OCTOBER 2005

THE "JOURNEY OF FAITH" exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) ends on Oct 9. It has received a great number of visitors, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who had the chance to see superb exhibits going back many centuries and thus discovered that the church has a long history indeed. That experience should be an eye opener for Catholics: it should motivate them to discover and learn more about the church, it should be the first step towards a better knowledge of the history of the church.

Why is this knowledge so important?

1. Pope Benedict XVI said recently (General audience, Sep 28) "Divine love becomes concrete and can be experienced in history with all its harsh and glorious vicissitudes... Our faith celebrates above all the amazing intervention in history, when the Creator shows his face as Redeemer of his people and

sovereign of the world."

The whole Bible, old and new testaments, tells us of God's plan of salvation. Before ending his life on earth, Jesus relied on men themselves to continue his work which, with his assistance, will go on as long as there are people to be saved. This is God's kingdom, being built up until the end of time.

We, together and individually, are part of this kingdom and each one of us is responsible for building it up, by living exemplary lives and sharing our faith. Our little contribution may seem insignificant, yet each one of us has received a mission which nobody else can fulfil in our stead. Knowing how the "building" has progressed so far will help us understand better what we, and each of us, can and must do towards its completion.

2. The faith we profess and live by came to us, not by private revelation, but through a community of believers, the church. Generations after generations of faithful have received and passed on the Good News, originally preached by the Apostles after a commission they received from Jesus himself.

Therefore, we do not stand alone but as members of a community through which we receive the Faith and the means to live as Christians (the Eucharist and the sacraments), and the human framework and organisation that the community needs to fulfil its mission in the world. It is the mission of the pope and the bishops to provide us, the believers, with all this, so that each of us may fulfil his or her mission in the best way possible. For, not only they, but all of us are involved.

3. This is no easy task, when you think of it. The long history of the church provides us with the example of people like us who, by responding faithfully to God's grace, were able to follow the Gospel to the letter, win others by their exemplary lives or teaching and, in many cases, influence the course of history. They are the saints, whom the church gives us as examples to follow. They made the church to be what it is today.

Because of the Communion of Saints, they still help us and encourage us to build the church of tomorrow. The better we know them, the better we'll be able to follow in their footsteps and play our part in building up God's Kingdom. Like St. Ignatius of Loyola said: "If they could do it, why can't I?"

4. The past explains the present. The experiences of old, the struggles, the hardships, the successes, the shortcomings - and why not, the mistakes - should be object lessons for us today, so that we may be better

equipped to follow up on the insights and avoid making the same mistakes. We have to build up the Kingdom, not tear it down (Example: St. Ignatius of Loyola or Martin Luther) If, for instance, we are aware of the work done by the Fathers of the Church in developing and expressing the faith and inventing theology, and of the role of the great Councils in defining precisely the Catholic faith, we'll understand better the faith we profess today and will be in a better position to live by it day by day.

5. And when doubts assail us, as it normally happens to any believer, the fact that countless martyrs, of every age, gave their lives for the faith - the fact that fearless preachers went to the ends of the world to share their faith - the fact that great minds, like the Fathers of the Church, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and all the Doctors of the Church, accepted the faith and dedicated their lives to it - may strengthen us in our own shaky faith, help us stick to our guns and be in a better position to strengthen the faith of others. The "Journey of Faith" is not over. It must go on.

Since October last year, Praise@Work, a non-parishbased Catholic charismatic prayer group for young working adults, has been hard at work in preparing for a Catholic Workplace Ministry Conference that will take place on Saturday, Nov 12, at the RELC International Hotel on 30 Orange Grove Road, from 8am to 6pm. The one-day conference called "Christ@Work" is targeted at working adults who are interested in discovering God's purpose for them in being better workers of Christ in their workplace through the decisions that they make and the people they encounter. It is especially for young working adults within the Catholic community who are not already actively living out their faith.

The event is to encourage working individuals who have lost traction with the Church after entering the workforce to participate more fully in the Church. As individuals facing struggles in their workplace and creating a balance between work and church activities, the members of the group wanted more teachings on such issues and a platform for them to hear from those who have been successfully living out their faith

experiences in their working place.

As such, the group has gathered a list of illustrious Catholics to share their experiences in the upcoming conference. These include Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers; John Ooi (vicepresident of the Family Life

Society and head of the Business Excellence Unit at the Singapore Polytechnic); Peter Ng Kok Song

(Managing Director of the Government Investment Corporation (GIC) and founding chairman of the Singapore International Monetary Exchange (SIMEX) from 1983-87); Mathew Jacob (Regional Director of

Microsoft Asia Pacific); Gerard Ee (President of the National Council of Social Service and interim chairman and acting CEO of National Kidney Foundation).

There will also be two discussions on the topics "DoFaith and Work Mix?" and "His Work In The Community" moderated by Helen Yeo (Managing Director of Rodyk & Davidson) and Willie Cheng

(Convenor of the Archdiocese Crisis Coordination Team (ACCT) and former Country Managing

Director of Accenture).

Participation at the conference will cost $50 per participant, which is inclusive of lunch and tea-breaks.

No preparation is needed before going for the event. However, participants can expect to take away a greater awareness and practical steps that will help them to live out a more vibrant faith at the workplace.

For more information, please visit the website at www.christatworkconference.com. Enquires can be made through: phone (81773717), fax (68467012) or e-mail (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

More than 650 people turned up on Fri, Sep 23 at the Church of St. Francis Xavier for the parish's final session of Lumen Gentium Evenings. Parishioners had been studying and reflecting on the key points of each chapter of this Dogmatic Constitution on the Church for the last seven months. This event was carried out under the parish's Faith Formation Programme, which aimed at drawing all parishioners to deepen their faith through various events and activities.

"Parishioners of St. Francis Xavier are generally very responsive to faith formation programmes once they understand how it will help them in their spiritual growth," assistant priest, Father Gerard Weerakoon said.

Parish priest Father Anthony Ho and Father Gerard had used a number of outreach methods - including sending personal invitations to individual families, to draw parishioners to the Lumen Gentium Evenings.

With this faith formation in mind, much of the work in the running of the programme wasthen assigned to the parishioners who responded.

"Overall, each month's event involved no less than a hundred people. There has been a lot of hard work and a great outpouring of generosity," Father Gerard attested. Four out of eight chapters of the Lumen Gentium were presented by parishioners after joint preparation with the priests.

Many others were involved in logistical arrangements. These combined efforts led to a spiritual growth within the community. This growth culminated on the final session with the theme "Our Lady and the Church". FathersAnthony and Gerard reminded parishioners of Mary's role in the Church as a role model.

With the close of the Lumen Gentium Evenings, the parish launched its next faith formation event, a nine-weekend Novena with the theme "Growing in Faith Together" (GIFT) that will lead to their feast day on Dec 3.

Despite the Rosary being a unique part of the Catholic faith, many Catholics have yet to appreciate the beauty of praying it. It is not uncommon to hear jokes of how praying the rosary can put one to sleep.

On the other hand, there are those who fervently attest to the calming effects of praying the rosary and how these devotions help to strengthen one's spiritual life.

It was while pondering about what draws so many to pray the rosary so diligently that led one neophyte, Elijah Tan Jee Yih, to eventually pick up his rosary and start his prayers. Baptised in December last year at St. Anne's Church, Mr. Tan today has discovered the beauty of this praying experience.

He first learnt how to pray the rosary through RCIA sessions at his church and laughs about how difficult it was to assimilate this practice into his life then.

The RCIA sessions slowly helped him to understand the rosary better as another form of prayer but one taken straight from Scripture itself. "I changed my perception of the rosary because of these significant parts from the Bible and the significant passages relevant to Mary. Because Mary too, has a significant role in Jesus' life here on Earth."

These days, Mr. Tan makes an effort to pray the rosary before starting his day, usually in his car after arking it and before he goes to his office.

"It's good to start the day with it because it basically calms you down and keeps at the top of your mind, what God expects of you (through the day)".

Although Mr. Tan hangs a rosary around his rear view mirror in his car, he uses a rosary card with soldered holes instead of beads. The rosary hung around the mirror serves as a reminder to himself to be more patient,especially when he is on the road.

"Sometimes, I just burst out [at reckless drivers], or get impatient and angry," he admitted, "and then I see the rosary. And it also reminds me that other people might see it too!" Mr. Tan then spoke of how his negative response will not reflect well on his Catholic faith when others notice the rosary in his car and how this realisation helps to remind him of the way he is called to reflect the Gospel values in his life.

Mr. Tan is considering attempting to make praying the rosary a family affair with his wife, Shalyn and their four children aged from four to eleven.

Other "rosary people" -

Nick Chui, a lector in the Church of St. Joseph (Bukit Timah) said he prays the rosary on buses and MRTs. It gives him a sense of peace and has a calming effect.

"It fills your mind with good thoughts, so that when you reach your destination, you are aware of the presence of God." His regular praying of the rosary is an indication of his relationship with Mary, which brings him closer to Jesus.

Elsie Wong, a parishioner in the Church of St. Michael prays the rosary in the bus on the way to work. Sometimes, she prays it in decades, but most of the time, the journey is long enough for her to finish the whole rosary. Praying the rosary helps to purify her thoughts, especially when she is feeling indecisive or

wary about certain issues. "It helps to calm me down and gives me assurance that he (Jesus) is walking with me in prayer." For Elsie, the rosary becomes alive when when she joins the mysteries with her own

life. "Praying the rosary also helps me to be more aware of the presence of God."

A medical doctor who is a parishioner of the Church of St. Teresa has a rosary on his dashboard and an Our Lady of Perpetual Help medallion in his car. He also prays on the way to way to work, "It's a half an

hour's drive from my house to the clinic and saying the rosary is part of my daily routine." Part of

that daily routine includes attending daily Mass. He says all these help him in his relationship with God, and strengthens his faith in God's protection.

BY 8.15PM about 15 persons have gathered in the room where a shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is displayed. Rosary beads appear. Some devotees kneel, the older ones sit. The people gathered here belong to the St. Stephen Rosary Devotion Group and there is a certain rhythm and harmony to their praying. One Hail Mary follows another, one decade follows another. At the fifth decade almost everyone is on their knees. It takes about half an hour to pray the rosary, and praying in a group may be easier for some. This gathering is not being held in a room at the parish but in the home of a parishioner. Next week the shrine will be carried to another home in the parish and prayers will be held there. The shrine will move to another home the week after.

This remarkable devotion has been going on since 1975 when it was initiated by the late Father Joachim Teng to encourage family rosary prayers for the conversion of sinners and the salvation of souls. It celebrated its 30th anniversary last August. The group promotes the praying of the family rosary in the home, for its members believe that "a family that prays together stays together".

About 10 - 15 people usually attend a regular night's session, but not all of them attend it every night. Hence a host usually gets to see about 30 - 40 different faces a week. After the session, those present will gather round for a meal provided by the host and some fellowship.

Most of those present are regular faces in other parish activities and many of them also attend daily Mass. As in the case with many small parishes, warmth among the parishioners is a distinct factor. New faces are instantly recognized and given proper attention, especially during the fellowship after the rosary prayer. Newcomers are made to feel at home.

According to Joyce Yio, current president of the Rosary Devotion Group, the shrine takes about two years to finish one round of the homes belonging to the parish.

Mrs. Yio herself is relatively new to the group. She joined it only three years ago, when long-time member Mary Teo called her to ask if she "would like to have Our Lady at her house for prayer"."At that time, I was just aSunday Catholic," admitted Mrs. Yio. However, she found that prayer brought much peace to her

life. Through the weekly Rosary sessions that followed, Mrs. Yio was gradually transformed from an "impatient and bad-tempered woman" into a "cheerful, tolerant and understanding" lady, as well as a more loving wife and mother to her two children. Her change was visible not only to herself, but to her family and friends as well. Ever since she accepted the invitation to take on the role of president two years ago, Mrs. Yio has found the need to set a good example for other members in the group. She does so by making time from her work schedule to attend the weekly sessions as often as she can, and to be a visible sign of encouragement for the other members.

"I am also very grateful to my committee members for their coordination and hard work whenever we have functions," she added. Mary Teo, a pioneer member of the group and the only one who has been in the group since its genesis, views her participation in the group as a form of mission by evangelizing to non-Catholics and promoting unity among Catholics in the area.

Having been brought up in St. Anthony's Canossian Convent since young, Miss Teo has always had a special devotion and a deep love for Mother Mary. "We used to recite the rosary while in school especially in the months of May and October," recalled Miss Teo with a smile. "We also share the same name," she joked. Miss Teo used to be a Legionary (a member of the Legion of Mary) in the past and since going for the weekly rosary prayer sessions beginning in her mid-twenties, she has become "more prayerful, patient and loving". She believes that Our Lady has blessed her through the weekly rosaries, and has called her to do much more with her time and energy.

In addition to being in the Rosary Devotion Group, the retiree has been involved in the Prisons Ministry for over ten years. On Sundays, she also brings Holy Communion to the homebound parishioners. Furthermore, she prays for the deceased members of the parish. "One of the corporal works of mercy is to pray for the dead," explained Miss Teo. "When you die, Jesus isn't going to ask you how many times you went to church. He will ask, ‘Did you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and pray for the dead?'" These are the seven corporal works of mercy.

Miss Teo believes that the group has managed to continue despite almost closing down many times in its history because "Our Lady wants this" to continue. "Because members died, grew old or left because of internal conflict, the group had wanted to disband several times," explained Miss Teo. "But whenever we

prayed, Our Lady always sends new members."

Fruits of the rosary devotion -

As St. Stephen has always been a small parish, many Catholics who lived in the region only came to know of its existence through the rosary group. One of the fruits of the rosary group has been a number of converts. One such person is John Foo, who first attended the rosary session at a friend's house in Jalan Gembira, off Macpherson Road.

Mr. Foo was interested to know more about the Catholic faith. At that time, the priest in charge of the rosary group, Father Michael Teo, used to attend the rosary sessions at least once a week. Father Teo was asked to speak with Mr. Foo who went on to receive catechism under the priest and was baptised a year later in 1996. Mr. Foo, 70, is now an active member of the Lectors ministry.

The rosary group has also been particularly effective in teaching newly converted Catholics to pray the rosary, as it is not often taught or emphasized in RCIA classes. "By joining in our sessions, they learn how to pray the rosary," said Miss Teo. "We also give them a rosary booklet to take home and pray on their own or with their families."

The Rosary Devotion Group has managed to gel together the Catholics of the parish of St. Stephen and is the one group in which all the parishioners can easily participate in. Furthermore, it has allowed Catholics who live in the same block of flats or along the same street to become better neighbours.

"A lot of people say that they don't have the time to pray. But Lillian Ng (the group's assistant secretary) convinces them that it takes only half an hour a night," said Mrs. Yio. "Once they have received the shrine, they will make the time to pray.

"After they have received Our Lady for the first time, they will not refuse her a second time because they see the fruits of prayer. Their children are better behaved, their spouses are more tolerant and they become better neighbours."