Recently-arrived Fr Davaine is all praise for Catholics’ church involvement and Singapore’s greenery
As a missionary priest, particularly that of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP), the first thing one has to do is “learn”, “see” and “listen” to understand a country’s culture, says Fr Donatien Davaine.
The 40-year-old French priest, who arrived in Singapore in early July, is currently assistant priest at the Church of the Holy Family.
He says he is now learning more about the parish services, attending parish group meetings, and meeting parishioners.
Fr Davaine said he was surprised to find out that there are five weekend Masses at the parish and that they are “quite packed”, which is very different back in France.
Fr Davaine, who came from the Diocese of Troyes in Northern France, said he is impressed at the desire of the faithful here to be spiritually nourished and the importance they place on the Eucharist.
He is also impressed to see many, especially the young, actively involved in parish activities.
At the same time, he praised Singapore for being a “green land”, a “beautiful city” with smiling people.
Prior to his arrival, Fr Davaine spent eight months studying English in London. He had also been on short mission trips to Madagascar and Tibet, and spent a year in Seoul working in a centre for young people with family problems.
Fr Davaine told CatholicNews his priestly vocation was inspired by two “beautiful” people – a great uncle and a priest chaplain of the scouting group he was involved in during his teenage years.
He entered a Benedictine monastery in 2000 after attending a retreat and experiencing a “great peace” within himself.
However, when he was studying in Paris and before he professed his final vows as a monk, he met some MEP seminarians. It was then that he started considering becoming an MEP priest.
After discussions with the Benedictine abbot, he was given time to reconsider his vocation.
He spent some time living with the MEP priests in Seoul, an experience which helped him discover more about priestly missionary work.
He told CatholicNews that his earlier reservations about being a missionary priest disappeared, and he now looks forward to experiencing “new cultures, new languages”.
He entered the seminary in 2008 and was ordained in June 2011.
Fr Davaine says he believes he would be able to adapt to Singapore’s tropical climate within a few months. However, he still experiences difficulty preparing homilies in English.
Nonetheless, he says he looks forward to serving people here and acting as a bridge between his home country and Singapore.
It is important for a Christian to be willing to serve not only in his country, but elsewhere as well, he says.
The missionary is a gift to the Church because he reminds the faithful of their links with other churches, Fr Davaine added.
By Darren Boon