The Church of St Francis of Assisi was established to meet the demands of an increasing Catholic population in the mid to late 1900s. Today, the church has grown significantly in terms of its seating capacity, physical structure, number of parishioners and a strong faith culture.
A large number of migrants, more than half of total parishioners, now call the parish “home”. The church also houses a relic of India’s first native woman saint.
The migrant communities present in the Church of St Francis of Assisi include the Tamil, Malayalee, Filipino, Chinese, Burmese and Vietnamese communities.
According to parish priest Fr John Lau, they make up “more than half” of the estimated 4,500 parishioners that attend Mass every week.
To cater to their large numbers, “we have special Masses that are celebrated on different weeks of the month,” said Fr Lau.
More migrants have taken residence in the west of Singapore due to the growing number of houses being built here.
About 400 people from the Tamil community attend Mass every week. Most are made up of blue-collar and migrant workers who live around the Jurong and Tuas area.
From the Malayalee community, about 300 people attend Mass weekly. Most of the community members come from Kerela, India.
The Archdiocesan Commission for Malayalam Apostolate, formed in 2014, also works with the community in the Church of St Francis of Assisi to conduct Charismatic sessions or special Masses.
There are currently two groups within the Filipino community – the Legion of Mary and San Lorenzo Rui Choir – operating in the parish. About 700 Filipinos attend Mass every week.
Every Monday to Saturday, including public holidays, a team of volunteers from the parish gets together to distribute meals to the elderly and less privileged living in the community around the church.
About 40 beneficiaries gather every morning at the church to collect their meals which consist of rice, vegetables and meat.
The meals are provided by Willing Hearts, a charity founded in 2003 by a group of parishioners from the Church of St Michael with the support of the Canossian Sisters. Although its founders are Catholic, it operates as a charity unaffiliated with any religious group.
The youth scene
The youths of the parish, also known as the Catholic Youth community, use their musical talents to serve and evangelise.
They have two ministries – the Music Ministry and the Worship Band – that meet once a week to have fellowship and rehearse for upcoming events such as praise and worship sessions and confirmation Mass.
The Catholic Youth community also has members from catechism classes and those not involved in the two music ministries. They meet every Friday for Bible sharings, praise and worship and fellowship.
About 30 youths and young adults make up the community, with ages ranging from 13-25.
Recently, they organised a Mother’s Day lunch and sang songs dedicated to the mothers present.
The proceeds from the event went to the construction of a lift currently being built in the church.
According to Fr Lau, confirmation catechism class formation takes up to three years. About 40 teens get confirmed every year.
Relic of St Alphonsa
Perhaps not known to many, the Church of St Francis of Assisi houses a relic – a piece of clothing worn by St Alphonsa.
St Alphonsa was a Clarist nun who lived in the Franciscan Clarist convent in Bharananganam in Kerala, India.
It was her extraordinary power of intercession before Jesus that made her dear to everyone.
She was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct 12, 2008 and became India’s first native woman saint.
“This exceptional woman, who today is offered to the people of India as their first canonised saint, was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father,” Pope Benedict said during his homily on Oct 12.
“She wrote, ‘I consider a day without suffering as a day lost,’” he added.
St Alphonsa was born in Kudamaloor, near Kottayam, Kerala, on Aug 19, 1910. Her parents were Joseph and Mary Muttathupadath.
In 1927, her father gave her permission to join the Clarist convent in Bharananganam.
She took her final vows on Aug 12, 1936.
The Malayalee community at St Francis of Assisi parish decided to mark the saint’s feast day on Aug 9 instead of her actual feast day, July 28, to avoid clashing with St Anne’s feast day.
A statue of St Alphonsa can be seen at the church. The statue was blessed in 2010 by Archbishop Nicholas Chia.
|HISTORY OF THE PARISH
The Church of St Francis of Assisi initially started out as a chapel built at Tuas Village in 1958.
Fr Thomas di Pasquale was appointed as the first parish priest in 1960.
Another chapel, the Taman Jurong Chapel, was set up in a rented shophouse at Hu Ching Road in 1967.
Due to an increase in the Catholic population in Jurong, a third chapel was set up in 1969 at Gek Poh Road. It was named the St Francis of Assisi Chapel.
The present site of the church was acquired in 1975 and completed the following year.
In 2002, led by former parish priest Fr Nicholas Ho, renovations were done to expand the capacity of the church.
The feast day of the Church of St Francis Assisi is Oct 4.
According to Fr Lau, there is a 30-year lease remaining for the current site.
More information about the parish can be found at https://sfa-parish.org.sg/