MAY 2007

132.jpgThe couples and priests of Marriage Encounter Singapore invite all married couples and their families to come to Church of St. Teresa on Thursday May 31 and join in the celebration of marriage.

SINGAPORE - When was the last time you decided to unwind and let others take control for a while? Couples and priests of Catholic Worldwide Marriage Encounter Singapore (ME Singapore), a movement devoted to enriching marriages, are inviting married couples to do just that. They have organized a Celebrating Marriages event - an afternoon for families to gather, on Thursday May 31, and share the joy of marriage.

May 31 is the holy day of the Visitation of Mother Mary, and a public holiday (Vesak Day). The celebrations will begin at 3.00pm in the auditorium at Church of St. Teresa with an introduction followed by four talks held concurrently in different meeting rooms.

ME Singapore has invited four excellent speakers who have a wealth of knowledge and experience on various aspects of family life. They will give their insights and share their personal stories (from 3:00pm to 4:30pm). Two of the four speakers are Father Frans de Ridder and Father Henry Siew.

FATHER FRANS DE RIDDER, ordained in 1964, is an Associate Priest at Church of the Holy Cross, Clementi. Father Frans has been a priest on mission in Singapore for more than 20 years. In addition to giving retreats and talks he has been active in Marriage Encounter since 1981. He will speak on "Family Spirituality". Father Frans is convinced that "many families have a longing for family prayer and they may not know how to go about it". Come and listen to his stories and experiences with families.

FATHER HENRY SIEW, ordained in 1991, is Parish Priest of St. Anne's Church, Sengkang. Father Henry's articles about couple relationships are published regularly in CatholicNews. He will speak on "Couples' Love Languages". Realizing that one's love language and the love language of one's spouse may be as different as Chinese from English, Father Henry will share insights on how couples can discover each other's love language for love to be effectively expressed and received.

Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Nicholas Chia at 5.15pm. A highlight of this Mass will be the renewal of wedding vows by couples celebrating their 5, 10, 15, 20 (and more) years of marriage. There will be a special blessing of couples for whom this year is an anniversary milestone.

Couples who have experienced a significant event this year e.g. birth of a child or a crisis like a near death experience, etc, are also invited to join in the special blessing. Light refreshments will be served after Mass.

Pre-registration is required by May 21 for

1. Talks (limited seats)

2. Child-minding services

3. Significant milestone anniversary blessing

Register by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For enquiries, call Theresa at 9022 3291.

frhenrysiew.jpgPraying as a married couple will bring peace to your heart and joy to your life, writes Father Henry Siew.

DO YOU PRAY? Have your spouse and you ever prayed together?

Some people regard praying as if it were medication - useful only when they have a headache. Some treat it like surgery - only as a last resort. If you are one of them, maybe it is time to change your attitude towards praying. Praying should be treated similar to drinking and eating, as a daily necessity and done at regular intervals.

It should be treated similar to resting and exercising, a regulative measure rather than a therapy. Is prayer an important part of your life?

Many people know the importance of praying, but they do not do it. They feel that there are so many things to do with so little time, and priority is often given to doing things that seem urgent.

In comparison, praying, like exercising, does not seem to be an urgent matter. Everyone knows that to keep fit and healthy, you need to do regular exercise. But because health does not seem to be affected even if one does not exercise for a week or two, many people may take that to mean that exercise is unnecessary and neglect it.

But the fact is this: Things that do not seem urgent but are very important cannot be neglected without severe negative consequences. For example, if you do not exercise or watch your diet, you may accumulate unwanted fat in the blood vessels which could result in a stroke. Do you really want to wait for that moment to take exercising and dieting seriously?

As for your couple relationship, if you do not spend quality time together, do not share and know each other, do not satisfy each other's needs, do not develop mutual trust and confidence, and do not enjoy sexual intimacy, your marriage will deteriorate.

Do you wait till constant quarrelling or hateful insults occur before you do something about your relationship? Do not neglect the important things in life until it is too late.

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How to pray

For a married couple with religious conviction, prayer plays a very important role in sustaining their marital commitment. They must pray personally and learn to pray together regularly. Even if only one spouse has faith but the other does not resist praying, the couple can also pray. Praying before a meal is a good way to start couple-prayer. Praying together when faced with special needs or a crisis is a must. It is best for a couple to pray together regularly even when they are not having problems.

If a couple has not learned how to pray together or if only one party is willing to pray, the willing spouse can start first by praying for the other person or for himself. Couples should pray with gratitude and love; they should thank God for their marriage and their spouse, and express their desire to treasure them.

A couple's prayer should also include words of blessing. Bless your spouse with good health and a satisfactory career, that he or she will be kind, sincere, faithful, pious, tender and cheerful. If the prayer is for improving the couple's relationship and change is needed, you should pray for the courage to change yourself rather than asking God to change your spouse.

Effects of prayer

Even if you are the only believer and cannot pray together with your other half, you should persist in prayer, firmly trusting that God, in his own way, will work all things out for good. For matters that you can act on, you pray for wisdom and strength to persevere; for matters that are out of your control, you surrender in quiet confidence.

Connecting to God everyday through prayers will bring peace to your heart and joy to your life. Even if your spouse is not a believer, so long as he has love in his heart, he will surely be able to feel the love and peace you gain through your closeness with God.

When your children see you pray, thanking God, trusting him and asking for his blessing, your prayer will have a profound impact on them. When they feel God's presence in their parents' marriage, they will naturally experience love, respect and peace at home. Children brought up in such an environment will be well nourished spiritually, and be sure to grow up emotionally healthy.

Father Henry Siew, parish priest of St. Anne's Church, is the spiritual director to Mandarin Marriage Encounter Weekend.

111.jpgMeeting Olivia Newton-John in person and fulfilling a lifelong dream to attend her concert was truly a wondrous blessing and an experience of God's abundant love, writes Sister Wendy Ooi, fsp, a long-time fan of the singer, Sister Wendy shares her admiration for Olivia's music, positive outlook in life and philanthropic efforts.

I FIRST BECAME a fan of Olivia Newton-John when I was 10. That was 30 years ago in 1977 when I first saw her perform on a television special and was mesmerized as a child would be by such a beautiful singer with the loveliest voice. She was then enjoying a blossoming musical career. The next year saw the release of the hit movie "Grease" which made her a household name the world over.

The first records I bought were two Olivia Newton-John vinyl LP albums. As I grew through my teens, 20s and 30s, my taste in music expanded and grew more diverse but Olivia remained my favourite singer. I faithfully collected each album she released and knew every song by heart.

Olivia was part of my growing years. I grew to admire her not only for her musical talents but also the gift of her person and her inner beauty as she contributed to numerous humanitarian, environmental and charity concerns. As a breast cancer survivor since 1992 she has generously promoted public awareness of the importance of early detection and has become a positive inspiration to thousands battling cancer.

As I matured spiritually, Olivia's music also evolved from pop songs with trivial messages to inspiring songs with implicit Gospel values. Her self-penned and produced album, "GAIA" (1994), a personal album reflecting her experiences with cancer, contains songs that I use for classes on Human and Faith Formation.

"No Matter What You Do", my favourite song from that album has helped me personally in dealing with others. "No matter what you do, I'll send you love / No matter what you say…" With such Christ-like lyrics and a positive outlook in life, it is easy to believe the testimonies of other celebrities when they say that Olivia is authentically one of the nicest persons in the entertainment industry.

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Her personality extends to her music. Her penultimate CD "Stronger Than Before" (2005), features affirming songs of inspiration, courage and hope for those facing cancer or any difficult journey. It includes a rendition of the well-loved "Prayer of Serenity" and a portion of its proceeds benefit cancer research.

Olivia's latest CD, "Grace and Gratitude" is her most spiritual music album thus far. It is an ideal album for inter-religious prayer sessions as it combines music and religious chants from Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism to Islamic and Hebrew prayers to a Latin Benediction and a song based on a prayer of St. Francis.

Meeting Olivia in person recently and fulfilling a lifelong dream to attend her concert was truly a wondrous blessing and an experience of God's abundant love for me. It was also a celebration of the gift of a truly wonderful and phenomenal woman with not only a voice of gold but a heart of gold as well. I can only echo the lyrics to one of her songs, "Stronger Than Before": "I believe in miracles, I believe in dreams!" It was indeed a marvellous gift of grace for me welcomed with much gratitude.

Bits of Olivia

Born Sep 26, 1948 in Cambridge, England, the youngest child of Professor Brin Newton-John (Welsh) and Irene (German), daughter of Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Max Born. Her family moved to Australia when she was five.

  • Winner of four Grammy awards, nine American Music awards, numerous other music awards and accolades for environmental, humanitarian, breast cancer awareness and charity works.

  • Presently, helping to raise funds to build a cancer support centre in her hometown, Melbourne, Australia. The centre will provide a comprehensive range of services and facilities for cancer treatment, education, training and research.

  • Is an animal lover. Her first ambition was to be a veterinarian. ·Considers her daughter Chloe (21) as her greatest achievement.

  • Website: www.olivianewton-john.com

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121.jpg"If you are able to be thankful for something, it helps you get through to the next day."

Conversation with Olivia

Right, Olivia Newton-John accepting a gift from the late Pope John Paul II during a private audience in the Vatican.

Q: In 2000 you performed at the Jubilee Celebration for the Sick and Healthcare Workers at the Vatican, and had a private audience with Pope John Paul II. What was that experience like?

Olivia: It was an amazing experience to meet the pope! I had been invited to fly to Rome to sing and did not know what to expect and unfortunately on the night of the concert the pope was sick and he wasn't there but I got to sing - I've never had an experience like that - it was in the Vatican hall but there were people lying on stretchers with IVs in their arms and people in wheelchairs all around the stage and it was a really emotional experience.

We were due to leave a couple of days later and I said, "I can't come to Rome and not meet the pope!" "You have to arrange this meeting somehow. Please!" I begged.

And so two days later we got a call to say that he was feeling better and we were invited. I just remembered being led through these beautiful halls with all those amazing artwork and we were waiting in a room and I remember seeing this head and the little white cap, that's all I saw at first because he was stooped - I saw his head come round the corner and it was just one of those magical moments! My daughter was with me and he presented each of us with a rosary and gave us a blessing and he was very sweet.

My daughter, who is half Italian, half Polish (on her father's side) and so she has Catholic grandparents, burst into tears. She was a teenager at that time and didn't think she would be so impressed, but when she actually met him it was a very emotional feeling, as it was for me. He was a very special man. It was a very wonderful moment in my life. (Olivia sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at the Vatican, a track found in her 1989 album of lullabies, "Warm and Tender".)

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Q: You've survived so many battles. What helped you get through them all to end up becoming "stronger than before"? What accounts for your resilience and positive outlook in life that might perhaps inspire those who are in some form of loss or tragedy right now?

Olivia: I think I realize that we're all the same. When I got breast cancer, I never thought "Why me?" I was never a victim because I thought, "Why not? It happens to so many people and so why not me?" Maybe in the future there'll be some reason why I've gone through this.

I'm pretty grounded and have very strong parents. My mother was a very strong woman who went through a lot in her life and you pick up from your parents even though they may not say anything to you. She was a great role model for me.

And I think I'm so fortunate in so many ways that I see that as an opportunity for me to move forward and help others if I go through these things. My life is a fish bowl.

I try to accept things in life because I know they happen to everybody. I'm not being singled out. This is what happens to people. It's not what happens to you, it's how you deal with it because a lot of people deal with loss and pain and it's how you cope and get through it. And I have a child to set an example for also.

I have my private moments. I am human and I get down like everybody does, but I think I have a strong resilience and I love life and I feel very grateful. I think gratitude maybe is the key to it. Being thankful for what you do have, whether it is big or small, because it really boils down in the end to the people you love, that's what pulls you through. If you're able to be thankful for something, it helps you get through to the next day.

Watch the video of Conversation with Olivia on CN website: www.catholic.org.sg/cn/video

By Joyce Gan

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Adrian Danker, formerly a Ministry of Education PSC scholar, now a Jesuit Scholastic, is in Singapore at the request of the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools.

BE CAREFUL WHAT you wish for, Adrian Danker (photo) advises with a laugh. Wishes can come true. He should know. When he was a young man, Adrian wished that he would never stop studying. Now, aged 42, he is still studying - to be a priest.

Almost 24 years ago, in 1983, his 'A' Level results won him a Ministry of Education (MOE) PSC Teaching Scholarship to the National University of Singapore. There, he received a second PSC Scholarship to the University of Adelaide, Australia where he earned a Ph.D. in English Literature.

On his return to Singapore, he moved from Telok Kurau Secondary School to his alma mater, Catholic Junior College (CJC) where he taught General Paper and Literature. In 1998, he was transferred to the Planning Division of MOE. The scholar completed his nine-year bond in 2001 and joined the Jesuits, with whom he is now undergoing his Regency formation in the Philippines. While studying to be a priest, Adrian also teaches Philosophy of Religion in the Ateneo University in Manila, and helps in the formation of young Jesuits who have taken their first vows.

Education, therefore, is territory that Brother Adrian is familiar with and passionate about. Adrian's knowledge and the desire to share it has led the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools to invite him here to help with the development of Religious Education in Singapore Catholic schools.

During the two months that he will be here, Adrian will also be holding a course for Catholic teachers in both Catholic and non-Catholic schools to help their students discover God in their lives through philosophy and reason. "Catholic teachers have a role to help students discover their relationship with God," he says.

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"These Catholic teachers will also learn that teaching is a vocation that will help them in ongoing formation in their own lives," he says. "This weekend course will help them and to equip them to help their students to do this, and also to provide them with the opportunity to find the sacred amidst the secular environment they are in, as well as the challenges they face."

"After all, challenges can help us to fine tune [what we do]. They can only be good. No programme will be useful if it doesn't negotiate with the challenges on the ground," he says. Negotiating challenges on the ground (or in heaven) is nothing new to Brother Adrian.

He remembers how a subtle if immature feeling of being called to the priesthood when he was very young completely disappeared when he was pursuing his career in government service as a scholar.

"I knew I would be going places with the government," he adds. Material and professional success were foremost in his life then. Church was relegated to the back seat. However, matters of faith intruded into his consciousness upon his return as a teacher to Catholic Junior College. Then principal Sister Maria Lau said to him one day, "I think you should be a priest. Please think about it." He brushed the thought away. But it "became this annoying thing that I just had to negotiate with God about", he laughs.

At that time, Jesuit Father Gerry Keane was CJC chaplain. Adrian sought his advice. Although Father Keane did not ask him to be a Jesuit but just to remain open to God, Brother Adrian saw how the Jesuit priest lived his vocation, and this, together with the Jesuit charism, attracted him more and more to the Society of Jesus. He could not join the Society while he was still bonded to MOE.

So he waited patiently until he had fulfilled his bond. God's hand was in that period of waiting too, he understands now. "It was a good time for a proper discernment," he confides. "My responses were measured and well-discerned. It was a nine-year bond and I was able to seriously discern for five years."

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"So from the Ministry of Education, I entered the Ministry of God in 2001," he says. Now, as a Jesuit and living in the Philippines, life is much simpler for the man who once wore expensive clothes, went on holidays overseas, collected CDs and enjoyed the material life. "I don't have all that now but I'm more contented," he shares. "God willing, I will be ordained in his time," he says in reply to a question on whether he looks forward to his ordination as a priest.

"At the end of the day I trust God because, looking back, I can see how he's made all the crooked lines straight." More information on Scholastic Adrian Danker's seminar, "God" is available on the advertisement to below.

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SINGAPORE - The annual Freshmen Orientation Camps (FOC) of National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) provide a way for Catholics entering university to find a community on campus to journey with.

Every year, university freshmen forge long-lasting friendships and have a whale of a time meeting seniors and other freshmen because they participated in the FOC. Here is some feedback:

"When I got my orientation package in the mail, I was reluctant to attend any camp at all. But, under my mom's "gentle persuasion", I picked up the flyer for the NTU Catholic Students Apostolate (CSA) FOC and registered. Since then, I've never looked back. CSA became my on-campus family and through the various activities, I grew in service and in faith."

- Gregory Loo, NTU

"Memories of spirit-filled praise and worship sessions, visits to churches in the vicinity during the "Amazing Race" amongst other fun games… Interactive mingling sessions with the seniors taught us much about campus life. Through FOC, I made, many wonderful friends. It is wonderful to have a Catholic community of friends on campus."

- Raymond Tan, SMU

"The camp was great. I learnt to find God in my new surroundings. That, together with the new amazing friends I made, university life became all the more better."

- Nicole Wong, NUS

You can register for the FOC when the FOC Publicity teams from the three universities conduct outreach sessions at the parishes from May 5 to Jun 2. This year's FOCs will take place from Jun 11-15 for NUS, Jul 17-20 for NTU, and Aug 14-16 for SMU. For more information, please contact Lyanna (NUS) at 9431 4899; Ignatius (NTU) at 9172 2476; Raymond (SMU) at 9777 2774.