The Singapore Catholic Church mourned the loss of Mr Benard Chen, who dedicated much of his time and effort to the archdiocese and the state.
He passed away on April 8 at age 72.
During his funeral Mass on April 13, Redemptorist Fr Simon Tan spoke about how Mr Chen willingly took up the post of chairman of the Novena Church redevelopment project in 2010.
“I was touched by his faith and conviction,” said Fr Simon in his homily at St Joseph’s Church (Victoria St), the church which Mr Chen requested to have his funeral at.
“Up to his last days, he was still very passionate about the building,” said Fr Simon.
When Mr Chen was struck with cancer in November last year, he “expressed his sadness that he could not see the completion of” the church restoration but he assured Fr Simon that “everything will be OK”.
Mr Chen wore many hats within the archdiocese, as well as in Singapore’s public and private sectors.
He was chairman of the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools from 2004-2011, as well as chairman of Catholic Junior College’s Management Committee from 1995-2008. He also served on the Board of Mount Alvernia Hospital and on the committee for the restoration of the stained glass at St Joseph’s Church.
Fr Simon also described Mr Chen as a man who “served the country”.
He was a Member of Parliament of the People’s Action Party from 1977-2001, and the Minister of State for Defence from 1977-1981.
He was chairman of the board of directors of NTUC Income from 1977-1990.
In the private sector, he was on the board of several companies including Fraser & Neave, DBS Bank, and Certis Cisco.
Even though Mr Chen “looked very stern”, Fr Simon recalled that “he had a great sense of humour.”
“On behalf of the Redemptorists, we want to thank you for sharing Bernard with us,” he said, speaking to Mr Chen’s family.
Tributes to the late Mr Chen
‘Bernard was a good and upright man. He loved God deeply. He was a devout Catholic... He lived for his family, his country and his Church... The Church is blessed to have a son like him who by his life has given glory to God.’
– Archbishop William Goh to Mr Chen’s family
‘He strove to build CJC into a family, of not necessarily Catholics, but of people who share our mission and live it through the years... The CJC family indeed mourns the loss of an exemplary leader, a kind and dedicated benefactor, and a true man of God.’
– Catholic Junior College
‘He saw the need for the Catholic schools to work together as one system... rather than as competitors. The staff of ACCS remember him as one who affirmed them by expressing his appreciation for their work whenever he came by... ACCS thanks God for the wonderful gift of Mr Bernard Chen to the Catholic education here in Singapore.’
– Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools (ACCS)
‘He was always available to help the Church. He was a man for God and a man for others... A very well-loved person.’
– Sr Maria Lau, IJ
By Lorna O’Hara