Father Paul Tong (extreme right) and retirees singing and grooving to the music of the community song.
Photo by Darren Boon

SINGAPORE – John Lim, 61, has retired twice, his first time was at age 40. Having no concrete plans after retirement and feeling aimless, he returned to work about a year later.

He pursued career advancements, money, and status which he achieved when he became president of a publicly listed company. Each day was filled with meetings, and making decisions on business expansion and profits-making.

Only after the demise of friends and relatives did John start to realise he was facing an existence without meaning and joy. Finally, at age 56, he retired to offer his time and energy to the church.

As he reflected on his strengths and talents, he understood that he is good at communication. After attending a nine-month counselling course, and forming his faith through bible study, he got involved with the Mandarin-speaking RCIA.

Later, Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish priest Father Henry Siew approached John to reach out and minister to migrant workers from China. In retrospect, John said that his work experience in China had prepared and enabled him to communicate to these workers with openness and without prejudice.

John was one of four persons who shared their involvement with the church with about 50 retirees at Church of St. Teresa on Mar 5.

The Commission for Apostolate for Mandarin-speaking (CAMS) Spirituality Team organised its first recollection day “The joy of retired life” for the Mandarin-speaking retirees.

Group sharing followed main speaker Father Paul Tong’s talk.

In his talk, Father Tong, 82, said that people face life changes after voluntary or involuntary retirement, and that some will find it difficult to adapt. As such, he encouraged retirees to be people of faith, hope and courage, rather than resist changes and wallow in self-pity, as “we are all God’s children and meant to lead joyful lives”.

He also encouraged those present to use their time to be of service to others.

“God gave us time. And time is precious and it is also going to be up. We must use whatever time we have to benefit ourselves and others,” he said.

He suggested younger retirees and those in relatively good health to help other retirees, instead of depending on the CAMS Spirituality Team to do so.

Feedback from the group sharing showed that most retirees present that day said that their lives were joyful.

Jane Tan from the Spirituality Team noted that many who attended the event are active in parish activities, and that their participation helped launch the programme.

However, the Spirituality Team was concerned about being unable to reach out to retirees whose lives are in distress. As such, Ms Tan hoped that participants of the talk would organise similar talks and activities in their own parishes to reach out to retirees leading unhappy lives.

Eric Choo, 65, a retiree of 10 years, said that the talk was a good reminder for retirees on the importance of finding joy and how to use their time for God.

Mr Choo currently spends his time looking after his grandchildren, and helping his wife with household chores. He also attends weekday Masses and bible study classes.

“I think I can still do better. I don’t have a good education, but as long it’s within my abilities, I’m willing to work with and assist the younger and more knowledgeable Catholics,” he said.
By Darren Boon
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