The Hong Kong Catholics in Singapore have been a growing community since 1994. Known as the Sacred Heart Cantonese Basic Christian Community (SHCBCC), the group has grown from about 20 people to its current number of 120.
In 2005, the community moved to the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, and they now have weekly Cantonese Masses in the chapel at 2pm every Sunday. According to its coordinator, Mr Alfred Cheung, 65, there are about 40 Singaporean Cantonese who join in the Mass.
“Any Cantonese-speaking Catholic is welcome to join in,” Mr Cheung said, adding that “there are also Hong Kong non- Catholics who have not converted but also join in the activities”.
The community’s chaplain, Carmelite Fr Daniel Lim has been in Singapore for about 12 years, and has been with the group since 2011.
Different groups in the community
Fr Daniel said, “In the beginning stage, this SHBCC group was established for the migrants from Hong Kong. Gradually, they grew from three groups to six groups spread throughout Singapore.” These cell groups usually have fortnightly meetings at different members’ houses, usually on Friday or Saturday evenings, Mr Cheung said.
But he added that every gathering will be announced to everyone, and if other groups’ members are interested in the topic that is going to be covered, they can also join in solely for that session.
However, Mr Cheung told CatholicNews that they do not have a lot of ministries. The altar boys are part of the main group in Church of Sts Peter and Paul, but nonetheless the community has its own choir, and also the Rite of Christian Initiation in Cantonese. A new process will commence on Friday, June 13, and will be from 8 to 9.30pm.
For sacraments, they had a record number of 13 baptisms three years ago, while three adults and two babies were baptised at Easter this year.
Mr Cheung said that after baptism, members move on to First Holy Communion, which is also done within the community. However, community members will have to join the St Peter and Paul parish for Confirmation.
Challenges faced by the community
“We would like to have Bible study every Wednesday evening in Cantonese,” Mr Cheung added. The group used to hold such sessions but not on a regular basis, and these were interrupted when previous chaplain Fr Anselm Phang left for Taiwan.
Another challenge that the community faces is that they “don’t have the youth coming in”. Mr Cheung shared that they had tried to start a youth group about five years ago but it was not very successful.
“The Catholic Church is not very good in attracting the young people,” Mr Cheung said. “I feel that even in the local churches, the activities are not very interesting to young people.”
The community also tries to connect with Cantonese-speaking Catholics in other parishes, although Mr Cheung shared that he feels it is “still not very successful”.
For example, Mr Cheung said that there is a “sizeable number of Cantonese Catholics in Church of St Teresa [but we] haven’t had the chance to integrate with them there”.
After Fr Daniel took over from Fr Anselm Phang, he also had to learn Cantonese on his own. He told CatholicNews that despite having “little knowledge of Cantonese, I tried my best to support them in their needs of celebrating Masses, confessions and various activities and events”.
Collaboration with local Church and future plans
According to Mr Cheung, the community is officially endorsed by Archbishop Goh to have trilingual Masses.
He added that the Church of Sts Peter and Paul “is very supportive of our activities”.
Therefore this year during Easter, the hymns for Mass were in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. Fr Daniel also said that the community members have “actively participated and collaborated in the parish works, events and activities and all other pastoral works outside the parish”.
Many community members have been in Singapore since the 1990s, and some of them have become Singapore citizens.
“That’s how we can last for 20 years, it’s very fortunate,” Mr Cheung said.
On May 31, the community will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Other events that the group carries out together include an annual full-day retreat on National Day, which had about 250 people attending last year. During this event, at least two Cantonese priests from Singapore or overseas will be invited to provide spiritual input, and there will also be sharings and opportunities for people to get to know one another.
The National Day retreat this year is themed Joy of Gospel, and will be held at the Catholic Spirituality Centre on Aug 9 from 9am to 6pm.
During Lent, they will also have a day event with Stations of the Cross and Confession, while in October or November, the community has a residential three-day retreat, which was held at the Church of St Teresa last year.
“There have been visitors from Malaysia and Hong Kong for Sunday Masses, but most of them are not fully aware of the community’s activities,” Mr Cheung said. “We are not just focused on Hong Kong Catholics, we would also like to have more locals.”
For more information on the Sacred Heart Cantonese Basic Christian Community, contact Mr Cheung at alcheung20140328@ gmail.com or visit www.shbcc.net.