Photo: VITA Images

Evangelisation is not an option, but an obligation: Archbishop

Michelle Tan

Why are we celebrating the anniversary of the dedication of our Cathedral? In his homily during the Solemnity of the Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (CGS) on Feb 14, 2021, Archbishop William Goh explained that churches are built and dedicated to God by the faithful in thanksgiving for all His blessings, and to remember His presence among them.

“Churches are sacred places where the faithful encounter God deeply,” said His Grace. Yet “God cannot be contained in a building – we cannot domesticate God!”

God has always dwelt among His people, continued His Grace, and today, He lives in our hearts because, whether we are Catholic or not, we are all God’s temples (1 Corinthians 3:16). Therefore, “The Church (Greek: ekklesia) is not just a building, but an assembly of believers, a family, the Body of Christ.”

However, warned the Archbishop, “If we don’t spread our faith, we will lose it”. He wished for everyone to be “living stones” (1 Peter 2:4), building up a vibrant, evangelising and missionary Church on the foundation of a firm faith in Jesus Christ. He appealed particularly to parents to set an example of such faith to their children for the sake of future generations.

His Grace concluded his homily in special remembrance and thanksgiving for the foreign missionaries who first brought the faith to Singapore. (CGS, the oldest church in Singapore, was established in 1832 and consecrated a cathedral on Feb 14, 1897). He invited everyone to emulate their witness of igniting and shining with faith, especially in this Catholic200SG year.

Father Jude David, Rector of CGS, agreed that evangelisation was an urgent priority for the Church today. “Evangelisation has always been a call within the call for me as a priest,” he added. He recalled that when His Grace first entrusted him with the mission of utilising CGS’ strategic location in the heart of the city to make it a place of evangelisation, he was intimidated, but drew strength from the Lord in prayer, assured that the Lord would see him and his Vice-Rectors Fr Brian D’Souza and Fr Samuel Lim through.

They arrived at CGS in July 2020 in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Restrictions prevented us from getting to know our new congregation better, but we tried to make the best of the little we had. However, this was also a time of grace for many – stripped of preoccupations and distractions, they became more sensitive to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit in their lives. My prayer for the CGS community on the anniversary of its Dedication is that it we will continue to be adaptable, resilient and untiring in our work of evangelisation.”

The youthful living stones of our Mother Church. Photo: Cathedral Family Mass Team

At the conclusion of the Cathedral Dedication Anniversary Mass, Archbishop William thanked all the faithful who had adopted CGS as their place of worship, making it “alive” with their contributions and services. Catholic News invited the CATHEDRAL FAMILY MASS TEAM, a dedicated community of students, from primary school through university, and young working adults who have been serving at CGS since 2004, to look back on the past year.

What did you do when His Grace announced the suspension of Masses on Feb 14, 2020 because of Covid-19?

We were truly saddened that we could no longer worship and serve together, so we created our very own Online Prayer & Fellowship (OPF) to continue meeting virtually on Sundays without fail. During the Circuit Breaker, we kept each other’s spirits high by reminding ourselves of God’s blessing throughout this difficult period.

How did your community fare during lockdown?

By God’s grace, our faith grew stronger. Even non-Catholics were drawn closer to the faith because we gave everyone an opportunity to prepare for and participate in the OPF whether as a lector, cantor, musician or choir member. We also prayed for each other’s intentions, and shared and reflected on the Mass readings for Sundays, feast days and Days of Obligation; we even celebrated birthdays of our members during our OPF. Putting Christ at the centre of OPF brought us closer together and, ultimately, closer to God too.

What is it like now Masses have resumed?

Because of safety restrictions, only about 30 of us can serve at the 8.30am Mass on Sundays, less than half our total strength of 65, so it is ever more important for us to stay strong and united. We lost a number of dedicated student volunteers because their parents feared they might catch Covid-19 while serving. As we adapted to the new processes, we made sure everyone got a chance to serve physically but safely at Mass. More importantly, our continued engagement and bonding through OPF ensured we did not disintegrate as a family.

What are your hopes for CGS in the year ahead?

Many of our volunteers grew up serving in CGS for the past 20 years. It was here that we encountered God, discovered our faith and formed new and lasting friendships. We pray that Mother Church will continue to be a sanctuary of unity and a safe haven for spiritual growth, especially that of youths and their families. Together, we can be God’s instruments of love!