Dec 1 is World AIDS Day, and this year, the Catholic Church in Singapore marked the day with a special Mass at the Church of the Holy Spirit.
The annual event was planned by Catholic AIDS Response Effort (CARE), an organisation that runs a shelter for people living with HIV and AIDS who are destitute and homeless, as well as other support programmes for non-residents.
Archbishop William Goh was the main celebrant for the Mass, his first World AIDS Day event since he assumed his current office.
“It is fitting that on this first Sunday of Advent, we are called to give hope … and especially those who are suffering from HIV and AIDS,” he said. “We need to identify with the plight of these victims of AIDS,” he said.
The archbishop also suggested educating people so that they can “work together to eradicate this disease from the world”.
“Without education, people are ignorant,” he added.
He ended with encouraging words to HIV/AIDS patients, saying that “we need to entrust ourselves to the mercy of God”, and that “it is only God who can give us peace”.
Ms Jacinta Rajoo, president of the CARE management committee, also spoke towards the end of the Mass. “In past years, attendance for World AIDS Day Mass was always limited to our patients and volunteers,” she said. “It is nice to have a full church worshipping and praying for our HIV and AIDS patients this year.”
She added, “I have a few prayer requests – pray for the work that CARE does, pray for the wellbeing of our patients, and strength for our staff that care for the patients every day.”
In addition to the Mass, handmade soaps and candles by CARE’s residents and volunteers were also on sale outside the church.
Mr George Lim, who is in his 50s and a parishioner of Church of the Holy Spirit, told CatholicNews about his late neighbour who had AIDS, and “could not find solace and consolation”.
“At that time, there was no CARE,” he said. “Now that we do, it is important to have a desire for compassion.”
Mr Abel Tan, 33, from the Church of St Michael said the local World AIDS Day Mass is “limited to one parish every year”.
“It will take 10 to 20 years to spread [awareness of the condition] to everyone in the Catholic churches in Singapore,” he said.
“Maybe we can start with the Catholic schools?”
By Clara Lai