How the Joo Chiat SCC came into the life of Helence Lim and changed her.
SINGAPORE – Helence Lim did not know the people who turned up to pray at her husband’s wake in 2003. All they said was they were “from the church”. She was soon to find out more about them and become an active member of the group though.
Helence’s husband, John Ko, was 50 when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. A year later, he had asked to go to a church “out of the blue” one day. He was subsequently baptised by Father Erbin Fernandez at Church of the Holy Family. Twenty-seven days after his baptism, he died.
Helence was a staunch Buddhist then but her husband had prayed the Divine Mercy everyday before he died. He would also constantly asked her when she would join him to be a Catholic.
“I couldn’t then but I started praying for help,” Helence related. “I had all these idols in my office and I didn’t know what to do with them. Three months later, a colleague walked in and asked if he could take those idols home for worship.”
“See how good God is?” Helence remarked. During her husband’s wake, “suddenly so many people came to our house”, she said. “We didn’t know about them and they just said they were from the church to comfort and help us.”
The group of people who came to pray and offer comfort were members of the Small Christian Community (SCC) from Church of the Holy Family. The SCC was, in fact, doing what makes an SCC. “SCCs are not meant to be exclusive groups that gather for prayers, fellowship and meals but should be aware of their social mission,” said Holy Family parish priest Father Patrick Goh during the Archdiocesan SCC Day held on Oct 11 at Catholic Junior College. Communities should be encouraged to get to know the people living in their area so they can “recognise, assist and support those in need”, he had said.
There are currently 12 active SCCs at Holy Family parish; representatives from each SCC meet monthly to share reports on their SCCs. This year, a new SCC was formed at Elliot.
A year after her husband’s death, Helence’s mother-in-law, who wanted to be placed next to her son at the Holy Family columbarium, decided to be a Catholic. Andrew Goh, who catechises people at their homes, was asked to prepare her for baptism.
Eventually Helence joined the RCIA too. The day of her baptism (Mar 26) happened to be her birthday. She described her baptism experience as “being reborn”. Helence’s three children were not as enthusiastic. Their father had died just 27 days after his baptism and their grandmother had died 18 months after him, and as a Catholic too.
But having received so much spiritual support from the SCC, Helence wanted to return some good to the Holy Family parish.
She became an active member of the Joo Chiat SCC and now reaches out to those whom she knows are in need.
At RCIA, she met a young woman, Clare Chee.
During her first pregnancy, Clare had almost lost her baby. One night at the hospital, she had suddenly started praying the Our Father that she was familiar with from attending Masses with her Catholic husband, and promised to be baptised if her pregnancy survived. It did. But she did not get baptised then.
Two years later, when she was hoping to conceive again, Clare saw an RCIA banner outside the Holy Family parish. She decided to sign up and three months later she was pregnant. However, her pregnancy was unstable and she was confined to bed, which meant she could not attend RCIA.
Helence arranged for Andrew Goh, once more, to catechise Clare at home.
“Even with her busy schedule, Helence made an effort to accompany me during my home sessions,” Clare said.
During the end of Clare’s second trimester, she experienced serious bleeding late one night and was certain she would miscarry. She called Helence who immediately brought her to the hospital. The pregnancy was stabilised, she eventually gave birth to twins and was baptised with Helence as her godmother.
“My husband and I have always found Helence to be an inspiration, because despite her own difficulties with her health and impossibly busy schedule, she always made time to help others,” Clare said.
Paul Pang and his mother are also beneficiaries of Helence’s help. When Paul’s father took ill in July this year, the Joo Chiat SCC members started showing up to offer support and help. Paul’s father passed away in July.
“Thank God for [the SCC],” Paul said. “They helped us to take care of all the little details. They have done this before whereas we were lost – we just didn’t know what to do!” he said. The SCC took care of the wake and funeral details, even the cremation and selection of a niche at the columbarium, thus easing the burden on the grieving family.
“You may not think you need the SCC and vice versa but when there’s a need, someone can take care of you. It’s a very good support structure for the family,” he added.
Helence said this is exactly what the SCC can do. “Members of our SCC always offer whatever little service or help our group can afford to those in need. We can, through our words and action in the neighbourhood, proclaim our faith. The SCC is very important – it’s like a little church in your neighbourhood.”
She is glad more people are serving more actively. The SCC has also opened six new homes for fellowship.-
What the Joo Chiat SCC does
THE JOO CHIAT SCC holds Bible sharing sessions and Divine Mercy devotions every first week of the month, and rosary sessions every May and October. They operate the church canteen every three months.
Fortnightly meetings are held and these are usually attended by about 30-40 members; the numbers
increase to more than 50 during festive occasions like Christmas and Chinese New Year. It is also during Advent and Lent when more homes are opened to receive guests.
Visits to the poor are made twice a year, except for this year, when only one visit was made to the Gift of Love Home to help in gardening and tending to the old residents.
Every year, the SCC visits St. Joseph Church for the Way of the Cross during Lent.
This year, they visited the Marian shrines – at Churches of Our Lady of Lourdes, Immaculate Heart of Mary and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, all on the same day – to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lourdes and to receive indulgences.
The SCC has an Ad Hoc Hospitality Team and Prayer Team, who visit homes to pray at wakes of the recently deceased. This year, the SCC has arranged for Andrew Goh to give a session on "How to conduct wake prayers for the deceased families".
Members of the SCC offer themselves by sending cancer patients for their chemotherapy and
radiation treatments at the hospitals. The SCC attended SPI’s SCC Day and have just completed SPI’s "Making Connection Series".
Though most members are between 50 to 76 years old, they are always ready to help others when needed.
By Joyce Gan, TheCatholicNews