Chinese migrant workers from the Serangoon Gardens area together with others from the Church of Sts Peter and Paul attend a faith formation course at the Church of St Francis Xavier.
Photos by Darren Boon

Language is no barrier when it comes to evangelisation, say Church of St Francis Xavier volunteers who are reaching out to migrants.

What started off as a “bread run” by some parishioners in 2008 to deliver bread to foreign workers in the Serangoon Gardens area has led to the organising of a faith formation course for Chinese migrant workers every second Sunday of the month.

The course, held in the evenings, started on Oct 10 this year.

Not having a superb mastery of Mandarin did not prevent volunteers like Ms Grace Ch’ng and Mrs Joanna Leong from reaching out to the workers and getting acquainted with them.

Mrs Leong told CatholicNews that one worker had asked her if the parish could organise activities for them. This set her thinking as evangelisation has always been the volunteers’ intention.

A meal is usually served after each session

They eventually roped in Francis Teo, who is coordinating the Chinese migrant faith formation course at the Church of Sts Peter and Paul.

Noting that St Francis Xavier does not have Mandarin Masses or an organised Mandarin-speaking community, Mrs Leong said that the parish lacks the resources to conduct a Mandarin faith formation course. The volunteers had wanted to send the migrants to Sts Peter and Paul but Mr Teo felt it was more convenient for them to attend classes at St Francis Xavier.

He said the efforts of the volunteers here show that language is no barrier to evangelisation.

The general opinion is that the Mandarin-speaking Catholic community should reach out to these workers, Mr Teo noted. However, “I want to make it a point that it doesn’t mean the English-speaking community cannot reach out to the Chinese people so long as we can cooperate to get resources. Evangelisation is for everyone.”

“It’s also mission work,” stressed Mrs Leong. “Instead of going to China to evangelise them, we’re doing it in our backyard.”

Meanwhile, Mr Teo said he hopes other parishes would follow the example of the volunteers here.

Ms Ch’ng and Mrs Leong said they hope fellow parishioners would be welcoming of the migrants and accept them as part of the community. They added that they also hope to hold a faith formation course in Tamil for Indian workers if they are able to find the resources.

Mr Wang Xing Guang, from Jiangsu province, who works in the construction industry, said that there are people who discriminate against foreign workers but he is thankful for the warmth and concern shown by the parish volunteers.

Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Wang, a Christian, said the church is a place “where one can experience the warmth of a big family … where one can make friends and won’t be so lonely”.

He said his faith has given him the strength to overcome loneliness living in a foreign land as well as work difficulties and that he looks forward to each gathering. He has also invited some of his fellow migrant workers to the faith formation sessions.

Wang Dai Xiang, Mr Wang’s friend, told CatholicNews: “Jesus led me here … coming here [to church] is like returning home.”

About six Chinese migrant workers from the Serangoon Gardens area attended the first session along with 14 others from Sts Peter and Paul who came to support their countrymen.

By Darren Boon
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