SEPTEMBER 2006

IT IS IRONIC that in some churches where the turnout for Sunday Masses is encouraging, we sometimes see the same lay person participating in more than one role - commentator, lector and communion minister - during the same celebration of the Eucharist.

By dominating the liturgy, that person may give the wrong impression to the congregation that he loves to be in the limelight.

Surely more can be done by the priests and the various parish organizations to encourage others from the congregation to play a more active role in the liturgy.

    Nelson Quah

    Singapore 650524

By Joyce Gan

018.jpgSINGAPORE - Some 60 people, whose lives have been transformed through Jesuit Father Iker Villanueva's spiritual retreats held in Chiang Mai, attended his funeral Mass at the Church of Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) on Thursday, Aug 16. The Mass was celebrated by Fathers Joseph Tan, Colin Tan, Philip Heng and Aloysius Ong.

Father Iker Villanueva was diagnosed with cancer last year and would have been 79 next Sep 18. From the Basque region of Spain, he had lived and worked in Thailand for the last 41 years and spoke six languages including Thai. Forty priests concelebrated his funeral Mass in Chiang Mai.

He was the Superior and one of three retreat directors of the Jesuit Retreat Centre, The Seven Fountains, in Chiang Mai. The Seven Fountains is the spirituality centre of the Society of Jesus in Thailand and it offers personally directed retreats, group retreats, as well as seminars related to the spiritual life. Many priests have made their 30-day retreats with Father Iker before professing their final vows.

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Carol Lim, a parishioner of the Church of St. Ignatius, attended his funeral Mass in Chiang Mai and managed to get home in time for the one held at IHM too. She had first made a retreat under Father Iker in 1999. Having subsequently made several more retreats with him, she describes him as a "priest, mentor, friend, father and much more".

"He was just a wonderful man," she reiterated. "All of our lives (those who had gone through retreats with Father Iker) have been profoundly touched and changed." This is why individual retreatants had managed to garner attendance at his funeral Mass largely by word of mouth.

Carol remembers Father Iker as someone who had "a great love for God's people". This same picture was painted during the Mass when Father Iker was described as one who was fully alive and fully human, and who loved everything about life. His passion had helped Carol to transform her faith.

"Father Iker brought God to life! Since his retreat, I feel God truly dwelling in my heart. It is still a felt experience of God's love for me - an experience of being God's beloved. It isn't a passing thing either. Once you experience it, you carry it with you," she spoke of how she has matured in her spirituality under Father Iker's guidance. "That, I think, is his legacy."

This legacy lives on in Chiang Mai. Catholics there are starting a fund in Father Iker's name to provide support for people who need retreats but find it difficult to meet costs.

For more information on The Seven Fountains, visit www.7fountains.wordpress.com, www.carefor.org/7fountains or www.sjthailand.org.

Good friend of Canossian Sisters and CatholicNews dies

017.jpgDaniel Cheong passed away, aged 69, on Aug 10, three months after he suffered a stroke. He will be missed at St. Joseph's Home and Hospice, which he visited everyday for the last two years. 

SINGAPORE - It seems fitting that St. Joseph's Home and Hospice at Jurong Road was where Daniel Cheong died. The nursing home is managed by the Canossian Sisters. He visited it without fail everyday for the last two years. His wife, Doris, is a resident there. 

Above right, Daniel with his beloved wife, Doris, whom he visited everyday at St. Joseph's Home and Hospice without fail. 

Mr Cheong died among people whom he loved and had helped and who loved him in return. The Canossian Sisters are grateful to Mr Cheong for all he has done for their schools. He was the resourceful and creative chairman of the Building Fund Committee from 1992 to 1994, when funds were being raised for the new St. Anthony's Canossian Primary and Secondary Schools at Bedok North.

To make sure that these projects reached a bigger community, he arranged for advertisements promoting the projects and asking for donations to be placed in CatholicNews and persuaded the Sisters to sell the newspaper at the Novena devotions in Thomson Road each time the advertisements were published.

This led to increased circulation of CatholicNews at Novena Church, especially on those days when the Sisters were selling the newspaper, and more donations to the building funds. Mr Cheong's initiative, organizational ability and generosity with his and Doris' time led to the formation of volunteer groups who, even today, promote CatholicNews every fortnight at Novena Church because they see it as an important source of information and formation for Catholics and non-Catholics.

He will also be remembered for his devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes, to whose shrine in France he frequently arranged pilgrimages. He was always eager to share his experiences there.

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The Sisters say Mr Cheong faithfully prayed the rosary through his hospitalization. "Even when he could not speak anymore, he would lift up his right hand and make a big sign of the cross. He felt soothed whenever we blessed him with holy water from Lourdes," Sister Janet Wang recounted.

He was a devout legionary and faithfully attended the Legion of Mary meeting every Monday morning at the Church of Queen of Peace.

That was the only time off he took from his faithful daily visit to his wife Doris, since her admission to St. Joseph's Home and Hospice on Jun 23, 2003, Sister Janet said.

"All the Sisters and staff of the home were struck by his care for Doris whom he would feed, pray with and wheel around in the home, even when she was not able to talk anymore," she shared.

Doris is currently still residing at the home. The Sisters though, are unsure if she is able to understand what has happened to her husband. One of the Sisters had seen her tear but she does not seem to be very aware of her surroundings.

Daniel and Doris' daughter, Fiona, believes that her mother "on some deeper level that we cannot see… knows that my father is starting on a new journey, and she will have to catch up with him later".

Daniel was warded at Changi General Hospital for 47 days after he suffered a stroke in his Bedok home. He was visited by his many godsons, fellow Legionaries, friends and priests. Upon his discharge from hospital on Jul 27, he was warded in St. Joseph's Home and Hospice. His condition did not improve and he passed away shortly after.

"The way the Sisters and the staff ran into his room to welcome him was so loving that now when I look back at our last week with him at the Home, along with my sadness, I also feel joy, and gratitude, and amazement," Fiona added in thanks to the Canossian Sisters and the staff of St. Joseph's Home and Hospice.

By Joyce Gan

SINGAPORE - Graduating classes of 1979 to 1983 from Catholic Junior College (CJC) can return to their alma mater for its 31st anniversary celebrations on Saturday Nov 25. 

CJC, the only Catholic institution in Singapore to provide junior college education in the last 31 years, has offered generations of students what Archbishop Nicholas Chia had stated in his Nov 15, 2004 Pastoral Letter on Catholic Education, that: "In the Catholic school, the Gospel of Jesus is proposed to everyone, not imposed on anyone. All are evangelized, but each in his own way. Catholic children in particular are deepened in the understanding of their faith, schooled in the intimacy of prayer, and discipled in servanthood… It is also in a Catholic school that children learn that faith is not incompatible with science and reason; that all truth and wisdom come from an omniscient and omnipotent God."

The reunion dinner will be an opportunity for ex-students to commemorate the time they had spent at the school, as well as for CJC to commemorate its achievements through the decades.

The dinner will be held at the CJC Multi Purpose Hall. Present and past principals and teachers will be given recognition at the event.

Any excess funds collected from the dinner will be donated to the school and its needy students. Former students who would like to contribute to the organizational effort are asked to contact Simon Tan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or tel: 9455 1062. More information is available at http://cjc.edu.sg.

READING THE ARTICLE in the The Straits Times on ailing Pavarotti seeking help from God in his battle against pancreatic cancer reminds me of my own experience when faced with a similar situation. It happened to me in 1999 in the Phillipines and I sought God's help.

I was a non-Catholic at that time and we had this team of Divine Mercy devotees praying for me back at home while I was in the hospital bed in Manila after a massive heart attack.

My wife and my brother-in-law were with me at that time and they prayed in the chapel to God. In moments like this we all turn to him, so also Pavarotti. My wife and myself were baptized in the year 2002 and the words "Doubt No More" remain with me until today.

    Paul Tan