In his new encyclical Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis calls us to acknowledge, appreciate and love each person, regardless of physical proximity and of where he or she was born or lives. Luke Yeo shares how St Joseph’s Church (Victoria Street) has “transcended differences of origin, nationality, colour or religion”.
What does it mean to be Church? Is the church a physical building or the people within it?
While St Joseph’s Church (Victoria Street) may still be undergoing renovation work, its members have not forgotten their spiritual home, nor Christ’s instruction to make “disciples of all nations” and “whatever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did to Me”.
Indeed, while many often think of evangelisation in terms of missionary work overseas or the conversion of others to the faith, evangelisation can be as simple as being a good Samaritan to our fellow brothers in need, radiating the love of Christ through our deeds, and helping to plant seeds of faith by being merciful and charitable like God the Father.
“Who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29)
Led by Rector Father Joe Lopez, a group of parishioners and their friends have been regularly heading down to the church to deliver snacks and essential supplies to the 70 construction workers working in different teams and on different shifts on-site. These items include isotonic drinks, tea, coffee, noodles, soaps, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes, face masks, hand sanitizers and other necessities which we often take for granted, but are invaluable to and greatly appreciated by the workers who are all too happy to be back at work despite the ongoing pandemic.
Fr Lopez reflected that, while he has inherited a church still under heavy renovation, his flock does not merely include those registered there nor those who attend its Masses, but also these workers, many of whom are non-Catholic, who have been labouring tirelessly to complete the church so that others may come to worship. “These are my parishioners too, the very people who are now physically working in St Joseph’s, labouring to build it up for us – they are also people we must care for and witness to!”
“I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35)
These adopted sheep of Fr Lopez’s flock are, not surprisingly, delighted.
Mr Hasan Mahadi, acting supervisor exclaimed, “Everyone feels good!” Mr Muhammad Kamal, in charge of security, enthused, “We thank the church for everything – the food and for giving us work. We need the money. I am happy to work for the church!” And Mr Kelvin Cheng, the site manager, shared, “My workers have been suffering during this period and they really appreciate the kindness that the church has given.”
Mr Hossain Anwar, the site supervisor, added, “We feel very appreciated! But we also feel pressure to do our best for the church because we respect it as a place of worship for your people.”
“Here I am – send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)
In his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sept 27, Pope Francis urged us to “be close in order to serve” and to be “involved in order to promote… [because] building the Kingdom of God is a duty common to all Christians”.
While we may not be physically able to contribute to the ongoing improvements to our churches, let us continue to find innovative ways to help and respect the human dignity of all those who are labouring for our common good here in Singapore.
May we be a vibrant, evangelising and missionary Church for one and all!