SINGAPORE – When Pope Benedict XVI declared Jun 28, 2008-Jun 29, 2009 the year of St. Paul in celebration of the 2,000th anniversary of the saint’s birth, Carmelite Father Thomas Lim knew he had his work cut out for him.
Father Thomas is the parish priest of Church of Sts. Peter and Paul at Queen Street, the only Catholic parish in Singapore that carries the name of the Apostle.
During this year-long celebrations, the parish will focus on the promotion of Pauline texts and ecumenism, as encouraged by Pope Benedict XVI.
At a midnight Mass on Jun 28 this year, Archbishop Nicholas Chia will open the church door and bless a custom-made bronze statue of St. Paul that has been donated to the parish. The statue matches, in size, the statue of St. Peter which now sits at the left-hand side of the main entrance to the church hall.
During the year, Catholics from all over Singapore will be encouraged to sign their names in a large book near the altar, and pledge to read at least one Pauline book in the Bible.
"The pledge book will be closed at the closing Mass in June 2009 and presented to the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Salvatore Pennachio, in the hope that it will go to Rome as a memorial of Singapore Catholics’ commemoration of the year of St. Paul," Father Thomas told CatholicNews.
Catechists of the parish are also offering catechists from other parishes in the diocese an opportunity to attend a one-day Pauline camp to be held on any day that is convenient for the catechists and their pupils. This whole-day camp which starts at 9.00am and ends at 5.00pm will introduce the children to the person of St. Paul and inspire them to learn more about this Apostle to the Gentiles.
According to Father Thomas, St. Paul talks about everything – law, grace, charismatic gifts, family life, etc. The second half of the year of St. Paul will focus on the Apostle’s conversion, and the importance of family life, as written in his letters.
"What I hope is that people will come to know St. Paul," Father Thomas said, adding that many Catholics understand the Gospel well but "not the second reading". The second reading at Sunday Masses is usually taken from a letter written by St. Paul, and is rarely explained during priests’ homilies.
Father Thomas hopes that every Catholic in Singapore will read at least one of the Pauline letters during this year of St. Paul. -By Daniel Tay