SINGAPORE – ‘Aggie’ is a woman who has always found it hard to refuse someone in need, so whenever she was asked to be a godparent, she agreed. She did not exactly plan to sponsor 17 godchildren.

"They just came to me, even before I was married," explained Agnes Gan, 64, who married in 1966. "At the start, when people asked me to be a godparent, I just accepted."

When her parish priest gave a talk last year on the responsibilities of godparents, however, Aggie, as she is affectionately known, came to realize her enormous responsibility as godparent to so many.

"I realized I must do something about it, so I decided to gather them all," she said on the night of the reunion.

The Aug 16 gathering in her condominium was like nothing she had ever seen or done before. It took her and her husband, Louis, eight months to plan, trace her godchildren’s whereabouts and
make the necessary preparations.

Unfortunately, three of the 17 could not be traced and four who are living overseas could not come. Of the 10 that did attend, two came back from abroad – one from Thailand and one from England – for the occasion.

Ray, 45, who came in from Bangkok, said he was 17-and-a-half when his parents kicked him out of their home. Aggie and Louis, his godparents, took him in for the next eight years, providing for his needs from her own pocket, despite the fact that they already had three children of her own.

"She gave me an allowance, even when it was clear that times were hard. I was an additional mouth to feed, but they never complained," he recounted, even though he remembered overhearing them arguing over financial matters.

"When my younger brother died at the age of 16, I was angry with God and started to curse him," Ray continued.

Soon after, he said, he lost faith in God – until he spoke with Aggie two years ago. "She asked me about my spiritual life, and I told her I hadn’t been going to church. She encouraged me to go, and I started again. I found my faith, and I even started talking with my parents again, which really surprised me."

"I’m really grateful to my godparents. If not for them, I’d have ended up on the streets, taking drugs," Ray said. "Even when I was in prison for hitting my commander during my army days, there were the ones who were there for me."

One goddaughter who could not attend the reunion was Magdalene Koh, mother of the Singaporean Pope Benedict XVI confirmed at World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia, where she is now based. Nonetheless, she sent an email for the occasion in which she described a personal experience of God’s presence. Aggie asked another goddaughter to read it out.

Most of Aggie’s godchildren were family friends, which helped her keep in touch with them. Nine were infants when Aggie became their godmother at their baptism, and the rest were adult converts.

However, at least one fell away from the Christian faith. One godchild, a convert, has since returned to Islam. "We didn’t communicate," said Aggie regretfully. She added, "The most important thing for godparents and godchildren is to communicate with each other."

Encouraged by the turnout at the reunion, Aggie wants to share with other godparents the importance of being a good godparent. She has resolved to stay in close contact with her godchildren. "I lift them up in my prayers everyday," she said.

Father Frans De Ridder explained that a godparent is "someone in whom the godchild can experience what a great calling and privilege it is to be a Catholic."

Canon 872 in the Code of Canon Law says that "in so far as possible, a person being baptized is to be assigned a sponsor" to help to live a Christian life. - by Daniel Tay

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