Mr Simon John Longman Several inspirations he received while on a pilgrimage and retreat convinced Mr Simon John Longman to take up a theology degree course.

The former NParks director went on a pilgrimage to Italy in 2010 where he had several experiences of God at the Basilica of St Dominic in Bologna and at the Basilica of St Catherine in Siena.

This was further reinforced at a contemplative retreat in Chung Chiau Island off Hong Kong.

He then decided to gain more knowledge of his Catholic faith through a Dominican Education Institute so as to better teach the faith to others.

Mr Longman enrolled in The Priory Institute in Dublin, Irelamd, taking up a four-year theology degree course with honours programme, which costs 1,800 euros (S$2,990) a year.

The lessons are done online. However, he has to fly to Dublin twice a year at the beginning of each semester to meet his tutors. His lessons began in early October 2012.

Mr Longman, 56, who is married with children, chose this option as it allowed him to be able to be with his family in Singapore and to study for a course run by Dominicans.

He says he is able to pursue his studies without putting any financial strain on his family.

Mr Longman has journeyed in the RCIA ministry for 12 years as a sponsor and regular prayer leader.

He has given reflections at retreats and prayer meetings, and is a communion minister at Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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