Posing for a photo after the diaconate ordinations: (from left) Fr Philip Tan (Congregation of the Disciples of the Lord Malaysian Provincial), Deacon Joseph Zhang, Archbishop Nicholas Chia, Deacon Samuel Lim and Fr William Goh, rector of St Francis Xavier Major Seminary. Photo by BENJAMIN LAI
Feb 11 ordinations mark a first for the archdiocese since 2005
Seminarian Samuel Lim was ordained a deacon at Church of St Bernadette on Feb 11, marking the first such ordination towards the diocesan priesthood here since 2005.
The last such ordinations were of then-seminarians Valerian Cheong, Damian De Wind, Christopher Lee and Anthony Kenny Tan.
Also ordained a deacon that afternoon was China-born Joseph Zhang from the Congregation of the Disciples of the Lord (CDD).
Archbishop Nicholas Chia presided over the celebration.
Deacon Lim is currently assisting at Church of St Bernadette while Deacon Zhang is attached to Church of the Holy Trinity.
No date and venue have been set for their priestly ordinations yet.
Deacon Samuel Lim: A priest laughs and cries with his people
A Sabah native who later became a Singapore Permanent Resident, Deacon Lim, 34, had been active in the Church of St Francis Xavier before entering the seminary in 2004.
“A diocesan priest laughs and cries with his people and offers his life for them, especially in the context of the parish community,” he says.
For Deacon Lim, the charism of the diocesan priesthood can be summarised in the words of St Paul: “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15).
Being the first to be ordained a deacon for the archdiocese in seven years, he says he feels “like an infant in a community of adults … anxious about the expectations that may come”. Nevertheless, he says he is grateful for the support of priests.
Of his recent ordination, he says he feels “privileged and humbled to be called by Jesus … to be ordained as a minister in our Holy Mother Church”.
Deacon Lim who is attached to Church of St Bernadette says his “immediately priority is the pastoral needs of the parish” while representing the City District in the Diocesan Vocation Committee.
He also looks forward to working in “the ministry of the Word”.
“It’s such an honour and privilege to be able to break and share the Word of God,” he says, adding that “the challenge is to be able to discern what the Spirit is saying to the people”.
“And another huge challenge is definitely to practise the message I preach.”
On attracting more young men to the diocesan priesthood, he feels that a multi-pronged approach is needed.
Good and inspiring priests who are role models, parents who nurture their children in a healthy and holy environment, an encouraging and supportive community for young people are all important, he notes.
However, the person himself must have an “intimate personal relationship with Jesus”, with the attraction coming from within as a result of a personal encounter with Christ and His Church, Deacon Lim says.
Deacon Joseph Zhang: Representing the Church in front of people
It was his involvement in ministries such as the altar servers and lectors in his early years along with interaction with priests that attracted Hebei-born Deacon Joseph Zhang to the priesthood.
“I got to know more about the life and works of the priest. I desired to do what the priests do, especially celebrating Mass, visiting the sick and bringing Holy Communion and comfort to them,” he told CatholicNews.
Deacon Zhang, 30, joined the Congregation of the Disciples of the Lord (CDD) in Malaysia as an aspirant after graduating from college. He became acquainted with this congregation through his uncle, who is a CDD priest.
After spending one year in Malaysia, Zhang arrived in Singapore for his priestly formation studies at the St Francis Xavier Major Seminary.
Prior to the diaconate ordination, he felt nervous “mainly because of the responsibilities and work that I’m going to undertake as a deacon”.
Now, he feels he has become “someone called to teach, to represent the Church in front of the people”. He adds that he is grateful to God and those who have helped him on his journey thus far.
He is now “looking forward to know more about the life of the parish and … the flock” he is going to serve, while at the same time learning more about priestly duties such as the anointing of the sick and marriage preparation for couples.
He also hopes to build up his skills “to preach homilies that will be able to touch the hearts of the people” and to “grow in relating” with them, he says.
Deacon Zhang will be serving his diaconate at Church of the Holy Trinity and will be more involved with the Mandarin-speaking ministries of the parish.
By Darren Boon