Bernadette Lee

When work becomes more central to our lives, where does that leave the spiritual aspect of our lives? Drawing a balance between faith practices and the workplace’s mixed secular codes of conduct is a perennial source of difficulty for an increasingly competitive and globalised work environment.

This was the consensus amongst the speakers and the panellists at the conference organised by the Catholic Business Network Singapore (CBN).

Mr Errol Mascarenhas, CBN’s Executive Director, said the organisation aims to reach out to more industry leaders and professionals to “touch more lives” in setting up programmes, including on digital media platforms in the next few years. Its current emphasis is on its seminars and talks including its flagship programme – an annual conference that brings together Catholic professionals from across all industries.

This year’s conference, aptly named Christ@Work 2019, which took place at the Singapore Conference Hall saw a full turnout of close to 900 participants who came to find out how to reconcile the differences between secularism and a moralistic outlook in the way they handle their work practices and decisions.

The conference presented the views of both religious and those involved in industry on how to handle the dichotomous demands of commerce and faith.

In his presentation to start off the conference, Monsignor Philip Heng reminded the audience that there is “a deeper truth” in all our reality and that very often secularism undermines Gospel values which leads to life becoming “challenging, painful and even unbearable”. To overcome this, he advocates a consciousness that there is a constant battle between the “authentic self” and the “secular self” that is innate in all. The balance can be achieved if we are aware of the purpose of our lives and to accept the “inner battle within us” and to “do God’s will” at all times.

Msgr Heng said “a connection with God is a connection with our authentic self” and this must be done with the trust that “when we discover His will, He will provide”.

This sense of purpose in informing our decisions was evident in the sharing by other leaders in industry.

Mr Lim Boon Heng, Chairman of Temasek Holdings and NTUC Enterprise, recollected how he was caught between his role in the trade unions and his political status. He would turn to the principle that his purpose was to “uplift the lives of the people”. He said that “business should serve all stakeholders” and profit should be the means to serve a mission and not the end.

Throughout the conference there was a prevailing sense that integrating faith and success at work will require a relooking at the way we work and how we hold our faith beliefs.

The sharing among the panellists at the discussion before lunch brought out various ways to incorporate faith in the workplace which included referring to Catholic social teachings to empower others, praying for God’s guidance and listening to His voice, and putting oneself in the shoes of others to seek a sense of understanding.

The sharing by Mr Tony Tay on how he puts his Catholic beliefs to start Willing Hearts – a charity serving 6,500 people a day with food provisions, and Chairman of Catholic Foundation Willie Cheng’s portrayal of resurgence in ethics in corporate management all served to reinforce the idea that a deliberate purpose can change the marketplace to make it a more humanistic one for all.

CBN was set up in 2008 with the intent of drawing both Catholic business owners and working professionals together to develop Catholic values and ethics in the workplace and marketplace. It seeks to provide support through its talks and meetings to help the business community in the advancement of Catholic morality, values and ethics in the members’ work endeavours.

This non-profit group lives out its mission not only through the programmes for its members on corporate work issues and faith values but also in raising funds for three charities through its annual Christmas dinner.

Participants of the Christ@Work 2019 conference in a time of praise and worship. Photo: CBN