… says Archbishop William Goh at cathedral’s Dedication Mass

archie priests
Archbishop William Goh, together with about 70 priests, celebrate the cathedral’s Dedication Mass on Feb 14.

By Jared Ng

The air was thick with anticipation as Catholics gathered for the historic Dedication Mass of the newly restored Cathedral of the Good Shepherd on Feb 14.

The date was significant as it marked the 120th anniversary of the cathedral’s original dedication in 1897.

As there were limited seats in the cathedral, most of the 2,500 participants viewed the three-hour celebration from a large tent outside while others peered through the building’s windows.

Joining the 70 or so priests, and various Religious at the event, were guest-of-honour Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean; Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say; Mr Lim Boon Heng, cathedral restoration steering committee chairman; Council of Presidential Advisers chairman J.Y. Pillay and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.

teo chee hean
Archbishop Goh presents guest-of-honour Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean with a brick from the original cathedral building.

The celebration began with Archbishop William Goh and some priests blessing the cathedral, its compound and participants with holy water.

After the Liturgy of the Word, Archbishop Goh deposited the relics of St Laurent Imbert and St Francis Xavier into the altar.

St Laurent Imbert visited Singapore in 1821, and was the inspiration behind the name of the cathedral. St Francis Xavier was a prominent missionary in Asia.

Archbishop Goh then anointed the altar with chrism and incensed it.

Archbishop Goh depositing the relics of St Laurent Imbert and St Francis Xavier into the altar. Screengrab from Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore video

Archbishop Goh anointing the altar with chrism.

In his homily, Archbishop Goh likened the cathedral to an elderly mother whose children eventually left her.
“Parents will understand. When you get older, your children will leave you. Some even migrate,” he said.

Similarly, the cathedral, the “Mother Church” of the archdiocese, gave “birth” to many parishes, and now has become “a church for visitors and tourists”.

The cathedral is not and should not be a “museum”, he said, adding that when “people gather in the cathedral such as today, it should be an assembly of God’s people.”

He stressed that the cathedral and all the other Catholic churches in Singapore have to be “inclusive and universal. All are welcome! The rich, the poor, believers, non-believers, those who are divorced and those with same-sex orientation.”

Coming to church should also “lead us to a life of charity,” said Archbishop Goh.

The archbishop incensing the altar.

Msgr Heng
Msgr Philip Heng anointing a cross on the cathedral wall with chrism.

Fr Adrian
Fr Adrian Anthony was presented with a brick from the original cathedral building, in appreciation of his work in the cathedral’s restoration.

He highlighted the Homeless Jesus sculpture – a bronze artwork depicting a homeless Jesus on the cathedral grounds – and the cathedral’s social mission fund which gives food to the poor every Sunday.

These “remind us that the cathedral is mother of the abandoned and poor,” said Archbishop

At the end of the celebration, he presented DPM Teo with a brick from the orginal cathedral building, completed in 1847. Mr Lim Boon Heng and former cathedral rector Fr Adrian Anthony also received a similar brick, in appreciation of their work in the cathedral’s restoration.

Present cathedral rector, Msgr Philip Heng, reminded all gathered of the 12 days of celebrations which were to follow. These included Masses organised by the five districts of the archdiocese, a special Mass for the aged and sick, as well as a night of worship for young people.

Mr Alex Louis, 62, who has served the cathedral for 40 years, told CatholicNews that it was very “emotional and meaningful for me to witness this occasion”.

Priests and Religious attending the Feb 14 celebration.

The crowd at the cathedral looking on as the celebration came to an end.

“I hope this dedication also really empowers the youth, for them to see the importance of church and the impact it can have on so many people,” said Mr Louis, who has been a Mass coordinator, a communion minister, and who now works with young people.

Fr Adrian Anthony, who pioneered the cathedral’s restoration project, said he “felt the presence of God every day during the restoration”.

He added that he hopes the cathedral can be “a place of refuge for those who are spiritually down.”

Ms Clare See, 23, shared that she struggled to see the significance of the dedication Mass initially but soon realised, through the “rites and hymns and the overall ambience”, that she was part of “something much greater” than herself.

“The celebration really made me reflect upon my faith and to really think about how far the Catholic Church in Singapore has come,” she said. 

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