OCTOBER 12, 2008, Vol 58, No 21

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy – God sends angels to help people as they make their way through life and toward eternity with God, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"The invisible presence of these blessed spirits is of great help and comfort to us: They walk alongside us and protect us in every circumstance, they defend us from dangers and we can turn to them at every moment," the pope made his remarks on the Sep 29 feast of the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

"Many saints had a relationship of true friendship with the angels and numerous stories testify to their assistance," the pope said.

As the Letter to the Hebrews makes clear, "the angels are sent by God to serve those who will inherit salvation and, so, they are of valid assistance on our earthly pilgrimage toward our heavenly homeland", Pope Benedict said. - cns


SINGAPORE – Catholics visiting or working in China can learn more about the churches there with a copy of "Guide to the Catholic Church in China".

The guide book, first published in 1986, is in its seventh edition. The previous edition was published in 2004.

Father Jean Charbonnier, now based in Paris, is the author.

The updated 620-page guide book carries more photographs, including those of new and restored churches.

"These photos offer a silent witness to the great church renewal which is going on in China," said Father Charbonnier.

There is also an increased number of websites listed. Those who understand Mandarin can refer directly to the websites; those who don’t, can write to the email addresses for more information.

Father Charbonnier noted that despite the increase in the number of churches listed, the new guide book is lighter than the Guide Book 2004.

The guide book is available in Singapore at S$20 per copy at Carlo Catholic Society (tel: 6337 7489), Novena Church Bookshop (tel: 3255 2133), and bookshops at Church of the Holy Spirit (tel: 6459 2874) and St. Bernadette (tel: 6737 3529). - by Joyce Gan

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy – Pope Benedict XVI praised the Catholic programme Retrouvaille for its dedication to helping couples overcome serious marital difficulties.

Created by a Canadian couple in 1977, Retrouvaille is a programme that works to help heal marriages in crisis.

Pope Benedict said a troubled marriage can seem like a failure, "proof that the dream is over or that it has turned into a nightmare" and nothing can be done to save it.

He said those who help these troubled couples through Retrouvaille represent solid, positive points of reference and offer "a foothold" for others so they can gradually regain trust and hope after experiencing dark, desperate times.

A marital crisis can be overcome with the help of the Lord, he said. - cns

In Singapore, the Retrouvaille Coordinating Priest is Father Andrew Wong, and the Coordinating Couple are Laurence and Christina Tan. For more information visit www.helpourmarriage.sg

SINGAPORE – A donation of 5 million Euros (S$10.76 million) was made today by Mavis Khoo, Chairman of the Goodwood Group of Hotels, to Franciscans International, a non-governmental organization at the United Nations, uniting the voices of Franciscan brothers and sisters from around the world. The donation was made through the Franciscan Friars in Singapore.

Ms Khoo donated the fund in the name of her philanthropic mother, the late Rose Marie Khoo, who had a deep commitment to charitable work and concern for the under-privileged during her lifetime.

The donation comes at a time when the Franciscan Friars commemorates its 50th year of presence in Singapore.

This 5 million Euros donation will take the form of an endowment fund, aimed at furthering the charitable works of Franciscans International.

It will be distributed across Franciscans International’s worldwide organizations in Bangkok, Geneva and New York. The donation will help about 1.2 million Franciscans worldwide in its work for the poor.

The Franciscans International is a non-governmental organization with General Consultative status at the U.N. that serves the global community by bringing spiritual, ethical and Franciscan values. An endowment fund is a permanent
fund that exists in perpetuity or for a defined period, and the earnings and interest from the fund is used to
carry out the works of Franciscans International around the world. The nature of the donation allows for it to have a much greater impact over a long period.

The charity is supported by the freewill offerings of Franciscan communities and partners, and champions causes related to justice, peace, care of creation and the promotion of human rights.

Father John-Paul Tan, Parish Priest at the Franciscan-run Church of St. Mary of the Angels, said, "This timely donation will be instrumental in furthering the Franciscan ideal of ‘loving concern for the poor, care of creation, peacemaking and addressing the causes of poverty’. It will help alleviate the situation of the poor and marginalized, and further, provide impetus towards driving the social causes of peace and justice, which is in accord with the Franciscan vision of global fraternity."

"This is an invaluable contribution in the memory of Mrs Rose Marie Khoo as it will go the distance to help the under-privileged in the society. We also appreciate this gesture by Mavis Khoo for extending her valuable support and unwavering belief in the Franciscan spirit of serving the poor and needy," added Father John-Paul Tan.

In further acknowledging the donation, Father John Celichowski, OFM Cap, President of Franciscans International, reiterated: "We are deeply touched by the philanthropic contribution made in the name of Mrs Rose Marie Khoo. We like to extend heartfelt thanks on behalf of all at Franciscans International for the generous donation and commitment towards helping the community. This will help us carry forward our vision to provide help to the less-fortunate in the society."

This donation comes as a result of Ms Mavis Khoo’s long association with the charitable works of the church and the growing relationship between her and the organization. Ms Mavis Khoo commented, "I believe that the fund will go towards helping the underprivileged, needy and vulnerable. I hope to continue with the legacy of my late philanthropic mother, who was committed to charitable work during her lifetime. In keeping with my mother’s commitment to donate funds for activities related to worthy causes, I wish to continue her legacy by distribution of funds centred on areas of great personal interest and passion.

This valuable donation marks the continued commitment of individuals who champion social causes with their philanthropic mindset and capability, and thus, help contribute meaningfully for the betterment of the society.

FRANCISCANS INTERNATIONAL (FI) is a non-governmental organization with General Consultative status at the United Nations, uniting the voices of Franciscan brothers and sisters from around the world. It operates under the sponsorship of the Conference of the Franciscan Family and serves all Franciscans and the global community by bringing spiritual, ethical, and Franciscan values to the United Nations and international organizations.

It closely follows the tradition of Saint Francis and Saint Clare, striving to put Franciscan ideals into practice at the international level. FI is guided by the saints’ loving concern for the poor, care of creation, and peacemaking. As the
poorest people are being exploited in systemic ways, and global peace is increasingly threatened, Franciscan commitment is needed more urgently than ever, FI said.

Franciscans around the world run schools, hospitals, Justice and Peace offices, shelters, and specialise in many services for the poor. Their programmes at FI bring grassroots Franciscans to the United Nations forums in New York and Geneva, influencing international human rights standards and bringing witness to human rights violations.

FI is supported by the freewill offerings of Franciscan communities and their partners. A large part of its funding comes from individuals who support Franciscan work for human rights, care for creation, and peacemaking. FI’s advocacy programmes are designed in response to Franciscan needs worldwide. n

SINGAPORE – "I was very surprised," said Father John-Paul Tan, in response to a question on the donation. "To me, it is providential," he added.

He explained that it came about when he was sharing with Mavis Khoo his work with Franciscans International and how he had been tasked to look for funding. "I was sharing about the idea of a foundation as a structural way of ensuring long term dependable funding so that planning and programmes will not be affected by uncertainties," he said.

Ms Khoo then asked for more information about the foundation and offered to assist in setting it up.

Ms Khoo, a parishioner of St. Mary of the Angels, and her family have been friends of Father John-Paul and the friars for many years. Her mother Rose was also a Catholic.

The new Franciscans International – Rose Marie Khoo Foundation expresses in some ways Ms Khoo’s friendship with the Franciscan world and is significant because this in turn will help their work with the poor around the world, said Father John-Paul.


SINGAPORE – ‘Aggie’ is a woman who has always found it hard to refuse someone in need, so whenever she was asked to be a godparent, she agreed. She did not exactly plan to sponsor 17 godchildren.

"They just came to me, even before I was married," explained Agnes Gan, 64, who married in 1966. "At the start, when people asked me to be a godparent, I just accepted."

When her parish priest gave a talk last year on the responsibilities of godparents, however, Aggie, as she is affectionately known, came to realize her enormous responsibility as godparent to so many.

"I realized I must do something about it, so I decided to gather them all," she said on the night of the reunion.

The Aug 16 gathering in her condominium was like nothing she had ever seen or done before. It took her and her husband, Louis, eight months to plan, trace her godchildren’s whereabouts and
make the necessary preparations.

Unfortunately, three of the 17 could not be traced and four who are living overseas could not come. Of the 10 that did attend, two came back from abroad – one from Thailand and one from England – for the occasion.

Ray, 45, who came in from Bangkok, said he was 17-and-a-half when his parents kicked him out of their home. Aggie and Louis, his godparents, took him in for the next eight years, providing for his needs from her own pocket, despite the fact that they already had three children of her own.

"She gave me an allowance, even when it was clear that times were hard. I was an additional mouth to feed, but they never complained," he recounted, even though he remembered overhearing them arguing over financial matters.

"When my younger brother died at the age of 16, I was angry with God and started to curse him," Ray continued.

Soon after, he said, he lost faith in God – until he spoke with Aggie two years ago. "She asked me about my spiritual life, and I told her I hadn’t been going to church. She encouraged me to go, and I started again. I found my faith, and I even started talking with my parents again, which really surprised me."

"I’m really grateful to my godparents. If not for them, I’d have ended up on the streets, taking drugs," Ray said. "Even when I was in prison for hitting my commander during my army days, there were the ones who were there for me."

One goddaughter who could not attend the reunion was Magdalene Koh, mother of the Singaporean Pope Benedict XVI confirmed at World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia, where she is now based. Nonetheless, she sent an email for the occasion in which she described a personal experience of God’s presence. Aggie asked another goddaughter to read it out.

Most of Aggie’s godchildren were family friends, which helped her keep in touch with them. Nine were infants when Aggie became their godmother at their baptism, and the rest were adult converts.

However, at least one fell away from the Christian faith. One godchild, a convert, has since returned to Islam. "We didn’t communicate," said Aggie regretfully. She added, "The most important thing for godparents and godchildren is to communicate with each other."

Encouraged by the turnout at the reunion, Aggie wants to share with other godparents the importance of being a good godparent. She has resolved to stay in close contact with her godchildren. "I lift them up in my prayers everyday," she said.

Father Frans De Ridder explained that a godparent is "someone in whom the godchild can experience what a great calling and privilege it is to be a Catholic."

Canon 872 in the Code of Canon Law says that "in so far as possible, a person being baptized is to be assigned a sponsor" to help to live a Christian life. - by Daniel Tay