Terese Huang has been teaching catechism to the elderly and illiterate for about 50 years. She intends to continue for as long as she can.
SINGAPORE – As a member of the Legion of Mary in Hong Kong, where she was living, Terese Huang’s assignment was to go to old folks’ homes to teach catechism. After some 10 years in the ministry, she took a 20-year break. Mrs Huang rejoined the Legion some 20-odd years ago when she moved to Singapore to accompany her husband, an engineer. Once again, her assignment was to teach catechism in old folks’ homes.
“At that time, there were a lot of Cantonese-speaking amahs in the homes,” recalled Mrs Huang, who is married with three children and three grandchildren.
[Amahs are Cantonese-speaking women immigrants employed by families as domestic servants. These are usually illiterate and remain single all their lives.]
“Because they are illiterate, I have to teach them to pray by rote memory,” explained Mrs Huang who is in her mid-70s. “I teach them the faith in story form, by relating the miracles, and encouraging them to live the faith according to the stories [in the gospels].”
Mrs Huang is one of two regular catechists who catechise the old folks in Villa Francis Home for the Aged, which was set up by the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood (FMDM) Sisters in 1973.
She also goes to family homes to instruct individuals in English and Cantonese.
For the completely illiterate, Mrs Huang teaches them the 12 articles of faith contained in the Apostles’ Creed. For the more educated, she journeys with them through the Gospel according to Mark, which is the shortest of the four gospels.
“My joy is to see the old folks get baptised,” said Mrs Huang, who has been godmother to countless elderly residents in the 20-odd years she has been catechising in Singapore. Many of her godchildren pass away not long after their baptism.
She recalled the time when she instructed an old man who had difficulty walking on his own. “On the day of his baptism, I held his arm and walked him down the aisle. It was almost like a wedding,” she laughed at the memory.
“I hope that I will continue [in this ministry] as long as I am able,” she said.
By Daniel Tay