Presiding over the centenary Mass of the Daughters of St Paul, Archbishop William Goh, during his homily, affirmed their apostolate as “not simply missionary, but also visionary”.
Founded on June 15, 1915, the archbishop noted, “these 100 years, they have been very much involved in the work of the New Evangelisation.
“Even before Pope John Paul II spoke about the New Evangelisation, you were already into the New Evangelisation. That is why I believe that your order is really the work of the Holy Spirit. Your founder could foresee what was going to happen 100 years [ahead]… indeed no one ever thought that today, actually, the world is a world of media.”
The Good News today is proclaimed not so much through traditional means or books, the prelate said. While books remain important, today’s “younger generation are using ebooks, Youtube, apps, Internet. These are the ways that the modern generation communicates,” Archbishop Goh told those present at the Church of St Bernadette on June 13.
Referring to the inspiration behind the founding of the Pauline family by Blessed James Alberione, Archbishop Goh, said, “St Paul, if he were alive today, he would have used the same means because in the heart of St Paul was to proclaim the Gospel to all men and women, to all peoples…
“That is why I really thank God for you all because the Daughters of St Paul, in fact the whole Pauline family, were not simply missionary, they were visionary.”
It is through the work of the Pauline family, to which the Daughters of St Paul belong, that the Gospel is being spread the hi-tech way, he said. Through the media, there are “so many ways to reach out to the world”, he added.
Revealing that he went to the Internet to find out about the work of the Pauline family, Archbishop God said the secret behind their work is their spirituality.
Just as St Paul’s desire to be identified with Christ fuelled his passion for proclaiming the Gospel, the Pauline spirituality drives the Sisters “to proclaim the Gospel, to find ways and means” to do so.
He also praised the Pauline practice of spending an hour daily in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Archbishop Goh was joined by Vicar General (Administration & Religious), Msgr Philip Heng, SJ, Franciscan Friar John-Paul Tan and 14 other priests at the concelebrated Mass. A good number of Religious Sisters and Brothers, as well as laity, were also present.
In her address after the Mass, Sr Wendy Ooi, the local superior, singled out the late Archbishop Gregory Yong for welcoming the Sisters to Singapore and providing them a convent to live in 21 years ago. She also thanked the many priests who understood the “value of their mission”.
She noted however that there are still those who do not understand their mission. “They see our apostolate as a business, but that is part of the ongoing challenge for us the world over.”
She shared that Blessed Teresa of Kolkata affirmed their work during one of her visits to the nuns’ media centre in the United States, telling one of the Sisters, “You know, your mission is more important than ours because we help the bodies, but you help the souls…”
In Singapore, the Daughters of St Paul conduct regular media outreach in parishes and maintain a media centre at the Church of the Risen Christ. They also visit schools and conduct media literacy sessions for youth and adults.
During the Christmas season, they can be seen at Jurong Point shopping mall selling books and other items on a pushcart. It is also a platform to reach out to non-Catholics.
The community hopes to revive the publishing side of the apostolate with one or two new titles a year and develop their audio-visual work using new media.
There are currently six Sisters in Singapore. The seventh, Sr Karen Eng, was in Rome for her final profession on the same day as the centenary Mass. Two other Singaporean Sisters are in Hong Kong (Sr Grace Lee) and Taiwan (Sr Lynette Chan).
Asked about their impending move to a new convent when the lease on their current one expires in April 2017, Sr Wendy said in an email: “We still have a long way to reach our goal of $5 million but we continue to rely on God’s providence through the generosity of the Catholic community. Unlike churches though, it is much harder for us to raise funds.”
The Daughters of St Paul also work with laypeople, whom they call “collaborators” and “cooperators”.
Ms Alice Choo, a parishioner of the Church of the Holy Family has been a collaborator since 1994. “The long collaboration is surprisingly unexpected and gave me the opportunity to know so many overseas Sisters,” she said. “I am therefore very happy to join them and the Daughters of St Paul all over the world in their centenary celebrations.”
As a cooperator since 2005, Ms Theresa Khoo said, “We are called to bring to life the apostolate through all means of social communication, such as book displays, movie retreats and film festivals, while remaining rooted in the Pauline spirituality.”
On the daily practice of the Eucharistic adoration, she said, “Through the years, I’ve come to love this practice where I’ve experienced a deepening of my relationship with God. I’ve also become much more aware of my media consumption habits…”
Centennial Dinner – Singapore Expo, Aug 15, 7.30pm
Pauline Treasures – a talk on the spirituality of the Daughters of St Paul; Oct 3, 9am-5pm at Church of Sts Peter & Paul
Praise Concerts – Sisters from Singapore, the Philippines, the United States and Kenya will sing and dance with some of the local priests; on Nov 13 at Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and Nov 14 at Church of the Risen Christ; both at 8pm.
By Mel Diamse-Lee