SEPTEMBER 28, 2008, Vol 58 No 20

“When i am on my death bed how glad i will be. For my lamp has burnt out just for thee.” – Sister Sister Mary Laetitiae Bool SINGAPORE – Good Shepherd Sister Mary Laetitiae Bool passed away on Tuesday Aug 26 after spending the last month in the Critical Care Unit of Mount Alvernia Hospital. She was 82. Her funeral Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Nicholas Chia and 10 priests at the Good Shepherd Convent Chapel at Marymount on Aug 29.

Sister Mary had been suffering from sicknesses including diabetes, pneumonia and malfunctioning kidneys, but she had persisted in her work in the archdiocese, mainly with migrants based in Singapore. She was the one who started skills and development programmes for these migrants around the Marymount and Novena Church areas.

Sister Mary entered the Congregation of the Good shepherd in Los Angeles on Feb 8, 1956 and was professed on Sep 8, 1958.

After her final profession, Sister Mary worked in Indonesia for 12 years before coming to Singapore in 1982 to serve the various communities here. She began to reach out to the Filipina migrant workers and spent the last 16 years tirelessly trying to improve their situation here. Her skills and development programmes have seen countless women graduate yearly to serve professionally in their work with families.

Philippines Ambassador Belen Arnota and her husband who had lent their support to the events Sister Mary had planned for the Filipino migrant workers, attended the funeral Mass. Ambassador Vic Lecaros also came from Malaysia to pay his final respects. Both expressed their gratitude for the significant contribution of Sister Mary’s years of service to the Filipino domestic workers.

In community, Sister Mary spent her quiet moments making Infant Jesus and Our Lady’s rosaries. Towards the latter part of the 1990s, Sister Mary was instrumental in bringing in rosaries from Vietnam made by the Vietnamese faithful, and these were sent to the many missionaries in various parts of the Philippines for free distribution to the poor.

Her community had been preparing to celebrate her Golden Jubilee this year.

At the end of the funeral Mass, Sister Mary’s two cherished friends, Babes Conde and Cynthia Yim performed "He’s My Hero" which she had requested of them to perform at her planned jubilee celebrations. She had also written a verse that she had wanted printed on her invitation card: To behold him and be held in his presence.

A personal friend, Perlita, says an era ends for Sister Mary, "an icon of joy, love, peace, hard work and most of all, spiritual vigour… We will all miss her deeply and will cherish her memory. But her ultimate joy she is now experiencing is ours too." - By Joyce Gan

 

WORLDWIDE MARRIAGE ENCOUNTER (WWME) WEEKEDS throughout the world has offered millions of couples the opportunity to enrich and deepen their sacramental relationship. It is a unique experience inspired by the Holy Spirit working through married couples and priests.

WWME is governed by a Worldwide Board which is made up of encountered couples and priests of various countries, who meet regularly to workshop, discuss and discern new ideas, directions and give feedback thereby forming policies and guidelines for the Marriage Encounter (ME) Weekend. In line with this, the Asian ME Ecclesial Teams of various parts of Asia held their meeting in August 2008 in Seoul, South Korea (photo).

The objective of the meeting was to evaluate and plan the WWME values and guidelines to suit the Asian culture, lifestyle and the local church.

It was a fantastic experience for me listening to ME delegates from different parts of Asia, especially from the third world countries. The ME movement has touched and enriched the lives of married couples in their commitment to the sacrament, strengthened family life, deepened relationship with God and neighbour. This has been their experience amidst tense political and economical situations faced in their respective countries.

For example, the ME delegate from Bangladesh shared that despite being a country where it is difficult to share their faith openly, ME has succeeded in helping married couples to stay committed and find support from the ME community of encountered couples. An Indonesian couple shared that even though their country is huge and difficult to reach out to all, ME movement is still well promoted. This is due to the strong endorsement given by the bishops who have witnessed the great impact ME has had on family life and the active participation and involvement of encountered couples in the mission of the church.

The Asian Conference began with delegates renewing their commitment to ME values which were carried through with prayers, reflection, workshops and recommitment over a few days. This set the direction and atmosphere for formal discussions.

The sharing was done in a similar fashion to the usual ME Weekend whereby couples were encouraged to share from their hearts and not from their heads. What took place was honest dialogue which was objectively challenged and also suggestions were given to seek improvements in the running of the Weekends and in the methods of promoting ME to married couples and priests.

The conference also formally accepted China as part of the Asian Board and this is largely due to the efforts of Singapore ME community in nurturing an ME community in two cities in China. Today, WWME has spread to several dioceses in China. It is still growing rapidly and to a point where they have to turn couples away because they cannot cope with the demand for Weekends. The conference also gave recognition to the growth of ME movement in Taiwan and UAE.

The ME Asian Conference was indeed a powerful experience of love, commitment, conversion, struggles, faith and most importantly, the divine presence of God and its mandate to share its transforming power of love with the local church. - By Father Joseph Nasanathan, OFM

 

 

MARRIAGE AND SEX are about love and babies. While science cannot describe love, it does tell us how babies come to be.

A 2002 Nature magazine article stated, "Your world was shaped in the first 24 hours after conception. Where your head and feet would sprout, and which side would form your back and which your belly, were being defined in the minutes and hours after sperm and egg united."

The church agrees: "Right from fertilization is begun the adventure of human life, and each of its great capacities requires time – a rather lengthy time – to find its place and to be in a position to act."

This wonder for human creation demands great respect and responsible family planning. Let us trace the scientific developments in family planning from the early 1900s till today.

 

Early 1900s

 

The "Rhythm" method was the only scientific method used during this time.

 

1950s

 

Population pressures inspired Drs John and Evelyn Billings, with gynaecologists James Brown, also a Doctor of Science, and Erik Odeblad, also a Biophysicist, to perfect what later became widely known as the Billings Ovulation Method (BOM).

Since 1953, much scientific work and about 750,000 hormone assays in Australia and Sweden showed that each woman could identify her fertile days from her vaginal mucus discharge and even detect ovulation from slippery mucus known as ‘P6’. The ‘dry’ days immediately after the period were found to be days with very low fertility.

1960s-1990s

At least 19 BOM field trials to postpone pregnancy were conducted, including the 1976 World Health Organisation (WHO) five-country trial among 869 women. This trial showed a method-related pregnancy rate of 2.8 percent. Success rates have since improved.

In China, after training by the Billings team of BOM teachers in Nanjing, Anhui, Kunmin and Shanghai, a trial among 992 couples from 1996 showed a zero percent method-failure rate. This trial was particularly significant to reveal the scientific basis of the BOM, since Catholicism is restricted in China.

The five couples (0.5 percent) who failed because they had not strictly followed the rules came from among the highly educated (15.1 percent of the group) rather than the peasants and labourers. Acceptability of the BOM was high, with 96.4 percent of the group still using the method after a year.

Another significant feature of the China study was the inclusion of a sub-fertile twin group consisting of 3,268 couples. These couples had experienced infertility without apparent cause, many for more than five years. 2,032 couples (31.6 percent) got live babies after 25 cycles. NaProTechnology, a parallel natural method inspired by the BOM, also uses medical intervention for sub-fertility.

 

2000 and beyond

 

After 50 years, NFP is now widely used for both achieving and postponing pregnancy, in a true reflection of what marriage, sex and family planning mean to those who fear God and respect nature.

NFP fits nicely into the vision Pope John Paul II expressed in "Evangelium Vitae" – to embrace the outlook of those who see life in its deeper meaning, its beauty and its invitation to freedom and responsibility; the outlook of those
who discover in all things the reflection of the Creator, seeing in every person his living image.

For further information go to www.woomb.org - By Dr Ian Snodgrass

THE STRAITS TIMES (Sep 1) carried an article, "New way to freeze eggs can help those with cancer", in which Dr Loh Seong Feei was reported to have said that "another group that could benefit from the quick-freezing of eggs are Catholics who do not want embryos – which they see as human life – discarded because of their religious beliefs. Instead of freezing the additional embryos which may later have to be discarded, Catholics now have the option of just freezing eggs for later use."

As the statement might mislead people about Catholic teaching on this subject, Dr Gabriel Seow, Deputy Master of the Catholic Medical Guild (CMG) of Singapore, wrote to The Straits Times to clarify. His comments follow:

Embryology textbooks acknowledge that human life begins at conception. It is not a mere Catholic belief, but a scientific fact.

Many people of various and even no religious persuasions view the discarding and destruction of human embryos as unethical. Hence this is not a "religious belief" held by Catholics alone, but by many who are convinced that every human life is to be respected, from the very beginning of its existence.

For various reasons, artificial reproductive techniques such as IVF and ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), even when they involve frozen eggs instead of frozen embryos, are not considered morally licit. Readers interested in a more detailed account of the church’s reasons for this stand may visit www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/donumvitae.htm

Dr Seow said that the CMG empathized with the anguish of couples who want to have babies but are unable to. "We support all forms of research that help
these couples, as long as these respect the dignity of the human embryo and the marital act," he said.

"In this regard, we are pleased to note that there are some effective, natural and morally acceptable methods
that married couples can use to try to maximize their chances of achieving pregnancy, such as the Billings Ovulation Method (developed in Melbourne, Australia) and NaProTechnology (developed in Omaha, USA), both of which are available in Singapore," he added.

He emphasized that the old and not quite reliable "Rhythm" method for regulating pregnancies has been outdated for more than 30 years now. The newer methods mentioned above are much more scientific and reliable, he stressed.

"They can be used for both regular and irregular cycles, and thus are much more accurate when used in achieving or postponing pregnancy," Dr Seow said.

SINGAPORE – "There are about 170,000 maids working in Singapore. Even if only 170 of them run away [from their place of employment], where do they go?" asked Father Paul Staes. The Immaculate Heart of Mary missioner is the local Justice and Peace officer for the Scheut Missions in Singapore.

Father Staes regularly celebrates Mass for the shelter provided by the Filipino embassy which he described as a "house" shared by about 40 domestic workers. "The number approached 80 when I visited near Christmas-time last year," he told CatholicNews.

When asked why the church in Singapore does not have a shelter for migrants, Father Staes responded, "I think it’s a very large insensitivity on the part of the church. We are so parochial in our interests, and that is not high on the list of priorities in parishes."

That’s not to say the church in Singapore has done nothing for the migrants. The Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ACMI) is the largest non-governmental organization in Singapore that caters to migrants.

Its activities are concentrated around feeding programmes for the newly arrived migrants, and training programmes that enable migrants to upgrade themselves.

"The style of ACMI is generally low-key, with not much advocacy. We do things but we don’t usually let others know what we are doing," said Father Staes.

"The church should speak more strongly to change the mindset of the people. It is not ordinary that people entrust the care of the elderly and children to someone else, and it is not ordinary that people must leave their own children and family to go to another country to take care of someone else’s children," he said.

The Good Shepherd Sisters have a shelter for battered women in Singapore, but it is catered more for locals, although it does take in migrants at times.

When asked what ordinary Catholics in Singapore can do to make migrants more welcome here, Father Staes replied, "The ‘Day Off’ campaign is long overdue. It’s ‘criminal’ to think that a day off a week is a luxury for migrants when we ourselves have a five-day week. A day off doesn’t necessarily mean a day to go out. Our maid can very well stay at home to rest. It’s an ‘amazing’ attitude that we have towards another human being."

Father Staes also encouraged Catholics to have a change in our mentality, which can be brought about by getting involved in civic organizations such as Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) and H.O.M.E.. You can begin by visiting the "Day Off" campaign website at www.dayoff.sg/index.shtml.