Expected completion date in June 2018, located within St Joseph’s Church
(Bukit Timah)



Archbishop William Goh being assisted in using an excavator to dig up a piece of earth during the groundbreaking ceremony on Oct 26.

A new stage in the history of the Catholic Church in Singapore was marked at a groundbreaking service to kickstart construction works of the new Seminary and Formation Building.

The event was held within the compound of St Joseph’s Church (Bukit Timah), where the new building will stand.
Archbishop William Goh was joined by fellow priests including Fr James Yeo, rector of the Catholic Theological Institute Of Singapore (CTIS) and Msgr Ambrose Vaz, rector of the seminary, during the celebration held on Oct 26.

Others present included seminarians, staff and students from CTIS and members of the project building committee.

“[Spiritual] formation is a very important aspect of the 10-year vision and mission of this diocese. It is a key pillar in the framework of evangelisation,” said Archbishop Goh in his address.

Noting that it was “not possible to maintain the old seminary in Punggol as there were too few seminarians”, he said that the Church “needed to find a place that is conducive, realistic, cost-saving and one that maximises resources, in terms of finance and land space.”

The new building would also boost the formation of laypeople at CTIS, said Archbishop Goh.

“Besides just forming priests, we need more full-time workers to be well-formed in the Church. They too need to work and collaborate with priests,” he said.


Archbishop Goh blessing the cornerstone of the building.

Elaborating on the decision to move the seminary from Punggol to this site, Archbishop Goh said that the land in St Joseph’s Church was freehold. “It was never in the plans to move [the seminary], but because of changing circumstances and needs,” a new area was needed. He thanked Fr Edmund Chong, parish priest of St Joseph’s Church, for offering the piece of land.

Archbishop Goh said that the new building will be near Trinity Theological College, “which will provide opportunities for seminarians and laity to learn more about the other Christian traditions and strengthen ecumenical ties.”

He added that being located in the church compound would also allow seminarians to be “close” to laypeople and there may also be collaboration opportunities with the nearby Catholic schools such as Assumption English School and CHIJ Our Lady Queen Of Peace.

Building symbolises ‘start of a new chapter’

      
Fr James Yeo (left) and Msgr Ambrose Vaz each blessing one of the corners of the new Seminary and Formation Building.

After his address, Archbishop Goh was invited into an excavator to dig up a piece of earth for the groundbreaking. He then proceeded to bless the cornerstone of the new building.

Msgr Vaz and Fr Yeo then blessed two corners of the new building.

The two priests and seminarians shared with CatholicNews their thoughts after the event.

Br Simon Ho, 36, who is in his second year of philosophy, said he was looking forward “to be able to work near a parish, one as large as St Joseph’s Church.


An artist’s impression of the four-storey building.

“Previously at Punggol, we were isolated in a sense, away from the archdiocese. As diocesan priests, we are formed for the sake of the people of God. This closer connection with the people would be an important part of our formation,” he said.

Br Andre Tan, 33, who is in his initiation year, agreed with Br Simon. Sharing that he was a parishioner of St Joseph’s Church, he said “the opportunity to be close to the people, I think, would be a good part of my formation.” He added that he was also excited about the new building’s facilities. (See box)

Fr Yeo shared that he hopes the move will bring in more laypeople to study at CTIS. According to him, there are about 280 laypeople currently studying in the theological institute at Waterloo St. “I hope people see what the new building has to offer instead of worrying about the possible extended travel distance.”


Artist’s impression of the chapel inside the building.

Msgr Vaz said that “it is a start of a new chapter. A new building, a new location and a reminder of the new challenges of the Church ... The physical newness can also inspire people to recognise the newness in their outlook of the priesthood.”

There are currently 11 seminarians in Singapore, 10 of whom are local and one from Malaysia. They reside in the Church of St Teresa and have their classes there as well as at CTIS.

Since the move away from the St Francis Xavier Major Seminary on Nov 30, 2015, seminarians have been attending classes alongside laypeople at CTIS.

The seminary building in Punggol is currently being used as a retreat venue.

Facilities

The building is expected to be ready for occupation by June 2018. It will comprise a basement and four storeys.
Some of the facilities include:

- Nine classrooms
- A cafeteria
- A multi-purpose hall
- A library
- A chapel
- An inner courtyard and grotto
- Ancillary offices
- 28 bedrooms
- Dining room and kitchen for seminarians
- A gym
- Lounges
- A reading room

By Jared Ng
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