For the Tan and Long families, praying together not only allows them to lift their petitions to God, but also helps them to learn more about each other. Through prayer, they learn about the issues that worry them and the things that they are thankful for. Amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, prayer also allows these two families some quiet time to reflect and connect.
“As parents, we have a responsibility to show our children the importance of family prayer. When we pray, we put aside anger and frustration and ask for forgiveness. This enables us to grow spiritually together with God as a family,” said Mrs Sylvia Aloysius-Tan, whose three sons are altar servers at St Vincent de Paul Church.
The Kim family, on the other hand, finds it a challenge to set aside time to practise the Catholic faith after the arrival of their second child. Apart from reading Noah’s Ark and other bible stories to their two-year old, Alex and his wife do not lead an ‘active Catholic faith life’ and sometimes miss attending the Mass, too.
“This seems to be getting more common among Catholic families these days, where work and domestic issues imperceptibly take precedence over the practice of the faith,” observed Mrs Annabella Long, a mother of two school-going boys. “We are also often confronted by the distractions of social media and other supposedly important preoccupations,” added the 46-year-old parishioner of Christ the King Church.
“When we were growing up, family prayers and grace before meals were essentials. Could there be a correlation between the declining practice of the faith and the moral standard of society these days?” she wondered aloud.
Catholic Family Dialogue 2016
Are our lives so crowded with ‘priorities’ that ever-so-subtly prise us away from faithfully keeping Catholic observances and practices alive? How do we possibly live out our faith at home while living in an affluent and ‘liberal’ world that fiercely competes for our attention and tests our spiritual mettle?
These are the questions the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family (ACF) hopes to discuss with Catholics next month when they host the Catholic Family Dialogue 2016.
The theme is: Will the Catholic Family still be relevant tomorrow? ACF is taking this conversation to a higher level by engaging key stakeholders: parents, young people, educators and pastoral workers. The event will be held on July 23, from 8.30am to 12.30pm at the Catholic Junior College.
“There is a growing perception that the practice and transmission of the faith is declining in our Catholic families. The event aims to raise awareness of this phenomenon, which is a matter of deep concern not just for the Church but society at large, too, as the family is considered the cradle, the first setting, where virtues are initially formed,” said ACF chairman John Hui.
For our children’s sake
The organisers hope that parents will sit up and take notice of the purpose of the Dialogue - and buy into it. “All parents are concerned with how our children will turn out in adulthood. But the formation must start now. Ultimately, we hope to evoke a sense of urgency about the state of the domestic (family) church and encourage a common resolve to bring about the necessary shifts or changes moving forward,” said Mr James Tham, the co-project lead for the event.
The Catholic Family Dialogue 2016 is expected to draw much interest following its successful inaugural session in October 2014, where more than 600 Catholics filled up the CJC auditorium. However, as this year’s event will be held at the school’s lecture theatre, there are only 270 seats available. Those who are keen to attend are advised to book early at catholicfamily.org.sg/cfd2016.
What to expect
At the event, veteran family therapist Brother Collin Wee will deliver his keynote speech by sharing his views on the topic. He will also cite his experience of growing up in a Catholic family, compare it with the experiences of many children today, and project how it could possibly shape their adulthood.
A roundtable panel comprising two educators, a senior parent, a young interfaith couple and a young person will discuss the practical relevance of the faith in the family and society. The discussion, to be moderated by media anchor man Augustine Anthuvan, will also explore how a decline of ‘active faith’ among the laity can affect society and how stakeholders can possibly remedy the situation.
Socio-political commentator and law professor Eugene Tan, who is a panelist, said, “Catholic families, like other families, face the usual stresses of today’s hectic lifestyle. Materialism compounds the challenge because in a hyperachievement oriented society, secular concerns often trump the sacred ones.”
The ex-NCMP and father of a teenage son, added, “There is, however, more discussion of faith matters because children now are exposed at an earlier age. But the Catholic family is and has to be more than just the immediate family. It has to encompass the community… even as the home remains the primary locus of formation, growth and deep experience.”
The audience will also be invited to give their views on the topic and offer ideas and suggestions on what can be done to improve the situation during the break-out discussion session. The organisers are expected to channel the feedback to the Church hierarchy and parishes, but with a reminder from Mr Tham that “both the Church and the laity are equal stakeholders in this common cause – and we can empower our own families immediately”.
Groomed by faith
Participants can also look forward to an open-sharing session by Ms Jean Yip, grooming and beauty entrepreneur, her husband, Mr Mervin Wee, and her actress daughter, Cheryl on how they live out their Catholic faith and values amidst a busy corporate schedule and the ‘glam’ life. It will be moderated by veteran emcee Bernard Lim.
Monsignor Ambrose Vaz, the spiritual director of ACF, will wrap up the event by summarising the day’s proceedings. The question is: What will the outlook be for the Catholic family?
By Jeanette Alexander and Joanne Koh
Support available for Catholic divorcees
“I felt like I had failed my Catholic faith and that there would be a lot of judgement and condemnation. And then I stumbled upon the Catholic’s Divorce Survival Guide programme…
It provided me with a wonderful support network of people facing the same hurts and grievances in dealing with marital breakdown. Indeed, healing comes from sharing… and that was what I needed! Being surrounded by fellow Catholics was cathartic. A shared faith. Similar journeys. That made a significant difference to me.
The power of community support and sharing of fears, failures and doubts helped me draw strength. I appreciated the diverse topics covered, from dealing with the turmoil of emotions like anger, depression, grief, loneliness, to seeking healing, forgiveness and even the practical aspects of handling money. All this with the reminder that God is always at the centre of our lives. It was so liberating!” - FL
The Archdiocesan Commission for the Family is organising its second run of The Catholic’s Divorce Survival Guide (CDSG) programme. Find out more in the events section below
In this edition of “My Family Moment”, Member of Parliament Christopher De Souza, shares his special memory of being family.
Can you recall a particular occasion, event or circumstance that defined for you what being a family is all about?
Family is a key part of my life -- I rely on the encouragement of my parents, the assurances from my wife, Sharon, and the prayers of our two daughters, Elizabeth and Hannah. Truthfully, the daily responsibility of legal and MP duties is made lighter because of their faithful and quiet support, for which I am very grateful.
The question asks for an example. It would have to be the Prevention of Human Trafficking Bill, which was recently tabled in Parliament and passed into law. Because it was a Private Member’s Bill, I had to conceptualise the Bill, refine it and consider the ideas and solutions proposed by hundreds of members of public and several governmental agencies. My family realised the large effort that was required to craft the Bill and so they decided to come to the public consultation sessions, to support me, and to also provide their feedback on why some of the proposals were worthy of further consideration.
Were there expressions of joy or quiet affirmations from your family?
Yes. After 6 public consultations, and 10 inter-agency meetings, the Bill was tabled in Parliament, a year and a half later, in 2014. As a show of their support for the ethos of the Bill - that Singapore society should protect the vulnerable - my parents and wife sat in the public gallery in Parliament during the lengthy final debate on the Bill. In the end, the Bill gained the unanimous support of all MPs present. It is now called the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, and is part of Singapore Law. That my family was with me through that journey made its conclusion even more meaningful. My parents-in-law were also very supportive and I am grateful to them too.
What does family mean to you?
During home visits in the constituency, I have met parents and grandparents who face difficult circumstances in life, which they never imagined would happen. Their determination to overcome those circumstances is very inspiring. I think that is what family is about – overcoming life’s adversities together, rejoicing once those adversities are surmounted, and relishing the togetherness that prevails. For my family, Sharon and I hope that our girls will walk closely with the Lord and rejoice in His faithfulness.
Catholic singer-songwriter Corrinne May shares her thoughts on various family moments and matters being a daughter, sister, wife and mother in Singapore and Los Angeles in this monthly column.
I love seeing fathers play with their children, or carrying their child in a baby carrier. There is just something heartwarming about the romancing of the child by the father. After all, the child has a natural biological attachment to the mother, having to be fed on her breast milk and to be nurtured close to her heart, at least for the first few years of the child’s life. But the father has to romance the child. It is a relationship that is built on a growing mutual love, respect and trust.
I am blessed to have a loving father who among other things, taught me how to swim, how to cycle and has been an emotional anchor in my life. Through his example, I looked for the same qualities in a spouse. I looked for someone with a kind, loving heart. Someone with whom I could share deep conversations with. Someone who would be there for me, no matter what.
I found all these qualities and more in my husband Kavin. And it gladdens my heart to see him nurturing and fathering our daughter Claire.
I recently went to Los Angeles for two weeks on a writing trip and left Claire in the care of Kavin in Singapore. Their father daughter relationship has blossomed over the years and it’s lovely to see how their relationship has grown to a level where Claire trusts her father to take care of her physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
Kavin chose, as his confirmation name, the name ‘Joseph’ after St. Joseph. I imagine that Joseph must have been a loving father to Jesus, and that he must have been a very hands-on father, teaching Jesus carpentry, the Jewish prayers, playing games and sports with Jesus and carrying the child Jesus in his arms whenever Jesus had a fall and hurt himself, as children inevitably do.
I find myself reflecting too on how Jesus wants us to relate to our heavenly Father. What a blessing it is to be able to call God our Father! A Father who provides ‘Our Daily Bread’, who ‘forgives us our trespassers’. A loving Father who wants the very best for us and yearns for us to trust and obey His will. A Father, who like the father of the Prodigal Son, runs to greet us when we decide to come back home to Him.