His 21 years working in the seminary and his ministry at the Catholic Spirituality Centre have helped equip him to serve in his new position, says Archbishop William Goh.
“What I am today is because the seminarians have formed me, the way I look at life, the way I look at priesthood,” Archbishop Goh told a packed cathedral during the May 24 Mass to mark his succession as head of the Singapore Catholic Church.
“The seminary was important for me to prepare me to learn how to relate to fellow priests and Religious, because they too are human beings,” he said at the start of the Mass. “They need affection, encouragement, understanding and compassion.”
Archbishop shared that he “met many wounded people” as spiritual director of the Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC) and the experience of ministering to them “prepared me to look after you all, to understand your struggles, to feel your pain and frustration”.
In his homily, Archbishop Goh stressed the importance of prayer in the life of Catholics and unity in the Church.
“There can be no ministry without prayer,” he said. “Prayer must be the basis of ministry. Our love for Jesus must be the ground for all we do.”
“Whether priest, Religious or lay leader, if you are not a praying person, you should not be in leadership,” he said. “If we have not reflected on the face of Christ, how can we show the face of Christ to others?”
“I want to be a praying bishop,” he stressed.
Archbishop Goh also emphasised the importance of unity in the Church. “In the Church, there is a need to promote the spirituality of communion. This must be an inclusive Church. Everyone must have a place,” he said.
“We must practise compassion, not to condemn each other. We have enough of that. We must be encouraging.”
Commenting on people who criticise the hierarchy, he said, “Don’t just keep criticising us. We know we’re not perfect. Be patient with us.”
Archbishop Goh also spoke on love and marriage. “We all need love in life. We are created for relationships. What we need most in life is love and unity,” he said, adding that “the highest form of intimacy is marriage”.
He added that marriage “must be open to life. Procreation is an important property of marriage”.
The Mass also saw Archbishop Goh’s key office bearers taking their Rite of Profession of Faith and Oath of Office and Secrecy.
They are Msgr Ambrose Vaz, Vicar General (Pastoral); Msgr Philip Heng, SJ, Vicar General (Administration and Religious), Fr John-Paul Tan, OFM, Chancellor; Fr Erbin Fernandez, Episcopal Vicar for New Evangelisation; Fr Ignatius Yeo, Executive Secretary to Archbishop and Deacon Clement Chen, Financial Administrator.
Fr Terence Pereira has also been appointed as Judicial Vicar.
Archbishop Emeritus Nicholas Chia, at the start of Mass, thanked the Catholic community for being “loyal co-workers” with him “in the vineyard of the Lord”.
“I offer prayerful support to Archbishop William Goh as he begins a new chapter in service to the Church,” he said.
Catholics who attended the celebration said they feel hopeful about the path that Archbishop Goh appears to be charting for the Singapore Church.
“He’s a very good bishop. He supports his own priests,” said Ms Maria Khong, 74, from the Church of the Risen Christ. “I think he will take care of Singapore parishes.”
Mr Gabriel Ho, 25, said he hopes Archbishop Goh can help to “form more youth communities in parishes and give clear direction”.
“Youths can bring fresh ideas to the Church,” said the catechist at the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace. “Youth have energy, passion and drive to make things happen.”
Ms Josephine Quek, 18, from the Church of the Holy Family, said she found Archbishop Goh’s homily “very inspiring”, especially what he said about marriage.