Participants of the Where Does Your Compass Needle Point To? retreat pose in front of the statue of St Francis Xavier on St Paul’s Hill.Participants of the Where Does Your Compass Needle Point To? retreat pose in front of the statue of St Francis Xavier on St Paul’s Hill.

An Amazing Race and the creation of tunes to well-known prayers were some activities young adults took part in during a recent retreat


Thirty young adults “walked” in the footsteps of St Francis Xavier during a pilgrimage-cum-retreat in Malacca organised by the Verbum Dei Missionaries.

The Aug 4-5 retreat saw participants taking part in a “Malacca Amazing Race”, composing tunes to well-known prayers, and spiritually journeying with the famous Jesuit missionary to the countries he had travelled to.

Explaining the purpose of the retreat, titled Where Does Your Compass Needle Point To?, Verbum Dei Missionary Sr Sandra Seow said many young people chase after money, success and power, and forget to live life to the fullest.

This journey to Malacca “was for each participant to discover that they, like St Francis Xavier, have a greater purpose, a greater love”, she said.

The saint worked in Malacca for some time. After his death in 1552, his body was moved from China, his last destination, and temporarily buried at St Paul’s Church at the top of St Paul’s Hill in Malacca before it was finally shipped to Goa, India.

One highlight of the retreat for the 21-39 year-old participants was the “Malacca Amazing Race” in which they were given clues leading them to four places.

There participants had to perform certain activities connected to the theme of life and love. For example, at the A Famosa fort, they had to creatively stack up their personal belongings – such as umbrellas, water bottles, shoes – to build a structure.

The activity was to help participants reflect that they too need to surrender things that seem important to them so as to build a meaningful life.

Participants later gathered at St Paul’s Hill where they had to compose new tunes, or take tunes from nursery rhymes, rap and pop songs, and apply these to any well-known prayer.

Participants were told that St Francis used to create catchy tunes to teach children prayers. By following his example, participants were encouraged to teach others how to pray too.

On the second day, each participant was invited to “set sail” with St Francis to France, India, Malaysia, Japan and China, the countries he visited.

Going around the Good Shepherd Seminary Centre, the retreat venue, participants paused at various stations representing these countries. At each station, they reflected on their own faith journeys. They also reflected on how they had to continue sharing their faith with their family and friends.

Participants said they learnt much from the retreat. The Amazing Race “not only allowed us to ... follow the footsteps of St Francis Xavier, but also promoted teamwork, cohesion and spiritual application to everyday life”, said Mr Peter Solomon, 25, from the Church of St Michael.

“This trip helped me realised what was most important in life. Jesus is the One who can fill our hearts and make life more meaningful,” shared Ms Joanne Koh, 26, from the Church of the Holy Cross.

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