By Joyce Gan
$4 MILLION SINGAPORE DOLLARS has to be collected over the next four years to rebuild Damien Hall at the Blessed Sacrament Church (BSC).
On Sat, Mar 11, about 120 people attended the groundbreaking ceremony after the 8.30am mass together with five SS.CC. priests who belonged to BSC at different times - Fathers Martin Irawan (now Parish Priest), Anthony Hutjes and Gerardus Suyono (assistant priests), Albert Renckens and Fabian van Lieshout (retired priests).
Father Renckens shared briefly on the history of Damien Hall since 1963 and said that the old will die for the seed of new growth to be planted. This seed was planted the following week with Damien Hall's complete demolishing.
Damien Hall had been well shared between 30 different ministries since 1963. Kindergarten students used the space as an assembly area and playground while migrant workers held their activities and weekend worship sessions there. There were also Alcoholics Anonymous sessions, dance classes, prayer sessions, religious instruction classes, canteen activities, sales of religious articles, library seminars, youth meetings, bible studies and monthly overnight vigils that took place at Damien Hall.
Little wonder then that there was an increasing lack of meeting space in the church. "In addition, more of our space had to be given up due to recent changes beyond our control," Father Martin added. The kindergarten is looking to enlarge its capacity due to a recent Ministry of Education ruling that limits the number of students in one classroom.
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It may be an appropriate time for Damien Hall to begin its rebuilding works since BSC was recently granted conservation status last Sep 26. This means the church is protected as a heritage building for people to enjoy today and in the future. "It is an honour for our parish and it seemed timely for us to look into giving our secondary buildings a somewhat more presentable outlook as well," Father Martin said.
Rebuilding Damien Hall provides the opportunity to enhance and modernise various other services and facilities that BSC provides, such as upgrading the library, classrooms and audio-visual utilities.
Several fund-raising campaigns are in place. Mugs are sold and there was a yearend dinner held to raise funds. Parishioners are pledging their contributions through GIRO aside from the monthly second collection. Father Hutjes has also contributed his books ("The Catholic Church" and "The Catholic Church - A Deeper Perspective") to raise more funds. The team is also preparing appeal letters to be handed to multinational companies for donations. To date, these activities have raised $200,000.
"As many of our parishioners belong to the middle-income and poor families, it is a challenge - especially during the current downstream economy - to raise the amount of money we need by the stipulated deadline," Father Martin said.
Damien Hall was last renovated in 1992 and Father Martin said it is the parish's growing needs that lead to this rebuilding 13 years later.
Donations may be made via crossed cheques payable to "BSC Damien Hall Building Fund" at 1 Commonwealth Drive, Singapore 149603.
The Blessed Sacrament Church (top) makes space for a new Damien Hall to be ready in 2010 after the 43-year-old one was demolished (right).