Father Anselm Phang, OCD readies Liu Shu Min for baptism. Photo by Darren Boon
SINGAPORE – Native Chinese Liu Shu Min left his Hebei province home about two years ago to work in Singapore in order to provide a better life for his family. Little did he expect to return home a Christian baptised with the name “Joseph”.
A fellow native Chinese working and staying at the same place as Mr Liu had introduced him to Mandarin faith formation classes held every third Sunday of the month at the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul.
The newly baptised Mr Liu said he was touched by the volunteers and speakers’ support and encouragement during the classes.
“They never expected anything from us in return,” he said in Mandarin. “All they hoped is for us to know about the Catholic faith, and that our spiritual needs will be met.”
Mr Liu was one of two persons who received the Sacraments of Initiation on Mar 7 in a Mass attended by about 60 people and celebrated by parish priest Father Anselm Phang.
Andrew Ren Qin De, 41, a Christian who was received into communion with the Catholic Church that same day, said that volunteers of the faith formation classes have set a very good example to the migrants workers.
The volunteers, said Mr Ren, are welcoming and concerned of the migrants’ needs, and provide the migrants the feeling of having a family and home.
Both men credit the volunteers for playing part in their conversion to Catholicism.
They are the first Chinese migrant workers from the faith formation classes to be received into the Church.
The faith formation classes were started last October by a group of Mandarin-speaking Catholics concerned for the pastoral and spiritual needs of Chinese migrant workers in Singapore.
The Sacraments of Initiation were celebrated before Easter because the men had to return to China before their work permits expire in March, explained volunteer Francis Teo.
Corina Cheong, from the parish RCIA team, was present that night, and she praised the volunteers’ efforts.
“We need this kind of facility for Chinese migrant workers. They might have heard of the Catholic faith. This is one way to help them witness the faith,” she said.
The volunteers have made plans to follow up and reach out to the migrants who have returned to China.
“We’re not stopping here,” said Mr Teo. “We intend to go to China to visit them in a couple of months’ time. We have provided them faith formation here and we want to see their progress. We have advised them to offer their services to the church and we hope to see that they contribute to the Catholic Church in China.”
The volunteers have already established connections with the respective parish priests in the migrants’ hometowns to update them on the latter’s progress and to connect them with their parishes.
The volunteers also endeavour to gather Catholics in the migrants’ hometowns to continue to help form their faith.
Part of the formation here includes getting the migrants involved in various liturgical aspects of the Mass such as lector, choir member, cantor, offertory and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, in the hope of preparing them for parish ministry when they return home.
Meanwhile, Mr Liu said he has learnt a lot from the faith formation classes. He remembered especially the gospel passage of a woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus for judgement.
“I see Christ’s wisdom from this [passage]. He forgives the woman and hopes that the woman will repent. It has taught me not to be vengeful and to be more forgiving of others,” Mr Liu said.
Mr Liu said that he has since learnt to keep in check his bad temper which he referred to as “a devil in the heart”. He has realised that “words can kill” and hurt people, and has since resolved not to do so again. He is grateful that God allows a chance for contrition and forgiveness.
He also shared that embracing the Catholic faith has helped him experience “a conversion of heart” and helped his “heart to find a balance” instead of hankering after money and wealth.
There were times he felt uncertain about embracing Christianity, but the congregation’s affirmation helped dispel his fears.
“Joining the Catholic Church,” he said, “is my lifetime decision, and I’m certain it’s correct.”
By Darren Boon