Attendees at the talk present their written prayer petitions personally to Father Stephen Yim. Attendees were given slips of paper earlier to write in their prayer intentions, and several did. Photo by Darren Boon
Influx of Mandarin-speaking foreign workers persuades Christ the King parish to serve and evangelise them
SINGAPORE – Whenever Father Stephen Yim, assistant priest at Church of Christ the King, goes to the shopping centre, he notices a good number of Chinese migrants working at the shops. This observation gave him an idea. Thus when he sat down with the Mandarin-speaking community of Christ the King to discuss about the community’s mission, the idea of an outreach to Mandarin-speaking non- Catholics began to take shape.
Noting that foreign workers are filling jobs in Singapore, Father Stephen told CatholicNews, “If we are going to continue to ignore the Chinese workers and continue to be inward looking and focus on the local Singaporeans then we have lost touch with reality.”
“When we step out of church, we see a harvest… a huge opportunity for us to share about the Catholic faith to these Mandarin-speaking migrants. The Church seems to be a bit slow in doing that,” he said. “We cannot ignore they’re here to stay… if we continue to neglect the Mandarin-speaking workers, then we are neglecting them at our own loss,” he added.
He explained that the local Mandarin-speaking community will see the existing older generation passing on, and more of the archdiocese’s younger congregation turning to Mass in English. However, as the overseas Chinese will feel more comfortable with Mandarin, their needs will be attended to without in any way compromising the needs of the local Catholic community.
The idea of the outreach materialised, beginning with a talk “Can Jesus speak Mandarin?” held at Christ the King parish on Jul 4. About 300 attended the talk by Father Stephen, and 72 non- Catholics were among them.
The objective of the evening was to introduce the Catholic faith to Mandarin-speaking non- Catholics, especially those from other countries such as Malaysia, Hong Kong and China working and living in Singapore.
Father Stephen highlighted to those present that the Eucharist is a key difference that sets Catholics and other Christians apart. “During Mass, bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. For Catholics, the Body and Blood of Christ is real, not symbolic,” he said.
Father Stephen also shared three important prayers in Catholic spirituality – Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. “Prayer helps us to communicate and build a relationship with God,” he told the audience.
Sun Jian, 24, a Chinese migrant worker said that the the Body and Blood of Christ is “special” having heard a talk about the Eucharist for the first time. She said that her prior knowledge of Jesus Christ was only that of He died on Good Friday and rose again on Easter Sunday.
Ge Wei, 27, another Chinese migrant worker said that it is his first time at a Roman Catholic church. He said: “I feel an inner peace inside me. I can forget about all unhappy things. The feeling is good.”
Francis Yeo, late 50s, chairman of the parish’s Mandarin-speaking community described the turnout as “encouraging” and is heartened that that both the English-speaking and Mandarin-speaking parishioners made a concerted effort to invite non-Catholic friends and relatives to the event.
Meanwhile, the Mandarin-speaking community intends to further its outreach to the non- Catholics who attended the event through sending SMS to their mobile phones to enquire if they would like to know more about the Catholic faith. “We will follow up with them if their responses are positive. The purpose of the SMS is to be non-intrusive in our approach,” Mr Yeo said.
By Darren Boon