Vision 2023: What it Takes to Build a More Vibrant and Evangelistic Church

Catholic Foundation takes on the task of raising funds to make the Archdiocese’s vision a reality.

Guests interact with one another at the Archbishop’s Residence, where the Catholic Foundation held a fundraising dinner hosted by Archbishop William Goh in 2015.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few” (Mt 9:37).

Jesus’ words ring true till today, nearly three years since the Archdiocese of Singapore established a new pastoral vision.

Much has been accomplished on the journey to realising its vision to be a more vibrant, missionary and evangelistic Church in Singapore. But one obstacle continues to prove difficult: resources are, quite simply, scarce.

“For God’s harvest to be gathered, there is a need for labourers to be paid fairly, barns to be built, and tools to be acquired,” said Msgr Philip Heng, Vicar General of Administration and Finance.

He explains, “The archdiocese needs funds for its organisations, programmes and projects. The hard truth is, the current funding model of our archdiocese is insufficient to uphold our Church, let alone fuel its growth.”

To address this challenge, the mandate of the Catholic Foundation (CF), which was established in 2012, was expanded to focus on the much needed funding to make the vision a reality.

Funding the archdiocese

The Catholic Church in Singapore consists of 31 parishes and over 100 archdiocesan organisations involved in areas such as pastoral care, faith formation, education, family, youth, migrants, and so on.

Funding for the parishes and archdiocese have traditionally come from the weekly offertories and other collections made during Masses.

Most of the money collected is retained for each parish’s own needs, such as running their own programmes, operational costs, and maintaining their buildings.

Until recently, only a fixed 15 per cent of the first weekend’s collections in parishes went to the archdiocese. (Beginning 2016, the 15 per cent fixed contribution was revised to a tiered system of between four to 28 per cent depending on the income of each parish).

However, this is still far from adequate to meet the archdiocese’s financial needs. “In 2015, the operating deficit of the archdiocese after the 15 per cent share of the parishes’ collections was $2 million – and that is not counting the several capital needs of the Church,” Msgr Heng revealed.

Catholic Foundation’s role

CF was established in December 2012 with the initial intent of providing an additional vehicle of funds for the archdiocese for capacity building, improving the processes of the Church’s institutions, enhancing the competencies of those working in the Church, and strengthening the formation of priests, religious and lay people.

Initially, CF was low key, organising small-scale fundraising luncheons and dinners. It made its first call to select archdiocesan organisations for grants in 2013.

“However, with the new pastoral vision and increasing financial needs of the archdiocese, we had to relook the whole financial structure of the archdiocese,” said Msgr Heng.

Thus, in late 2015, Archbishop William Goh decided that CF would be the umbrella fundraising vehicle to provide for the archdiocese.

Taking on a bigger mission

With CF, fundraising activities for the archdiocese would be consolidated under one body, rather than through multiple archdiocesan bodies.

This allows organisations such as the Office for New Evangelisation (ONE), Archdiocesan Commission for the Family (ACF), and so on, to focus on their apostolate work and not be limited by unsustainable budgets.

Ms Juliana Foo, Executive Director of the Catholic Foundation, elaborates: “This not only makes fundraising more effective, but also helps ensure higher security and accountability in the handling of donations in the Church.”

During Advent in 2015, CF organised its first archdiocesan-wide fundraising appeal, raising approximately $2 million.

However, the scale of work needed to realise the archdiocese’s pastoral vision requires significantly more resources.

Despite the demanding task, a sense of confidence and trust in God’s Will burns in the hearts of CF’s staff and its board of directors.

The 15-member board comprises leadership priests as well as professionals from relevant industries such as the finance and legal sectors, all appointed by the archbishop.

Mr Kwek Mean Luck, Chairman of the Catholic Foundation, believes that “there is so much in our Church in Singapore today that we have been blessed with. God calls us to grow with Him as individuals and as a Church. He calls us to take the love and gifts we receive, place it in His hands, and let Him do His wondrous work.”

Msgr Heng, who is also a member of the Catholic Foundation’s Board, said, “What is truly needed is prayer and a total dependence on God’s grace. We are but the labourers who plant the seeds, but it is God who makes the seeds grow.”

It has been three years since the Archdiocese’s pastoral vision was first introduced. Archbishop William Goh shares his thoughts with the Catholic Foundation on what has been done to date.

Your Grace, can you share the inspiration that led to the introduction of Vision 2023?

When I was installed as archbishop in 2013, Pope Francis had released an important document in the same year – Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel).

This document was written in response to the changing social and cultural situation Catholics find themselves in today, and was guided by the spirit of the New Evangelisation first introduced by Pope St John-Paul II and then expanded on by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

As Catholics, we have a duty to evangelise the world, starting with our own archdiocese.

Through prayer, and in consultation with other leaders in the archdiocese, we felt that God desires His Church in Singapore to be a more vibrant, missionary and evangelistic one.

We are already three years into the vision. What do you think of the progress made so far?

In the first year, I spent much time with our priests, religious and other lay leaders in the Church to plan and establish the infrastructure needed to support the New Evangelisation.

By infrastructure I don’t mean just the buildings, but also the processes and whole management system within the Church – bringing together the priests, religious, parishes, and various archdiocesan organisations.

Now that a masterplan is more or less in place, we have to seriously look into the funding of the projects and programmes. Once that gains traction, we will see things moving more fully.

The Church has always been collecting funds through Sunday collections, and special collections. Isn’t that sufficient to run the archdiocese?

The world is a different place today than it was forty, or even thirty years, ago. In the past, Catholics put in a few dollars into the collection bag every week and it was enough for basic maintenance of the Church. But we all know that costs in Singapore today have risen significantly.

At the same time, we want to grow the Church, not just maintain it. To do that we need to fortify Catholics in their faith and refresh our structures. All this requires funding. We now have the Catholic Foundation to spearhead our efforts of raising the funds for the archdiocese.

Do you anticipate any hurdles to seeing Vision 2023 come to fruition?

The New Evangelisation is a response of the Catholic Church to changes taking place on the global stage. But every diocese has its own challenges and we have to adapt it to local conditions.

Our archdiocesan organisations have to constantly find ways to stay relevant to the people they serve, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Programmes and courses have to be redesigned and new buildings and institutions built to accommodate these changes and prepare ourselves for the future.

The bigger challenge however, is in getting the support of every Catholic. Every individual Catholic makes up the Church, and the active embrace of everyone is needed for our archdiocese to truly become more vibrant.

And of course, there will always be the challenge of finding the needed resources, be it financial, human resource and so on. We can make all the plans we want, but for our Church to continue its divine mission, there is also a need for physical resources.

Are we on track to achieving our vision for 2023?

A lot has been accomplished, but a lot more needs to be done. Catholics must look beyond the parish and see themselves as a member of the Universal Church.

We need to build up our archdiocesan institutions so they in turn can provide better programmes and services to the parishes.

The goals set out in the vision are not unsurmountable. But individual priests, parishes and organisation working alone cannot
bring about the change we are looking for.

We need to work in communion with each other and with a greater unity of purpose. With that, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I am confident that we will realize our vision by 2023.

What I Have is God’s to Use

Mr Kwek Mean Luck, Chairperson of the Catholic Foundation, shares about his role and call to serve.

Since its conception in 2012, Mr Kwek Mean Luck has served as Chairperson of the Catholic Foundation. Though this was not an easy call, given the huge demands of work and family on his time, Mean Luck shares that he is in fact grateful for the opportunity to serve.

“I was apprehensive at first. I had young children at the time, and with the demands of work, I had doubts about whether I could commit the time and effort required,” he explains.

But after much prayer and discernment, Mean Luck came to realise two important lessons.

“In prayer, I was reminded that my life, and what I have been given, is from God. It should be His to use.”

He elaborates, “As I reflected further, I also saw the urgent need for an organisation like the Catholic Foundation. Our Church has done and continues to do so much for society, not just for Catholics. But there is so much more that our Church can do, if we can come together, and provide it with the right resources.”

It was this realisation that spurred Mean Luck to work with the board, staff and volunteers to strengthen the work of the Catholic Foundation, so it can help to build up the Church.

He explains, “The archdiocese has organisations like Caritas Singapore and Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiatives, Singapore (CHARIS) to care for the social mission of the Church and to raise funds for it. But there were other aspects of the archdiocese that needed dedicated attention in the same way, and this was why the Catholic Foundation was established. We need to be guided by faith and good works.”

Mean Luck and his wife Vivienne are parishioners of St Mary of the Angels. They are blessed wonderfully with four children.