A look at some of the historic religious items available for viewing when the cathedral is restored
The ring and crosier used by the first Archbishop of Singapore, Archbishop Michael Olcomendy; the Mass booklet Pope St John Paul II used when he was in Singapore in 1986; and a brass crucifix with candlesticks given by the Government of the French Republic in 1897, the year of the cathedral’s consecration.
These are some of the lesser known religious artefacts at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd that Mr Jevon Liew, a volunteer for about 13 years, has unearthed. Together with other artefacts, they will be available for public viewing at the cathedral’s heritage gallery centre next year after the restored building is officially dedicated.
For Mr Liew, discovering these items has deepened his appreciation of the history of the Catholic Church here, and he hopes others viewing the artefacts will be similarly enriched.
“I think learning the story behind these objects can lead people to be inspired by those individuals connected to them,” said Mr Liew, 32.
To be able to touch items which historic figures connected to the Church in Singapore held onto “creates a link which brings me back to the past”, he told CatholicNews. “From there it makes me want to find out more, who [these people] were and their contributions to the Church.”
Other artefacts discovered include:
- An antique cast-iron communion host mould.
- A painting of St Laurent Imbert, who visited Singapore in 1821, and from whom the name of the cathedral was inspired. He is known to have written a note to fellow missionaries in which he said, “In desperate circumstances, the Good Shepherd lays down His Life for His Sheep.”
- A 19th-century French Baroque-style monstrance.
- A 1948 photo featuring Cardinal Francis Spellman, Archbishop of New York; Msgr Fulton Sheen, famed for his 1950s US television show, Life Is Worth Living, and for helming the Society for the Propagation of the Faith; and Singapore Archbishop Michael Olcomendy.
- An antique box containing relics of saints and martyrs.
- A silver trowel used to lay the foundation stone of the convent of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood on Feb 18, 1975.
According to cathedral rector Msgr Philip Heng, those hoping to get a glimpse of these and other artefacts can do so when the cathedral is officially dedicated in February next year.
“In spite of the great space constraints, we are at present planning to have a heritage gallery at the annex of our cathedral compound,” he said. “We plan to rotate the items on display.”
Msgr Heng said he hopes that “Catholics can be inspired by the artefacts … to further deepen their faith through authentic cultural expressions that draw out the core meaning of the faith more beautifully, effectively and meaningfully.”
He said he hopes the artefacts would also inspire volunteers – “who are interested in sharing the history behind the artefacts, and giving guided tours of the cathedral” – to come forward.
“These tours could include the history of other Catholic churches in Singapore,” such as Sts Peter and Paul, St Joseph’s (Victoria St), Our Lady of Lourdes, Sacred Heart and St Teresa. A kind of “mini pilgrimage”, said Msgr Heng.
By Jared Ng
Left: 19th-century Baroque-style monstrance which was likely purchased from France. This monstrance was used by French missionary priests of the cathedral who braved the rough seas and new living conditions to minister to people in Asia. Right: These brass crucifix and candlesticks were gifted from the Government of the French Republic on the year of the cathedral’s consecration (1897). By that time the monarchy in France was already abolished and the gift can be viewed as the subsequent French leaders feeling it necessary to continue maintaining ties with the overseas French community as well as institutions.
These fragile paper envelopes contain sacred relics of saints and martyrs, one of whom is St John Joseph of the Cross (1654-1739). They were likely collected around the early 20th century by French missionaries for use in the local Church.
The pontifical ring of the late Archbishop Michael Olcomendy, set with an amethyst. The ring is larger than normal as it was meant to be worn over gloves whenever the archbishop celebrated a pontifical High Mass.
Left: Portrait of St Laurent Imbert from whom the name of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd is inspired. St Imbert was the first Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP) priest to visit Singapore in the 19th century. He later went on to serve in Korea as a bishop and was martyred on Sept 21, 1839. Right: Cathedral volunteer Jevon Liew holding a silver trowel used by Archbishop Olcomendy to lay the foundation stone of the new convent for the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood on Feb 18, 1975.