daniel Tan reminisces about the long way the group has come, as it prepares to help build the new parish of Divine Mercy
OUR SIMEI CNG was formed on Nov 15, 1989 before the opening of the Church of the Holy Trinity, to which we have belonged for the past 20 years.
In the early days, our former parish priest Father Paul Tay set up the three CNGs – Tampines, Pasir Ris, and Simei – with a view that once Church of the Holy Trinity opened its doors, we would be ready to help out in parish activities. We had 24 members then.
Our primary objective then and now is to reach out to Catholic parishioners residing in our neighbourhood and to invite them to participate in various activities such as rosary prayers, Bible sharing, pot-luck fellowships, and outdoor trips to Malacca.
Before Church of the Holy Trinity was completed, Father Tay celebrated weekend Masses at our residents’ homes.
The biggest challenge during our early formation was trying to coax parishioners to join our CNG. Membership dropped when members moved out of Simei or joined another parish ministry. If it were not for the Parish Renewal Experience organised by the parish, we might not have been able to recruit new members needed for our survival.
The 1990s were a time of growth for our CNG. Our first outdoor activity took place when we encouraged elderly residents from the Infant Jesus Convent in Ang Mo Kio to attend Sunday Mass in our church, followed by a picnic with them in Pasir Ris Park.
When we faced difficulties keeping our members together, we approached Father Tay to provide us with a Holy Family shrine for our CNG prayer sessions. Father Edward Lim, who was assistant priest at the time and now parish priest, donated a beautiful shrine to us. This started off a monthly rosary prayer, which gradually became a fortnightly activity.
Another memorable activity was when then-assistant priest Father Paul Yeo mooted the idea of a neighbourhood family Mass in the chapel. Before the Mass, our young children, who have since blossomed into young adults, put up a play about instilling family values in our Catholic homes.
We also began Christmas carolling to bring cheer to families with sick and housebound members.
In September 2007, 20 of us went to Manila for a five-day holiday. It was an eye-opener to see people living in poverty in a remote village. We also had fun taking a bumpy boat ride at Pagsanjan Waterfall and trekking at Taal volcano region. We even attended a Tagalog Sunday Mass at Las Pinas Bamboo organ church.
Today, we have 30 members which include Filipino and Indonesian families. Leadership in the group changes every two years, as new leaders keep our CNG going with their vision.
We still gather for fortnightly rosary or Divine Mercy prayers at our members’ home, after which we enjoy a small meal and fellowship.
During Lent and Advent seasons, we take a break to focus on group sharings based on the booklets distributed by the archdiocese for these seasons. We also attend the annual Stations of the Cross prayers at St. Joseph Church (Bukit Timah) during Lent.
When Catholics living in the neighbourhood pass away, we take the lead in prayers for the dead at their wakes, sometimes travelling to Church of St. Teresa or St. Joseph’s Church (Victoria Street) if the wakes are held there.
On public holidays, we usually organise morning walks at Simei Connecting Park, Bedok Reservoir Park, Marina Barrage, or Henderson Waves.
As we look back on these 20 years, it is undeniable that it has been a group effort in making our CNG a closely knit family group.
We look forward to welcoming new members to our CNG when Church of Divine Mercy officially opens on Jan 9, 2010.