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From Vision to Reality
In four concrete steps, every Catholic in Singapore can play a role in realising the vision of the Archdiocese
When Archbishop William Goh assumed office in 2013, he called for a more vibrant, missionary and evangelistic Church in Singapore.
Several priests, religious and lay leaders within the archdiocese responded to his call by stepping up to develop a 10-year pastoral plan to realise the vision.
“It is the desire of our Lord that all of humanity would become one family of God, and what the Lord desires is what we also dream for our Church, country, and the whole of humanity,” Archbishop William said.
But such a vision will remain merely a dream if Catholics in Singapore do not actively participate in the mission and vision of the Church.
“The goal of the Archdiocese of Singapore is to be more vibrant, missionary and evangelistic. But these are simply abstract words if there are no concrete plans to reach there,” explained Mr Andrew Sng and Mr Benedict Cheong, board members of the Catholic Foundation and Caritas Singapore respectively.
They have been working together to assist archdiocesan organisations align with the pastoral vision of the archdiocese through four key thrusts: to rekindle our faith; to renew our people; to revitalise our outreach; and to refresh our structures.
“These four thrusts not only provide archdiocesan organisations a framework to review and align themselves to the pastoral plan, but also represent four concrete steps every Catholic—priest, religious and laity alike—can actively participate in to bring the vision of the archdiocese to life,” said Mr Sng.
Into the third year of the 10-year pastoral plan, the archdiocese is at a critical point in its voyage. With the active embrace and involvement of every Catholic in Singapore, an exciting and grace-filled future is truly within reach for the Church.
Rekindling our Faith
“Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5) was the Apostles’ prayer to Jesus when they realised that faith, which is a gift from God, is the only way of having a personal relationship with Him and fulfilling their vocation as disciples.
The Church believes that it is faith that moves mountains, and faith that leads anyone to proclaim the Gospel.
Thus, the first step to truly becoming a vibrant Church, is for every Catholic to have a deep and personal relationship with Christ.
To this end, several organisations in the archdiocese help Catholics from all walks of life rekindle and constantly deepen their faith.
This includes the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family (ACF), Office for New Evangelisation (ONE), Office for Young People (OYP) and Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC), among others.
Renewing our People
This involves helping Catholics to constantly renew their knowledge and understanding of God.
To quote Pope St John Paul II in his 1998 encyclical, Fides et Ratio, “faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth”. A personal relationship with God, and a deep knowledge of Him, go hand in hand.
This is important especially for Catholics who are employed in the Church, who hold important positions in ministries, as well as the priests and religious in Singapore.
There are several organisations in the archdiocese dedicated to promoting faith formation, including the Office for Catechesis (OFC), Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore (CTIS) and Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools (ACCS).
Revitalising our Outreach
Core to every Christian is a commitment to “love your neighbour” (Mt 22:39), especially the poor and the marginalised.
In Singapore, they do not necessarily hold up tin cans. They come in different forms—the migrant workers, the handicapped, the unemployed, and many others.
To be more missionary and evangelistic in its work, the Church in Singapore aims to find better and more effective ways to reach out to them.
To coordinate the social mission of the archdiocese, organisations such as Caritas Singapore and Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiatives Singapore (CHARIS), were established.
The recent establishment of Agape Village in Toa Payoh also enables the archdiocese to provide holistic and integrated care to the poor and marginalised.
Refreshing our Structures
The final approach to realising the archdiocese’s vision is refreshing our structures, which encompasses the Church’s operating procedures, good management, governance and the physical structures.
The archdiocese set up the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning of Resources team (ASPR) as a “think tank” to strategise the use of the Church’s resources. Other organisations like the Archdiocesan Finance Commission and the Chancery also ensure good management of the Church in the areas of accounting and Human Resource.
At the same time, the Church also hopes to provide every Catholic a space to gather, worship and serve God.
Overseeing such issues are organisations like the Archdiocesan Land & Properties Singapore (ALPS).
Oh Wanderer, Come Home
“God’s love endures, is forever faithful and is truly present even in the times we unknowingly walk away from Him,” shares Ms Angeline Ho, one of 71 participants at the Treasure Young Adults Encounter Retreat organised by the Office for Young People (OYP) in February this year.
Typically organised twice a year, these retreats are intended to help young working adults rekindle their faith and discover a personal relationship with Christ.
Before attending the retreat, the 28-year-old travelled extensively and worked long hours at a public relations agency to sustain her globetrotting lifestyle. “I’ve always considered myself to be a wanderer in life and was rather proud of it,” Ms Ho admits.
However, she realised that this lifestyle had unwittingly led her to feeling lost.
“I was going through life without any real purpose, working day to day and finding comfort in my travels as an excuse to inject some sort of meaning in my life,” she said.
By God’s promptings through her friends, Ms Ho decided to attend Treasure.
On the first night, she was struck by the words “oh wanderer, come home”, which were flashed on a screen during a time of prayer.
“It felt like it was a personal invitation from God gently calling me to come back to Him, to stop claiming my identity as a wanderer and to claim my identity as His beloved one,” she said.
Today, Ms Ho believes that “God is my life’s greatest treasure”, and encourages other young adults like her to “have hope! Because God is forever faithful and is always ready for you to come home.”
The Office for Young People (OYP) is one of several organisations in the archdiocese which seek to help Catholics in Singapore rekindle their faith. For OYP, the focus is on young people aged between 16 and 35 years old.
The Head and Heart of a Catechist
At first glance, one might not expect that the Basic Catechist Certification (BCC) course offered by the Office for Catechesis (OFC) would benefit a catechist of eight years.
But Mr Gerard Ang, who catechises to 10-year-olds at the Church of the Holy Family, has found that “the programme imparted to me not just theological knowledge, but has also provided me with spiritual formation, addressing questions of who I am as a catechist, what I catechise, and how I catechise.”
Mr Ang first learnt about the BCC programme in 2013, and attended it out of curiosity. But he shares, “What made me stay and complete all the modules is having seen the positive impact it has made on my role as a catechist.”
After applying what he learned from the course, Mr Ang noticed that the tone of each catechetical session became more peaceful and prayerful.
“I can see that a majority of the children are now much more engaged, and more eager in their participation and responses,” he said.
Mr Ang shares that he now better understands the role of a catechist is less that of a teacher delivering theoretical content, but more of “a steward, acting as God’s instrument to help every child encounter the real person of Jesus.”
Today, he continues to attend the BCC modules to refresh himself. He says, “I truly hope all catechists in the archdiocese can make time to attend OFC’s BCC programme, so that we are better equipped to lead the children entrusted to us to a personal relationship with God, our Father”.
OFC supports the faith formation of children, youth and adult catechumens in parishes and is one of the organisations in the archdiocese that offer programmes for Catholics to constantly renew their knowledge of the faith.
Ministry through Community
As part of the archdiocese’s vision to revitalise the Church’s outreach, the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerant People (ACMI), a Caritas Singapore partner, expanded from a service-focused to community-focused ministry.
ACMI has, for years, provided Skills Development Programmes for migrant workers, regardless of race, language or religion. In recent years, the team found new ways to use this as a means to also build a spirit of community.
Ms Lynie Porras Silao is a domestic helper in Singapore who benefitted from one of ACMI’s Skills Development Programmes.
She arrived in Singapore some 15 years ago, and was blessed to work with wonderful employers and their children. She recalled, “I was excited, but didn’t know what to expect either. Like many Filipinos, when you are scared, the first place you go to is the Church.
“I saw the baking course in the ACMI website. I went for it and found that I liked baking. And when I baked, the children really liked it, and that made me feel more confident,” she said.
After completing her course, Ms Lynie continued to volunteer her time with ACMI, and is now a trainer in ACMI’s programmes.
“It makes me happy to see how other people are benefiting from the course. Whatever I have learnt from ACMI, I can now share, and I love to share,” she relates.
Besides ACMI, there are 25 other Catholic charities affiliated with Caritas Singapore.