NOVEMBER 25, 2007, Vol 57, No 24

Now, where's Amanda Khoo - a young, pretty lady with a good education and career prospects, who enjoys aerobics, dancing, reading, cooking and going out with friends - going to find her Mr Right? Let Daniel Tay tell you. 

AMANDA KHOO ALWAYS wanted to be with Mr Right, but little did she know that doing God's will for her would actually end up with her being together with God.

If you told her some years ago that she should join the religious life, she would have laughed. "I would have told you that I'd rather die than be a religious," she laughed.

Indeed Amanda had many misconceptions about the religious life, but now she knows that not all religious are born holy. However, "if God calls you to be holy, he will give you the grace", she said.

Born in 1980, Amanda studied Mechanical Engineering at Bristol University before moving on to Biomedical Engineering at the Imperial College in London. When she returned to Singapore with a Methodist boyfriend, she worked with the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR) before receiving an offer for a higher paying job. She was barely two months into her new job when she responded to her calling.

"How did it start? Attending a course at work I was asked to list out what I wanted my priorities in life to be. I thought about it: I will one day meet God at Judgement Day and the only thing that would count in my life would be the things I had done for love of Him, so God logically had to be my number one. Second was family, then work, and lastly, friends," said the 27-year-old who used to teach catechism at Church of St. Ignatius. "I was then asked to make a list of my priorities according to what I was doing."

At that time, Amanda was frequently working till midnight, sometimes till 2.00am, and when her mother Phoebe asked her to attend daily Mass, "I knew there was no way I could get up in the morning to go", so when examining her actual priorities, she discovered that they were work, work, work, family, friends, God. God was last on that list! "I realized that if I died tomorrow, how could I face God? So I resolved to take steps to make

God first in my life."

Second on her list of priorities was family. "I wanted my family to be Catholic, including my husband, but my boyfriend at that time was a staunch Methodist. I feared talking about Catholic doctrines in front of my children in future, so I started attending daily Mass and praying the rosary for my boyfriend's conversion."

"When this did not happen, I realized that God did not intend him to be for me, and I prayed to Our Lady for a smooth breakup. We parted as friends, and I asked Our Lady to help me to find another boyfriend, one that was Catholic, and to help me to build up a Catholic family," shared Amanda with a twinkle in her eye.

"It was while praying the rosary that it one day came to me that maybe I was called to be a religious. But I loved partying with guys too much, and wanted to have children so I asked God to call someone else," she laughed at the memory.

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"Durng my discernment period, I realized that God calls everyone to holiness and chooses for each person the path that makes it easier for him or her to attain it. I always wanted Mr Right, but if God never created him for me why force myself into a life-time marriage with Mr Wrong? I had to do God's will for me," she said. "There was a lot of reflection, praying, and rosaries before coming to this realization.

"As a birthday present to me, my mother brought me for a pilgrimage to Fatima, and I took this trip to confirm my vocation in life," she smiled. "There, I made the act of consecration to Our Lady written by St. Maximillian Kolbe. I asked her to reveal to me what was God's will for me, and I promised to do it even if it did not correspond to my natural aspirations. I did the consecration because I needed the extra grace to fulfil the will of God."

"It was at Fatima that I first met the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate. When I found out that this religious order had a fourth vow in addition to the three standard vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity, it was a clear sign that Our Lady was pointing me here," said Amanda.

The fourth vow of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate is a Marian vow: unlimited consecration to Our Lady.

Amanda met the Mother General of the order at Fatima and expressed her desire to join the religious order. "If this was the will of God, I just had to do it and fast!" stated Amanda. "I had a good life in Singapore, and I knew that when there is a vocation, Satan works to oppose it. A person who devotes his life to God is a great victory for Christ."

Amanda returned to Singapore to settle her affairs, which included leaving her new job with her employer's blessings. "Not all my non-Catholic friends were supportive of my decision to join the religious life," recalled Amanda. "I guess it's hard to be supportive of something you don't understand."

"I was most worried about my father who was an atheist for many years, but the donation of a religious vocation attracts graces on the family," said Amanda. She needn't have worried, for her father accepted the Catholic faith and was baptized with the name Maximillian on Aug 14 this year, on the Feast of St. Maximillian Kolbe.

Two months after she made her decision, Amanda joined the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate on Oct 4 on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi in 2004. She has undergone one year of postulancy, followed a year of novitiate, before professing her simple vows in 2006 and took on the name of Sister Maria Cristiana of the Immaculate Mediatrix.

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Sister Cristiana continues her ongoing formation in Rome where her community assists the missionaries leaving and arriving from five continents. Her role on a daily basis consists of work, organ studies, fellowship in the fraternity, and theological, spiritual, and religious studies in preparation for her solemn profession.

As a contemplative-active, Sister Cristiana now prays five hours every day in community, although those five hours are "not consecutive", she pointed out. "Religious life is a life of union with God, and this contact with God is needed to nurture and sustain it."

When asked what she liked most about being a Franciscan Sister of the Immaculate, Sister Cristiana replied, "To be the spouse of Christ in the heart of Our Lady, and being in God's will."

She has finally found Mr Right, and she speaks about her mother-in-law, "Our Lady is a reflection of the maternal love of God. She is everyone's mother." 

More information on the Franciscans of the Immaculate can be found at the website: www.marymediatrix.com/rel_life.

SINGAPORE - A workshop to build stronger support for families in the region was organized by the Family Life Society and the Catholic Research Centre of Singapore in Sam Phran, Thailand, from Oct 13 to 15.  

The Workshop for Bishops and Lay Collaborators of Southeast Asia on the Family was a follow up to a recent conference also held in Thailand when the bishops of South East Asia proposed sharing resources and working together.

The workshop addressed common issues faced by various dioceses. Among the issues raised: establishing an effective organization for the Family Apostolate to coordinate and implement long term goals; volunteer management and how to recruit and retain them; establishing a counselling centre and training lay counsellors; and ways to plan, to source for resources and funding, and to publicize services.

Participants brought their work plans to be shared and revised by other participants and by the Singapore Resource Team (SRT) comprising Stephanie Gault, Gaby Tan, Agnes Wan, Maria Plengsangtip, Anthony Tan Mong Tong, Willie Cheng, Dr Francis Heng, Dr Aloysius Soh and Jesuit Father Charles Sim.

The workshop was a mixture of presentations by the SRT followed by individual team discussions and work on action plans with SRT members.

The Vietnamese team shared its plan to organize a celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae. The team from Thailand concentrated on preparing for a conference to be held in December. The teams from Malaysia focused on forming a national coordinating body for the family ministries in East and West Malaysia and pooling resources for counselling projects. The Vietnam team looked into avenues to start a Family Life Center to coordinate various activities in their diocese of 100 parishes.

At the end of the workshop, the SRT observed that a stronger regional support for the family was in place.

There will be two additional phases to build stronger support for families in South East Asia - a "Family Symposium" to be held in late April 2008 in Singapore and an "Evaluation Workshop" to determine the progress.

CATHOLIC WORKING ADULTS who want to be better Christians in their workplace can find more answers to their questions and dilemmas from Mr Lien and other speakers and panellists at Christ@Work 2007.  

Here are a few of them:

• Bo Sanchez, author of eight bestselling books and publisher of six magazines in the Philippines. Bo has a weekly television show, a daily radio programme, and a daily Internet television show. He has given talks to audiences in 13 countries, including 36 cities in North America.

He founded Anawim, a special home for the abandoned elderly; Shepherd's Voice; and the Catholic Filipino Academy to help parents who want to teach their children at home.

• Glenn Lim, youth counsellor, trainer and anti-drug ambassador. As a young rock musician, he came close to a life sentence for importing drugs. Given a second chance, Glenn has made good and received many awards for his efforts in youth outreach.

• Mark van Cuylenburg (Flying Dutchman), host for the Singapore version of the television game show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" and a mainstay at Class 95FM.

• George Lim, lawyer and deputy chairman of the Catholic Social and Community Council. He is a founding member of the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, which provides free legal representation to the poor.

Visit www.praiseatwork.org/christatwork for more information. Christ@Work is organized by Praise@Work, a Catholic charismatic prayer group for young working adults, and supported by Catholic Social and Community Council and Catholic Prayer Society.

Email Interview with Laurence Lien

By Daniel Tay

LAURENCE LIEN WILL share how he finds meaning in his daily work at the Dec 1 Christ@Work conference. 

Mr Lien is a Director at the Ministry of Finance. Outside of his paid employment, Mr Lien is a Governor of the Lien Foundation, which seeks to make a difference by seeking out and addressing the root cause of problems, and invests in innovative solutions in the areas of education, eldercare and the environment; and a board member of the Catholic Social and Community Council. He is married with three sons.

Here, Mr Lien shares with Catholic News the importance of his Catholic faith, and the effects it has on his life and work.

Catholic News (CN): How important is your faith to you?

Mr Lien: What is most important is to be able to live a Christian life and do things that I can account for when I finally get to meet God. I generally like to go for a silent retreat for a few days before I make a major life decision.

CN: How does being a Catholic affect the way you live?

Mr Lien: Being Catholic shapes how I see things and how I make decisions. In particular, the church's social teachings have had a great impact on the way I live - whether it is a small decision, like how I spend money, to bigger ones, like the choice of career and what I do outside work.

CN: When are the times your faith has challenged you at work? How did you overcome it?

Mr Lien: I work in the civil service. So it's probably easier to find work meaningful because you are not just trying to sell a product to someone who doesn't need it or enriching someone who's already rich. The most difficult part is having had to deal with policies that go against my beliefs, like the death penalty and abortion. I still try to get my views across. But at the end of the day, I may only be a minority voice. What's more important is to try, and to know that over time I am making a difference.

CN: What advice would you give for working professionals and executives who are seeking a balance between faith, career, and family?

Mr Lien: Often, we live our lives in a sequential way - we focus on career first, then give attention to our family, and only treat our faith seriously in the later part of our lives. I think we need to learn to live all parts in parallel. Obviously it is difficult, and I often struggle with it myself. But it's always easier if we draw from the strength of our faith and the grace of God. It helps too if we can try to live simply. We add to our lives so many complexities that are unnecessary.

By Regina Xie

SINGAPORE - Award-winning St. Francis Xavier Youth Choir will celebrate 20 years of service with a concert on Dec 4 at 8.00pm at Victoria Concert Hall. The choir from Church of St. Francis Xavier consists of 40 members aged 11 to 28 and sings at the Saturday 6.00pm Mass. The choir has performed at prominent public events including at the 25th anniversary celebrations of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the Holy See in 2006. 

The ministry's high choral standards stems from its commitment to lead the congregation in song during Mass. "Our first duty is to sing at Mass," says conductor Denis Leong.

Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the choir attends annual retreats and weekly faith formation sessions.

The choir was started in 1987 to "keep kids off the streets and help them belong to the church". Over the years, it has become part of members' lives and a place to build talent. "Their strong sense of belonging to the choir and need for God make it special," says the conductor who has been with the group since its birth.

This celebratory concert is not the choir's first. In 2005, it performed a musical to celebratethe 500th birth  anniversary of St. Francis Xavier and raise funds for charity.

This year's concert, titled "Promise", has two segments. The first is a repertoire of choral works, ranging from the baroque era to the 20th century. The second is a musical entitled "Promise", written by Denis himself, together with the choir.

A talent hunt cum workshop has been organized in conjunction with the concert. Children who participate will have the opportunity to sing with the choir during the musical. The Edward Becharas Choir from Catholic High School will also perform with the St. Francis Xavier Youth Choir.

Those interested to attend the concert can contact John Goh at 9738 6572 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Tickets sell at $15 each.