Proud to be Catholic. Proud to be Singaporean.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Last month we gathered as one Church to celebrate 50 years of the Catholic Church’s contribution to nation-building. It was an event like no other. There was little evidence of the traditional pomp and pageantry that one would normally associate with the Catholic Church; something which is often the cause of our pride.

Still, everyone came away deeply inspired, enthralled and enthused, but above all, we left with such a swelling in the hearts it lodged a lump in the throat. Arising from this event, I hear Catholics across Singapore unashamedly proclaiming “I am so proud to be Catholic!’, and every day, more and more are adding to this voice. What brought about this sea change? What is the basis for this pride?

Many have shared that they were moved to the core by the video exposition of the pure zeal, passion and dedication of our church forefathers in the spread of the gospel. These were ordinary men and women with a mission. They lived and breathed that mission, risking life and limb to bring the light of Christ to the ends of the earth. They worked for and among the poorest of the poor; those living on the fringes of society, those shunned and denied a life of dignity in our land. They owed us nothing, yet they left home and family, abandoning all to live and to become one of us. Through their living and their dying, they sowed the seeds of faith so that we in turn can be a part of this great faith community; one that lives in love and in hope. Surely, having such heroes and heroines in our spiritual parentage is a source of pride for us.

More than that, we have reason to be proud that we belong to a community that exists to spread the gospel life of love and care for others; a love rooted in none other than the love of God the Father, encountered through the Son and renewed in the Spirit. That we are able to identify with that passion, because it has been made real to us, is the cause of our new-found pride. We take pride too that as a faith community, we have contributed significantly to making Singapore what it is today. Through education, healthcare and social services, we have improved the lives of millions down the years, and imbued society with values that set others before self. These are eternal and universal values, rooted in the gospel; values such as justice, equality, honesty, integrity, compassion, forgiveness and the dignity of every human life. Only such values will ensure the survival of a people. Indeed, the growth of Singapore is so intrinsically interwoven with the mission of the Church so that any Catholic who claims that he or she is proud to be Catholic must also be equally proud to be Singaporean!

No one can claim to be a good Christian if he or she is not at the same time a good citizen. Although as Catholics, our kingdom is not here on earth, yet, we have a duty to be a good citizen on earth if we are to be admitted as citizens of heaven. What, then, must we do to keep that flame burning in our hearts and in our lives, in our community and in our land, not just for the next 50 years, but the next 1,000 years and more?

Today, if any of us is living a life untouched and unmoved by the faith we profess, it is because we lack the conviction of a mission in life. In this world of individualism, everything is about me, not others. In this world of relativism, there are no values that can be called eternal or be held by all. In this world of materialism, life is reduced to sensual and material enjoyment. We have become a people who have gotten used to being served, and expect to be served, whether at work, at home, in school, at church or in community. We live our lives unconnected with the poverty of the world around us, unconcerned for the needs of our neighbours. We have grown accustomed to a life of privilege, and have come to see our privileges as our right. Our young cannot identify with the struggles of our forefathers. For them, yesterday is history. Tomorrow is another generation’s problem. It is a ‘me, here and now’ generation. Yet, what makes us truly human and truly a developed nation is when we become a people of compassion, united in love, have a deep respect for humanity; and the ability to sacrifice for others, for the future generations, putting God and nation above self.

But, looking at the enthusiasm of our youth at the SG 50 Mass, I am convinced that the light of faith that was brought to Singapore by the early missionaries is still very much alive, albeit hidden in the recesses of our hearts. If all it took was a video to bring to the fore the sense of community and pride in being part of a living tradition that has for 2,000 years lived and died for love, what more if each and every member of our Catholic community steps out to openly manifest that pride in the way we live and move and touch the world we live in! Let us get down to involving ourselves in the lives of those around us, especially those in need. Let us speak up for right living. Let us help to conscientize society to the pitfalls of excessive living. Let us continue in the tradition of our forefathers to live visionary and mission-led lives by making the Good News of Christ, God’s love and mercy incarnated in us so that those who live after us will have a tomorrow that is better than today.

As we celebrate our 50th year of nationhood, let us give thanks to God for the gift of our forefathers, both spiritual and familial, who laid down their lives so that we can reap the fruits of unity, democracy, justice and equality for all peoples, regardless of race, language or religion, and enjoy the peace, happiness and prosperity that we have in Singapore today.

May God continue to keep us ever in His sight, and bless our Church and our land for generations to come, and may we continue to steadfastly work together with those in authority to build a society that is rooted in values that are endearing so that all generations to come can echo the proclamation we make today: “Proud to be Catholic. Proud to be Singaporean”!

Happy National Day! Majulah Singapura!

Archbishop William Goh

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