Fr Leonard E Dollentas
“I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!” (Luke 12:49)
On December 11, 1821, Father Laurent Ilbert, a French Catholic priest of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP), was the first Catholic priest to set foot on Singapore’s shore to minister to the country’s growing population. This marked the beginning of the Catholic Church in this port city, and the smallest Southeast Asian nation. This year, and 200 years later the Archdiocese of Singapore is celebrating this special anniversary with a year-long celebration called Catholic200SG to deepen the faith of the Singapore Catholics, that comprise about 360,000 faithful spread across 32 parishes.
Archbishop William Goh Seng Chye, the present Archbishop of Singapore said that this historic milestone would be an opportunity to revitalize the Catholics in Singapore. “We want to celebrate with gratitude and thanksgiving how far we have come. We must empower our Catholics today to be vibrant in their faith and evangelize. And we should inspire all to work for a future when humanity and creation find completion in God,” he said.
Colorful and meaningful events have been organized to mark the celebration. Fr. Valerian Cheong co-chair of the Singapore Catholic200SG conveyed in an interview his joy for this event: “We want to celebrate with gratitude and with thanksgiving how far we have come as Church today.” The organized events include, among others musical talent shows and a number of faith talks that will be held throughout the year. Considering the pandemic time, some of the events will be participated by the faithful virtually. The organizers designed the events to include as well the most important detail in the celebration: spiritual and community activities to deepen the faith of their communities. Thus, the Catholic community as a whole and in the parishes will attend prayers to joyfully celebrate as one in thanking God for their past, and reflect the challenges of living out their faith in the present.
As Singapore focuses on developing its human resources in addition to its infrastructure, the church deemed it significant to also contribute spiritually on various aspects of faith life and its impact on this smart city. Hence, Fr Cheong said that the Singapore Catholic Church would like to invite all Singaporeans, not just Catholics, to join the jubilee initiatives to exchange ideas in order to create “a better and more caring society.”
Consequently, the topics of the Bicentennial conference in the parish level will include “education, business ethics, social responsibility, serving the poor, strengthening family relationships and interreligious dialogue.” Fr Valerian Cheong affirmed that the celebration is an opportunity for the Catholics in Singapore to connect and grow in faith with others: “I would say that Catholic 200SG has been a pivotal moment to show that the church is very ready to adapt. the church is malleable, the church goes with the times so that we can present the message of Christ the message of the gospel in new yet refreshing ways.”
(Photo: Archdiocese of Singapore)