JANUARY 4, 2009, Vol 59, No 1

SINGAPORE – About 60 altar servers representing the 27 parishes in Singapore met Archbishop Nicholas Chia together for lunch for the first time at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd on Dec 18.

The lunch, hosted by the archbishop at Bishop’s House in the cathedral grounds, was organised by Father Gerard Weerakoon, assistant priest of Church of the Holy Spirit.

SINGAPORE – Catholic and other Christian teachers from kindergartens, schools and polytechnics reflected on their vocation as educators at a retreat titled “Called to be Teacher” from Nov 28-30 at Montfort Centre (photo).


During the retreat, retreatants reflected on their respective calls to be a teacher and the journeys they have taken since responding.

 VATICAN CITY – A new Vatican document warned that certain recent developments in stem-cell research, gene therapy and embryonic experimentation violate moral principles and reflect an attempt by man to “take the place of his Creator”.
The latest advances raise serious questions of moral complicity for researchers and other biotech professionals, who have a duty to refuse to use biological material obtained by unethical means, the document said.
The 32-page instruction, titled “Dignitas Personae” (“The Dignity of a Person”), was issued on Dec 12 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Pope Benedict XVI personally approved the text and ordered its publication.
The document represented an updating of the congregation’s 1987 instruction, “Donum Vitae” (“The Gift of Life”), which rejected in vitro fertilisation, human cloning, surrogate motherhood and non-therapeutic experiments with human embryos.

At a glance

Here are the major points of  “Dignitas Personae”:
– Two fundamental principles for reflection on bioethical questions are: First, the human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; second, responsible human procreation occurs in the act of reciprocal love between a man and a woman in marriage.
– Stem-cell research opens new prospects for regenerative medicine and is morally permissible when it uses stem cells taken from adult organisms, but not when it takes cells from human embryos, because it invariably causes their death.
– Researchers in the biotech profession have a moral duty to refuse to use biological material that comes from a procedure considered gravely immoral by the church, even
if there is no close connection between the
researcher and those doing the illicit procedure.
– The morning-after pill and other methods of preventing the implantation of a fertilised egg are immoral because they are intended to cause an abortion. Using such methods falls “within the sin of abortion”, and when there is certainty that an abortion has taken place there are serious canon law penalties.
– Human cloning, whether for producing embryonic stem cells or to obtain the birth of a genetically predetermined baby, is immoral.
– Techniques for assisting fertility are morally permissible if they respect the right to life of every human being and respect procreation as a result of the conjugal act in marriage.
– In vitro fertilisation and the deliberate destruction of embryos are morally unacceptable.
– The freezing of embryos or of human eggs, commonly done in assisted fertility treatment, is also morally illicit.
– The thousands of unused, frozen human embryos are in a sense “orphans”. The proposal for “prenatal adoption” that would allow frozen embryos to be born, although well intended, would itself be subject to a number of problems.
– Genetic therapy that aims to correct genetic defects on a subject’s non-reproductive cells, limiting the effect to a single person, is morally acceptable.
– Therapy that makes genetic modifications aimed at transmitting the effects to the subject’s offspring is morally illicit, because of potential harm to the offspring. -  By John Thavis, CNS

SINGAPORE – The Canossian family welcomed a new provincial leadership team in a simple paraliturgy on Sunday Dec 14 during which outgoing Provincial Sister Anne Tan welcomed new Provincial Leader Sister Marilyn Lim and her two Councillors, Sisters Theresa Seow (Vicar) and Geraldine Tan.

The Canossians’ XV General Chapter had called on the entire Canossian religious family to a journey of conversion that will "ensure a mentality of change that facilitates an authentic transformation in conformity with Jesus … respecting the various cultural realities in which we live and serve", said Sister Marilyn.

Her main responsibility as Provincial Leader is to be a good shepherd to the 53 Sisters that make up the province, and to network with lay partners to be agents for change in order "to create a more humanised world".

Sister Marilyn joined the Canossian Sisters in 1969 and though her passion was in the educational field she was asked to go into formation work in 1978.

She went to Rome in 1990 to be part of the International Secretariat team for six years. "That has given me a very broad vision of the universal Church and being at the hub of the Institute has provided me with a very rich experience," she said.

She returned to Singapore in 1996 where she remained until 2002, before serving in Rome again after being elected one of the General Councillors. After serving six years there, she took a short sabbatical in Australia and returned to Singapore in August this year.

"The province faces many challenges in this time of transition and change and I suppose that the Sisters are looking for someone who can continue to lead the province through this critical time,"
Sister Marilyn said. "Together, we
want to search for a more relevant
way of being religious and Canossian, yet remain faithful to the charism that has been handed on to us by our Foundress,
St. Magdalene of Canossa."

"I have great hopes for the province as we are being called to embrace new perspectives in our community life for mission," Sister Marilyn said. "We are rediscovering the joy of community as we share our life and vision more and more with our lay partners in ministry. As the Singapore population grows in age, we also want to be prepared, to be able to offer quality pastoral care to our senior citizens. The poor will always be among us and we need to have eyes to spot them out, especially the youth who are challenged by a globalised world and often become disoriented." n

SINGAPORE – When St. Paul had his conversion experience, a light from the sky flashed and he fell to the ground (Acts 9:3-4).

The 149 priests and laity who attended the Conversion Experience Retreat at the Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC) from Dec 4-7 had a conversion experience too though there were no lightning flashes.

Joseph Lum, a retreatant from St. Anne’s Church, summed up his conversion experience, one shared by many, like this: "I have experienced a deep conversion. I
encountered the love of God. I was blind but now I see. I encountered the power of the Holy Spirit. I had longed for my heart to burn with the love of God again. I had longed to walk closely with Jesus again. But I was blinded and my heart was hardened. I have learnt to truly praise God... for how much He loves me. I have been reborn."

Seven priests from Indonesia, India and Kenya, two friars and a seminarian from Singapore were all touched too.

Father Simon Kithinji from Meru, Kenya emerged from the retreat radiating joy.

"I was experiencing some burnout in my spiritual life, and sincerely needed refilling," he said. "I came feeling very empty at heart, but now, I feel happy and full of joy. The preaching (was) a tremendous reawakening of faith and hope in Christ. I came wounded but I am now healed."

The Conversion Experience Retreat, now in its eleventh run, is a main programme of the CSC. It is conducted four times a year in March, June, September and December by CSC Spiritual Director Father William Goh. The next retreat will be held from Mar 12-15.