CatholicNews honours priests and Religious celebrating their 25th, 50th and 60th anniversaries this year - By Darren Boon
FR ALBERT BRYS
Ex-parishioners and friends of Fr Albert Brys, CICM, describe him as a dedicated priest full of missionary zeal and willing to give himself totally to God’s people.
Fr Brys visited parishioners and would always leave the door of this office open for them, recalled Mrs Faith Ho, who knew him from his days as assistant priest at Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (OLPS).
It did not matter that people sharing their problems with him would consume his time or mess up his schedule as he felt “he has to make himself available for the people of God”, said Mrs Ho.
Fr Brys was also instrumental in pioneering the RCIA programme in the archdiocese. Ms Veronica Wong, who worked with Fr Brys in OLPS, said he made it a point to visit all the sponsors in their homes and also to interview the catechumens.
“He always has this personal relationship with everybody,” said Ms Wong.
Fr Brys helped form the lay RCIA facilitators and was present at every session, even if the lessons were conducted by the facilitators and not by him.
Fr Brys also participated actively in the parish’s home catechism classes and was supportive of the group’s efforts.
There was also a yearly Fr Brys award for the best behaved child which he would give away, said Mrs Ho’s husband, Meng Kit, who was involved in the programme.
Fr Brys was born in Belgium in 1925. He had been serving in Singapore since his arrival in 1982 after 22 years of work in Belgium and Congo.
He was assistant priest at OLPS until 1997 after which he was transferred to Church of St Francis of Assisi. In 2010, he retired and lived at St Joseph’s Home.
On April 10 this year, he left Singapore for his congregation’s motherhouse in Belgium for good.
Mrs Ho and Ms Wong said he was reluctant to leave the home as he was concerned over the spiritual needs of residents there.
Mrs Ho said that Fr Brys has been an example and inspiration to her.
She suffered a difficult pregnancy, and even though her son suffers from disability, Fr Brys kept encouraging her to remain confident in the Lord. He was always encouraging the faithful to “have faith in God, live your faith and always be thankful”, she said.
Fr Brys’ friends also recalled that he took the vows of obedience faithfully and had no problems taking instructions from his superiors or a parish priest younger than him.
Mrs Ho said that he would always tell them that it is about obedience to one’s superiors.
Fr Brys will celebrate his diamond jubilee on July 29.
FR JOSEPH JEANNEQUINFr Joseph Jeannequin, MEP, is ever ready to hear penitents’ confession and bring them God’s grace and forgiveness, say those who know him.
“He wants people to have God’s peace and fullness of His life in their hearts,” said Ms Veronica Ang, who works at Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) where Fr Jeannequin is assistant priest.
Ms Ang says she remembers him sharing with parish staff that his “greatest joy as a priest is to be able to be a channel of Christ’s forgiveness, peace and love”, adding that Fr Jeannequin can sit in the confessional for hours.
Another parishioner, Mr Jude Tan, describes Fr Jeannequin as a “kind, good-hearted, fatherly priest”. He said he has never seen Fr Jeannequin raise his voice at others.
Fr Jeannequin was sent to Burma after his ordination at the MEP chapel in Paris in December 1951. He studied English and Burmese, taught Latin and was the spiritual director of the minor seminary in Rangoon.
He assisted in the Chinese parish of Rangoon every Sunday and later became parish priest there.
“How I loved that parish!” Fr Jeannequin told CatholicNews.
When the Burmese generals expelled missionaries from the country, Fr Jeannequin asked his superior to send him to any Chinese parish in Southeast Asia.
“My request was granted and after a long journey of 42 days at sea on a cargo boat around Africa, touching again Singapore [which he stopped enroute before going to Burma]. I reached my new mission, the Chinese parish of Phnom Penh, a Teochew parish,” he said.
He learnt Teochew before heading to Taiwan to study Mandarin.
He arrived in Singapore in May 1972 and served as assistant priest at Church of the Risen Christ for two years before being posted to Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary where he served for 27 years.
Over there, he would celebrate Mass in Mandarin once every three weeks. He also celebrated Mass in Burmese once a month in the Canossian school chapel in Bedok and later at IHM for eight years until a Burmese priest took over about four years ago.
Meanwhile Fr Jeannequin describes his ministry at IHM as happily assisting the parish priest.
Ms Ang said of Fr Jeannequin, “He has touched many lives, including mine. I ... will always remember him saying that he chose to leave France so that he could give himself more completely to our Lord.”
SR MARCELLINA FUMAGALLI
Sr Marcellina Fumagalli had wanted to be a missionary from the age of six. Her mother had told her stories about the saints and the young Marcellina had understood that her calling was to serve in mission lands.
Joining the convent required her to give up her worldly possessions and make other sacrifices, and it was a bit of a struggle for her as she came from a close-knit family, she told CatholicNews.
Sr Marcellina Fumagalli arrived in Singapore from Italy in December 1954. A skilled dressmaker, she was put in charge of the Sewing Centre managed by the Canossian Sisters.
There she managed to secure sewing contracts for the girls studying in the centre.
She also worked at the now-closed Canossian Vocational Centre which accepted girls who dropped out of school. There she taught vocational skills and other subjects.
She now helps out at the San Zeno thrift shop at the Canossaville Children’s Home at Sallim Road and animates a group of lay Canossians known as Magdalene’s Apostles.
She also helps to organise the cleaning of the Church of St Stephen.
MSGR FRANCIS LAU
Msgr Francis Lau was born on Dec 12, 1932, and ordained on June 18, 1961.
He served at the Church Of St Joseph in Bukit Timah and Church of St Michael before going to Kuala Lumpur to study Chinese from 1963-1964.
He was later assistant priest at the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace and Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
He was rector of the minor seminary from 1970-1980. He then studied Canon Law in Rome until 1983.
In March 1983, he was appointed Vicar General of the Singapore archdiocese. He was later acting parish priest at the Church of the Risen Christ and parish priest of the Church of Sts Peter And Paul.
On Oct 19, 2000, he was elected Archdiocesan Administrator by the Board of Consultors after it was announced that the pope had accepted Archbishop Gregory Yong’s resignation.
He is now assistant rector at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd after being parish priest at the Church of the Holy Cross for three years.
FR PAUL STAES
Scheut Missions priest, Fr Paul Staes, was born in Belgium in 1937 and ordained on Aug 6, 1961.
He then continued his graduate studies in psychology and moral theology until 1969.
The CICM priest was a missionary to the Philippines and the US, and was for 11 years in Rome as Treasurer General of his congregation.
He came to Singapore in 1994. After eight years of ministry in the parishes of Holy Spirit, St Bernadette, and St Stephen, he is now rector of his community’s District House in Pandan Valley.
He helps out in various ministries such as with the prisons, Inter-Religious Organisation and NTU, and coordinates the distribution of the congregation’s Missionhurst magazine.
He also assists in the work of fellow missionaries in Mongolia.
As of 2007 he has been the CICM coordinator for Justice and Peace efforts in Singapore.
SR BERNADETTE YEO
Sr Bernadette Yeo, from the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood, is presently serving in Clinical Pastoral Care at Mount Alvernia Hospital and Assisi Hospice.
She has also worked in Mount Alvernia Hospital in Guildford, UK, Our Lady’s Hospital in Ipoh, Malaysia, and Villa Francis Home For the Aged in Singapore.
She has held the positions of Local Superior, Postulant Mistress and Clinical Pastoral Care Co-ordinator.
Sr Yeo received her training in the UK, Singapore, Australia and India.
SR FLORENCE WONG
While in her 20s, Sr Florence Wong worked in the Palestine Hospital in Jordan after the Arab-Israeli War.
Prior to this, the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood nun served in Mount Alvernia Hospital in Guildford, Surrey, in UK.
She was the FMDM Regional Leader for Singapore and Malaysia from 1990-1995 and Administrator of Mount Alvernia Hospital from 1980-1983.
She has also conducted workshops for those in mid-life. Nowadays, she gives spiritual direction and retreats for Church programmes Landings and Rachel’s Vineyard.
SR AGNES KONG
Sr Agnes Kong was trained as a general nurse and midwife. She served in Portiuncula Hospital in Ireland for six years before returning to Singapore.
She was the Sister-in-charge in the Midwifery Ward at Mount Alvernia Hospital for many years until she retired in 1998. She was then actively involved as a volunteer in Assisi Hospice and with Lions Befrienders, which included visiting the poor and the elderly housebound.In 2003, she suffered a severe stroke which prevented her from living an active life. Nevertheless, she accepted her illness with peace, and is a great example to many of her friends.
SR MARGARET SYN
Sr Margaret Syn was a teacher and school counsellor at St Anthony’s Convent Secondary School in the 1970s. In the 1980s, she worked with Single Parent Families in Canossaville Children’s Home, and started the Before and After School Care as well as HELP (Help Every Lone Parent) Family Service Centre.
She also introduced the Beginning Experience Weekend (BE), Rainbows for All Children programme and Single Parents Encounter groups (SPE).
In the 1990s, she was with Caritas Prato in Italy helping immigrants from mainland China.
From 2005-2008, she served in Jinde Charities (the first Catholic social service organisation in China) in Shijiazhuang, Hebei, China.
Since 2008, she has been serving in the Yunnan Catholic Social Service.
FR PETER WEE
Redemptorist Fr Peter Wee is currently involved in the administration and operation of the shrine at Novena Church and its pastoral and liturgical ministries.
He is also coordinator of the Redemptorists’ Parish Missions in Singapore and occasionally organises foreign missions to Malaysia and Siem Reap, Cambodia.
FR PETER KOH
Fr Peter Koh has been parish priest of Church of Christ the King since 2003.
He was appointed assistant priest at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in 1986 and Church of Our Lady Queen Of Peace in 1990.
He was appointed parish priest of Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea in 1998.
SR THERESA LIM
Sr Theresa Lim, from the Daughters of St Paul nun, served for six years as secretary of the Regional Commission for Social Communications of Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.
She had also served in Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia and Italy. She has manned her congregation’s media centre, conducted film retreats and taken media literarcy courses in the US.
SR ROSE LOW
Sr Rose Low has worked for 16 years in the Canossaville Children’s Home and has also served elderly Sisters in the Canossian community in Italy.
Currently, she is the community leader of the Canossian community in Sallim Road, which includes the Canossian “eduplex” such as the primary school, kindergarten and children’s home.
SR JANE CHONG
Sr Jane Chong had worked in the Canossian-run kindergartens and was trained in Pre-school and Special Needs Education.
She currently offers spiritual direction.
Not all priests and Religious celebrating their jubilees are featured here as some have indicated they prefer not to have their anniversaries publicised.