Father Christopher Lee baptises a woman on Mar 14. She is one of the 16 elderly to be catechised by Andrew Goh. Photo by Darren Boon
SINGAPORE – For over 17 years, Andrew Goh (right) has instructed elderly folk in the Catholic faith in their own dialects of Cantonese, Teochew, Hokkien, Hainanese, in addition to the Malay/Patois and English languages.
To date, he has taught catechism to over 900 elderly and prepared them for baptism. Most recently, 16 elderly received the Sacraments of Initiation on Mar 14 at the Church of the Holy Family.
Mr Goh’s ongoing classes at Holy Family parish on Thursday afternoons and Novena Church on Saturday mornings continue to draw about 50 people per session, some of whom have already been baptised.
Former Holy Family parish priest Father Chan started the Malay/Patois catechism classes in 1976. Mr Goh continued the classes when Father Chan fell ill and included Chinese dialects.
But his classes are not limited to these places. He also shares the faith with the elderly in their own homes, or even at void decks and coffee shops when the elderly are worried that “the deities in their homes will get angry”, he told CatholicNews.
While teaching, Mr Goh, aged 73, a New Evangelisation Team (NET) alumnus, uses analogies and mnemonics to help the elderly remember various aspects of the faith. For example, he first helps them associates the name Matthew with McDonald’s: Matthew was a tax collector, and McDonald’s collects money in exchange for a burger.
Then by teaching the elderly to remember the mnemonic “Matthew does have the ‘mak’ (a Teochew word for ‘eyes’ that sounds like ‘Mark’) who will look (Luke) at John”, they will be able to recall the names of the four gospels.
Mr Goh also uses numbers to help them remember certain passages. For example, the number ‘5212’ is associated with the passage where Jesus taught 5,000 people, fed them with five loaves of bread and two fish, with 12 baskets full of scraps left over.
Mr Goh receives most his students through word-of-mouth and by means of introductions. Some elderly cannot go to RCIA classes because they are doing shift work or looking after family members, he explained.
CatholicNews spoke to several elderly with Mr Goh as interpreter.
Teochew-speaking Martha Teow, 73, said her decision to become Catholic was influenced by her Catholic children and that that she “feels peaceful after believing in Jesus and believes that her family will be protected and remain peaceful”.
Cantonese-speaking May Chan, 79, echoed Madam Teow’s sentiment.
Michael Loi, Madam Chan’s son, is overjoyed at her baptism.
He said: “It was not an easy thing to get into because for a long time, she wasn’t sure if she wants to be Catholic, and [it’s not easy] finding the right people who can conduct sessions for her [in dialect] so that she can understand.”
But Mr Goh’s classes sparked off Madam Chan’s interest, and she made her own decision to convert.
Mr Loi who has sat in on Mr Goh’s classes described the latter as animated and uses examples such as food to help the elderly relate to the faith.
One difficulty that Mr Goh finds in this ministry is that sometimes the elderly find it hard to make up their mind whether or not to embrace the Catholic faith. Some take as long as 10 years to reach a decision, but for Mr Goh, it doesn’t matter. He will just continue to share the Catholic faith for as long as he can.
By Darren Boon