A panel discussion and a mini-talk show were among the highlights of the New Wine Conference

Panel discussion on the topic No Silo Saints. Panellists (from left) Dr Philip Yap, Mr Nick Jarvis Tan, Ms Jocelyn Loong, Ms Sherlyn Khong and Mr Eric Lam (moderator).

Christopher Khoo

How can Catholics grow in holiness both individually and as a community?

This was the main question tackled during the New Wine Conference held at SJI International on Sept 15, which had the theme, No Silo Saints.

The takeaway for participants, who are members of various Church groups, is that they should learn to work and pray together, not just within their group, but also as part of a larger Church community to build up the Archdiocese.

Participants were also provided with a Communal Prayer Toolkit to share with their own groups.

The event, organised by the Office for the New Evangelisation, was the third in an annual series aiming to help parishes move towards the Archdiocesan pastoral vision of being a vibrant, evangelistic and missionary Church.

Fr Terence Pereira, in his opening address, noted that for years, the Catholic Church in Singapore has focused on individual ministry activities to the extent that people from different groups are not used to uniting and collaborating with one another.

He also noted that in instances where Church groups are disunited and fighting among themselves, it is pointless to evangelise and bring people to the Church.

“In all the things that we do, we must see how we are getting closer to the Lord, how are we building the kingdom of God,” said the Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelisation. “We are responsible for one another, to grow in holiness.”

Fr Luke Fong and Ms Adel Lim in a talk-show segment.

About 350 members of Parish Pastoral Councils, their executive committees, Small Christian Communities and ministries attended the conference, which saw speakers and panellists sharing on the topic.

Msgr Ambrose Vaz elaborated further on the theme of unity in his talk, “Unity: the first step to maturity in Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-16).

“Unity is oneness in mind and heart, and the result of an intentional choice,” he said, adding that this is possible through the help of the Holy Spirit, “who is the Spirit of Unity”.

Unity of relationships is characterised by qualities such as humility, gentleness, kindness and patience, said Msgr Vaz.

Fr Ignatius Yeo gave an overview of Gaudete Et Exsultate, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on “the call to holiness in today’s world”, published in April this year. Fr Ignatius noted that the document reminds Catholics that they can and should aspire to become saints, and highlighted several key points.

These include learning from ordinary people, whom the Pope calls the “saints next door”, such as the woman who listens to others with patience, who cares for her children and who prays in the face of problems.

A panel discussion followed in which five Catholics from various walks of life shared on the joys and challenges of growing in holiness.

One of them, Ms Sherlyn Khong, a founder member of missionary group acts29, shared that for her, holiness is committing to being in a community and staying in it even when times get tough.

Mr Nick Jarvis Tan, a Catholic motivational speaker, said that for him, “holiness is allowing God to love the people around me through the products and services that I offer”.

Fr Terence Pereira: “In all the things that we do, we must see how we are getting closer to the Lord, how are we building the kingdom of God.”

In a talk show-like segment, Fr Luke Fong and Ms Adel Lim, a parishioner of Our Lady Star of the Sea, discussed the topic, An enemy of holiness.

Enemies of holiness include laziness, egotism and selfishness, said Ms Lim, adding that a “lack of humility in many people who serve in ministry” is also an obstacle.

Fr Luke reminded the crowd that “any good that we do in life doesn’t start from us. The first move is always God’s.”

Participants also broke into groups to discuss the challenges of being in community, and also experienced communal prayer by reflecting and sharing on a Gospel passage. A video on what it means to be in communion and unity in the Church was also screened.

Ms Noreen Yong, who attended the conference for the first time, told Catholic News she learnt much from it.

The Holy Trinity parishioner acknowledged that sometimes disagreements arise in ministries, but “we must be united in common prayer and have to understand and love each other”.

The first New Wine conference, held in 2016, focused on building communion through a spirit of thanksgiving and welcome in parishes. The second focused on the challenges and strategies for building communion. 

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