THE SACRED HEARTS Fathers was founded on Christmas Eve of 1800 during the period of the French Revolution when the church in France was being persecuted.

The mission work of the congregation soon spread outside of Europe and eventually came to Dutch East India (now Indonesia). By the time of the Japanese Occupation in the early 1940s, there were 23 missionaries there. All were interned by the Japanese military. Twelve died. Some of the 11 who survived were imprisoned in Indonesia and the others imprisoned in Changi Prison in Singapore

But it was not until 1958 that the first Sacred Hearts Fathers arrived to serve in Singapore at the invitation of Archbishop Michael Olcomendy.

Father Alfons Bergmans was appointed as chaplain for sailors in the Apostleship of the Sea. Fathers William van Soest and Odo Tiggeloven were given the responsibility to start a new parish in Queenstown, Singapore’s first public high-rise housing estate that was still under construction.

The new parish was named Blessed Sacrament Church and began serving about 300 Catholics living in the Tanglin Halt area from 1963. The church proper was completed by May 1965. Parish priest Father William van Soest not only helped to build the church but also the Catholic community in Queenstown.

Father William van Soest was succeeded by Father Williamde Bruin as parish priest in 1967; Father William de Bruin was succeeded by Father Odo Tiggeloven. Father Albert Renckens, who arrived from Holland to be assistant priest in 1970, became the parish priest in 1972. On May 24, 2004, Father Martin Irawan became parish priest and, on Oct 8, 2006, he was succeeded by Father Anthony Hutjes.

Under the care of the Sacred Hearts Fathers and as a consequence of the population growth in the area because of intensive development, the parish community grew to over 8,000 in the 1970s. It has since declined to about 4,300 members – the result of Queenstown ageing. Older apartment blocks have been vacated for redevelopment and young families have moved to newer residential areas. But the trend may reverse as many new residential apartments are being built in the area now.

Despite the smaller number of parishioners, Blessed Sacrament Church continues to be a vibrant community with many active organizations, including 21 neighbourhood groups.

In years past, the Sacred Hearts Fathers taught catechism in Catholic secondary schools (1945-1972) and assisted in other parishes (1958-1963). They still continue to serve the Archdiocese of Singapore in various ministries.

Father Anthony Hutjes, who has served 33 years at Blessed Sacrament Church, was chairman of Priestly Life Commission (1996-2001). He is the prison chaplain, a judge/advocate in the Church Tribunal and a presenter of Marriage Encounter Weekends. He initiated the all-night vigil every first Friday of the month in honour of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary at the parish and initiated the ALPHA course and CAFÉ programme there.

Father William Langenhuijsen, who arrived in Singapore in 2003, is involved in the pastoral care of the growing Indonesian Catholic community, which includes migrant workers and students, in Singapore.

Father Albert Renckens was ACMA chairman (1992-2004), a lecturer in the St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary (1996-2001) and continues to assist in the parish, remains a confessor to the Carmelite Sisters and teaches Philosophy and Theology at the Singapore Pastoral Institute.

Father Fabian van Lieshout who was assistant priest from 1985 celebrated daily Mass at Maris Stella Convent till 2003 and still celebrates Mass at Villa Francis. He is retired now.

Fathers Renckens and Fabian celebrated the Golden Jubilee of their sacerdotal ordination in 2005.

Father Renckens acknowledges that the missionary aspect of the Sacred Hearts Fathers has been lived well in Singapore. He says, "Our presence here has always been for the local church, not for our own congregation." - By Joyce Gan

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