SINGAPORE – This year’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations on Apr 12 started out on a serious note. Father Andrew Wong, parish priest of Church of the holy Spirit where the service was held, highlighted the shortage of priestly vocations. He provided statistics to drive home the point that priests seem to be an endangered species.
Father William Goh, Rector of St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary, thanked the 200 faithful who turned up this year for the service. He said that their presence showed that they cared, which was an encouragement as the priests at the seminary and the various vocation promotion teams often feel like lonely prophets trying to convince the archdiocese of the urgent need to promote vocations.
He gave two reasons why there appears to be a false sense of security among Catholics in the Archdiocese of Singapore – one, there are a number of Masses every Sunday with two to three priests serving each parish; two, the Catholic church seems vibrant.
He warned those present at the service not to be fooled and spoke about the consequences. One of these is that priests will be reduced to just being Ministers of the Sacraments as they will have no time to be teachers of the Word and leaders of the community; these roles will have to be outsourced to lay people.
Father William commented that Catholics are leaving the church once they are confirmed. The church is not as vibrant as it seems; out of the 324,000 Catholics in Singapore, about 174,000 are foreigners including the migrant workers. Take them away, and the church will be half-empty, he continued. The effects will only be seen in two generations’ time and by then, it will be difficult to reverse the trend, he said.
Following this homily, youths of the parish led the congregation in praise and worship, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for adoration, intercessory prayers were led by the Serra Club of Singapore and Vespers by seminarians; and Benediction was held.
Archbishop Nicolas Chia celebrated the sunset Mass and, in his homily, he advisd the youths to focus on what God wants them to do and not what they want or what their parents want for them. He encouraged families to create an atmosphere of faith as this will play a part to foster more vocations. He urged the faithful to continue to pray for more vocations and to serve in the parish vocation teams or in Serra Club.
A vocation prayer was then said to implore the Lord to conquer with the Holy Spirit the resistance and delays in indecisive hearts (of those called) and arouse in them the courage of love’s answer: "Here I am, send me!"