This is what some of our lay Catholics are doing with their gifts.
AFTER A VISIT to Manila for a conference by the Episcopal Commission for Migrants and Itinerant people, Bridget Lew's eyes "were opened" to the plight of migrant workers around the world, and over time, she learnt that they faced a similar plight in her own country.
"Migrants are the poorest of the poor in Singapore," she shared. "They are the least protected, most poorly paid, most exploited, with little choice of work. They are discriminated against, and there is a lack of social justice because they don't know their rights."
Under the leadership of the late Father Andy Altamirano, CICM, and strong financial help from his religious order, Bridget Lew started the Archdiocesan Commission for the pastoral care of Migrants and Itinerant people (ACMI) in June 1998. She was president of the commission until her resignation in April 2004.
After her departure from the commission, she continued her work using her own resources, and set up the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) in September that same year. Her vision for HOME is to build up a "culture of welcome" in Singapore, where the whole society of Singaporeans welcomes guest workers because "migrant workers are always at the mercy of our hosts as they lack knowledge of our language and our laws".
HOME is now a registered charity organization. Besides providing financial aid, legal services, and vocational training, it also manages three shelters, two for women and one for men. Free board and lodging are provided for 'destitute' migrants.
There are currently 60 women and 20 men housed in these shelters. The organization also offers financial aid and care to the migrant workers who stay with them.
"A hospitable society that welcomes strangers is a Christian society," she said. "Conversely, if we don't welcome them, we don't welcome Christ."
Bridget Lew is a committed migrant workers advocate.
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IRENE LOH'S JOB takes her abroad for audit and troubleshooting. Whenever she visits another country, be it on business or on holiday, she makes an effort to visit some Catholic homes and churches while she is there.
"I always insist to have non-Christian locals bring me there," she shared, "telling them that I do not know the place and I need assistance."
Her action exposes the non-Christian locals to some Catholic mission homes and, more often than not, the locals return to these homes to help or to give financial assistance.
Her company also supplies personnel for commercial ships. She has made available daily scriptural reflections via Internet to some of their personnel. These reflections are printed out and displayed on notice boards. As reading material is limited on board the ship, the reflections are read by almost everyone.
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Dr John Hui spreads the message of the dignity of life.
EVER SINCE HE was a medical student, John Hui was saddened by the loss of respect for life as evidenced by the increasing numbers of abortions taking place throughout the world, not least in Singapore. The strong desire to do something about it led him later to help out with the Celebration of Life movement in Family Life Society, as well as the Catholic Medical Guild. This included organizing seminars and workshops on respect for life, sexuality, marriage and so on.
"It was through my involvement in this apostolate for life that I realized that being against abortion was not the only issue," Dr Hui said. "It was a lot more than that."
It was seeing every human being as a person made in the image and likeness of God that was the basis of his mission, both in his work as a doctor and in his ECA (extra clinic activities).
It was only through this vision of every human person that he was able to see more clearly, and find meaning, in his work. And because promoting the sanctity of life, the sanctity of the human person, led him to attend talks, seminars, workshops and courses related to this apostolate, he was able to appreciate even better his vocation as a doctor, and also the vocation of husband and father.
"So in actual fact I was benefiting more from my involvement in these ECAs than contributing to them!" Dr Hui remarked. "I guess that is our vocation, isn't it, to respond to whatever our Good Lord calls us to, with whatever gifts we have been given. I don't see it as 'Oh! I'm doing something for God, I'm serving God in this way.' No - it is more like 'Lord, if this is what you want me to do, okay, I'll do it in whatever way you think fit - you know best. It is merely my response to you who love me so much.'"
God's guidance through this will bring so much peace, consolation, and fulfilment, Dr Hui said.
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Aloysius and Tony Tay
WILLING HEARTS is a society that was formed to "feed the hungry", according to its president Aloysius Tay. His father Tony is a printer who learnt that stall owners in Bendemeer Market often had leftover unsold vegetables and meat at the end of the day.
With the help of several volunteers, he collected the food, cooked it, and distributed it to foreign construction workers in the Serangoon Road area.
About two years ago, the group of volunteers organized themselves into a society called Willing Hearts. Today, the society relies on volunteers and people of "willing hearts" to contribute their time, money or effort to feed the hungry, "whether they be Catholic, Buddhist or Hindu", shared Aloysius. "We want to reach out to every child of God."
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Raymond Fernando (with wife Doris in photo) is a fi ne example of a caregiver.
RAYMOND FERNANDO has a wife, Doris, who has suffered from the mental disease, schizophrenia since she was 17. He has cared for her for the past 30 years and she has recovered from it with the help of medication and counselling.
In 2004, he wrote the book "Loving A Schizophrenic" based on his experiences with the aim of giving hope to sufferers of mental illness and their caregivers.
He has written letters to the media to raise public awareness of their needs, and conducted talks, giving advice based on his experiences as a caregiver. He has also encouraged other past sufferers of mental illness to write their own stories to edify and encourage more people. One such person who has benefited was Dr Rita Goh, whose story was televised on Singapore television's "Life Story" on Jul 4 this year.
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Felicia Low uses her artistic gift to help others.
FELICIA LOW is one out of three teachers selected among 2,600 candidates for "The Outstanding Youth in Education" award last year.
A former CHIJ Toa Payoh and CJC student, she is into her sixth year teaching at CHIJ Katong Convent. She is also the head of the art department. Felicia teaches the Normal Technical classes and she welcomes this opportunity to nurture her students who do not do well academically, in art.
"She sees hope in every child and [counselling aside], she disciplines them with dignity," her fellow teacher said. Felicia never rushes her students. Rather, she lets their potential unfold in their own time. She had first seen this need to help disadvantaged children after she graduated, when she volunteered at the Galilee Centre that helps children from poor families.
Felicia has also collaborated with the Singapore General Hospital on exhibition workshops, working with patients and inspiring them through art pieces that celebrate life and hope. She contributes her time to the prisons ministry as well. She had realized she "can't reach out to those I really want to help [express themselves through art] because they have dropped out of school or are in remand centres".
Her need for outreach developed into a new society of artist-teachers registered as "Arts Without Limits". Today she conducts workshops during school holidays, together with artists and social workers, to help inmates deal with issues they may have. She constantly reminds herself, "you find God through the work you do, in interactions with [people]. That's when God manifests himself".