Monday, 30 June 2008

Rest In Peace Archbishop Emeritus Gregory Yong

The good Lord has graciously called home his servant, Archbishop Emeritus Gregory Yong, on Saturday, 28 June 2008 at 1440hrs at his residence at St. Joseph's Home. He has done his best in fulfilling his heavy responsibility of shepherding the flock of Singapore for over 23 years (1977 - 2000) and the Lord has now called him home to enjoy forever his eternal reward. It was significant that the good Lord decided to call him home on the eve of the Solemnity of St. Peter & Paul, the great princes of the Apostles and a special day for Bishops. It is also beautiful to note that on 1 July 2008, Archbishop Emeritus Gregory Yong would have celebrated his 40th Episcopal Ordination Anniversary. The eternal Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, has wished to bless Archbishop Emeritus Yong with the perfect gift for his 40 years of apostolic service in the episcopal order by taking him home to enjoy forever his embrace of love and peace. What greater reward can a disciple ask for? Let us be united in giving thanks for the life and example of our late Archbishop Emeritus Gregory Yong as we prepare as a local Church to bid him farewell till we meet again in the feast of heaven.

Here are some photos of Archbishop Yong when he came to Kampung Punggol in 2007 to celebrate his 82nd Birthday.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Prophets are Born in the Belly of God’s Grief

This evening, Fr Andrew Wong preached an insightful homily over here at Holy Spirit Church where I am staying as I do my pastoral work over at the nearby Gift of Love Home run by the Missionaries of Charity.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us that you will know a tree by its fruits and similarly, Fr Andrew highlighted that you will know a true prophet based on what he stands for. Fr Andrew shared that prophets and profit never go together. Similarly, true prophets of God are born in God’s grief. A prophet is one who shares in God’s grief over all that has gone wrong in the world and whose heart aches for the pain of God’s people. It is from within this grief that a prophet arises to bring God’s exhortation and encouragement. This point kind of struck me and stayed with me the whole evening.

Indeed, a prophet is only needed when there is some truth that God needs to highlight; some changes that he needs to implement; when the healing of a broken world is needed whilst heralding the coming Kingdom of God. A prophet never arises for himself or for nothing. He is always a messenger of conversion; of metanoia – of a radical turning back unto God.

This led me to reflect on how it is also true that priests are born in the belly of God’s grief. Matthew 9:35–37 states, “Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness. And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest'.” Does this passage not highlight the grief of our Lord for humanity which is so often harassed and dejected like “sheep without a shepherd”? Indeed, it is the grief in the belly of God as he looked upon all of humanity that raised for us the Shepherd par excellence when the “Word became flesh” in the person of Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

It is certainly true that it is deep within the belly of God’s grief, when a man can truly feel the cry of God over his people just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), so does the possibility of a priestly call also begin to germinate in the depths of his heart. A man is never called to be a priest for himself – he is called for the flock of Christ and to share in Christ’s care for his Bride, the Church.

This led me to realise how often we hear people complaining and criticising certain aspects of the Church. These complaints never seem to end and one complaint seems to only disappear when it gives way for another complaint. There are many motivations behind these complaints and criticisms. I am sure we can all confess that often, these complaints are not motivated by a genuine love for Christ or for his Church. The source of this sort of criticism can be easily discerned by the test that Jesus gives us in today’s Gospel – “you will know a tree by its fruits”.

However, on the other hand, we must also be able to discern when our uneasiness and our deep pain points to something much deeper and more radical. It is rooted and animated by love and for love. When our pain is animated by an authentic love for humanity and we shed tears over the realities of the world we live in and the human face of the Church, we then begin sharing in the tears of Jesus as he wept over Jerusalem and the pain he felt when he saw humanity harassed and dejected like “sheep without a shepherd”. This kind of pain in our hearts points to our union with Christ in the belly of the Father’s grief and here is where vocations are born. Here is where prophets are born; here is where priests are born.

Have you ever felt this deep pain and grief for God’s people in your own belly? Do you see the misery of your fellow brothers and sisters which many others do not seem to take notice of? Do you hear the cries of the hungry that the world seems to have turned a deaf ear towards? Could this be God’s personal gift to you? A sensitivity that seems to set you apart and you may even resent this grief you feel in your heart. This could well be the beginnings of a call; God’s special invitation to you to respond to this grief that only you know lies in your heart. The same Jesus whose heart was grieved in seeing the people harassed and dejected like “sheep without a shepherd”; he whom saw that the people were hungry and tired (cf. Matthew 14:15-21) could actually be allowing you to share in his heart’s grief and thereby saying to you, “Feed my sheep!”

Saturday, 14 June 2008


Wah! I am almost halfway through my first pastoral experience... and what an experience it has been. Meetings on weekday evenings, communion on weekend services and camps!!! Also, the mandarin speaking groups are excited to have an attached seminarian conversant in the language as well. 

It has also been a deeply spiritual experience as well. I just cannot explain how many times the Lord has guided me through my quiet time and meditation to inspire the sharings I have been invited to give. The mighty hand of the Lord works wonders !!!

And before I end, there are some photos from the Confi 1 (Sec 1) Camp.

Mean bikers.... during one of their games...

Hands tied for their walk to East Coast Park

and they gotto feed each other breakfast with their hands tied...

Who can resist making something beautiful in the sand...... 
better than building sand castles in the air rite??

What else can sum up my feelings better than these words.....

Looking forward to the next two weeks.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Our Holy Father's Address to the Bishops of Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei

Our Archbishop Nicholas Chia was recently in Vatican City together with his brother Bishops from our Episcopal Conference of Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei for their ad limina visit to the Holy Father. Here is Pope Benedict XVI's address to them on 6 June 2008. It is wonderful to note that the Holy Father has himself highlighted the need for inspiring young men to consider the sublime vocation of priesthood as an essential part of the pastoral care of God's people in our region.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to welcome you on your ad Limina visit, as you renew the bonds of communion in faith and love between yourselves as Pastors of God's people in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, and the Successor of Peter in the See of Rome. I thank you for the kind words that Archbishop Pakiam has addressed to me on your behalf, and I offer you the assurance of my prayers and good wishes for all of you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care.

By a happy coincidence, your visit to the city of the Apostles Peter and Paul comes at a time when the Church all over the world is preparing to celebrate a year dedicated to Saint Paul, the great Apostle of the Gentiles, on the two-thousandth anniversary of his birth. I pray that you will draw inspiration from the example of this zealous apostle, outstanding teacher, and courageous witness to the truth of the Gospel. Through his intercession, may you experience renewed fervour in the great missionary task for which you, like Saint Paul, have been set apart and called (cf. Gal 1:15-16) – that of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. Echoing the words addressed by Saint Paul to the elders at Ephesus, I urge you to "take heed to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son" (Acts 20:28).

"The Church's faith in Jesus is a gift received and a gift to be shared; it is the greatest gift which the Church can offer to Asia" (Ecclesia in Asia, 10). Happily, the peoples of Asia display an intense yearning for God (cf. ibid., 9). In handing on to them the message that you also received (cf. 1 Cor 15:3), you are sowing the seeds of evangelization in fertile ground. If the faith is to flourish, however, it needs to strike deep roots in Asian soil, lest it be perceived as a foreign import, alien to the culture and traditions of your people. Mindful of the manner in which Saint Paul preached the Good News to the Athenians (cf. Acts 17:22-34), you are called to present the Christian faith in ways that resonate with the "innate spiritual insight and moral wisdom in the Asian soul" (Ecclesia in Asia, 6), so that people will welcome it and make it their own.

In particular, you need to ensure that the Christian Gospel is in no way confused in their minds with secular principles associated with the Enlightenment. On the contrary, by "speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4:15) you can help your fellow citizens to distinguish the wheat of the Gospel from the chaff of materialism and relativism. You can help them to respond to the urgent challenges posed by the Enlightenment, familiar to Western Christianity for over two centuries, but only now beginning to have a significant impact upon other parts of the world. While resisting the "dictatorship of positivist reason" that tries to exclude God from public discourse, we should welcome the "true conquests of the Enlightenment" – especially the stress on human rights and the freedom of religion and its practice (cf. Address to the Members of the Roman Curia at the Traditional Exchange of Christmas Greetings, 22 December 2006). By stressing the universal character of human rights, grounded in the dignity of the human person created in God's image, you carry out an important task of evangelization, since this teaching forms an essential aspect of the Gospel. In so doing, you are following in the footsteps of Saint Paul, who knew how to express the essentials of Christian faith and practice in a way that could be assimilated by the Gentile communities to which he was sent.

This Pauline apostolate requires a commitment to interreligious dialogue, and I encourage you to carry forward this important work, exploring every avenue open to you. I realize that not all the territories you represent offer the same degree of religious liberty, and many of you, for example, encounter serious difficulties in promoting Christian religious instruction in schools. Do not become disheartened, but continue to proclaim with conviction the "unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph 3:8), so that all may come to hear of the love of God made manifest in Jesus. In the context of open and honest dialogue with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and the followers of other religions present in your respective countries, you assist your fellow citizens to recognize and observe the law "written on their hearts" (Rom 2:15) by clearly articulating the truth of the Gospel. In this way, your teaching can reach a wide audience and help to promote a unified vision of the common good. This in turn should help to foster growth in religious freedom and greater social cohesion between members of different ethnic groups, which can only be conducive to the peace and well-being of the entire community.

In terms of the pastoral care that you offer to your people, I would encourage you to show particular concern for your priests. Using the image evoked by Saint Paul in writing to the young Timothy, urge them to rekindle the gift of God that is within them through the laying on of hands (cf. 2 Tim 1:6). Be a father, brother and friend to them, as Paul was to Timothy and to Titus. Lead them by example, showing them the way to imitate Christ, the Good Shepherd. Saint Paul famously proclaimed "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). By modelling your whole life and conduct upon Christ, let your priests see what it is to live as alter Christus in the midst of your people. In this way, not only will you inspire them to offer their whole lives "as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rom 12:1), but more young people will aspire to this sublime life of priestly service.

I am aware that in the territories you represent there are some regions where it is rare for the people to see a priest and others where the people have not yet heard the Gospel. They too have a particular claim on your pastoral solicitude and your prayers. For "how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?" (Rom 10:14). Here the formation of the laity takes on added importance, so that through sound catechesis the scattered children of God can know the hope to which they have been called, "the riches of his glorious inheritance" (Eph 1:18). In this way they can be prepared to welcome the priest when he comes among them. Tell your catechists, both lay and religious, that I remember them in my prayers, and that I appreciate the enormous contribution they make to the life of the Christian communities in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. Through their vital work, countless men, women and children are enabled "to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" and so come to be "filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:19).

Dear brother Bishops, I pray that, as you return to your respective countries, you will "rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess 5:16). Commending all of you and your priests, religious and lay faithful to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

The Lord knows what you need.....

Wow! It is barely been a week into my first pastoral posing. I am currently at the Parish of the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace. "Checked in" on Saturday afternoon and went to "work straight away in the evening distributing communion during sunset mass and through all the masses as well on Sunday. 

I lost count of all the smiles and welcomes I received for all the parishoners. This is my first time "on the other side" of the fence and I truly understand how weekends are for priests... just one word.... TIRING.... maybe more word..... FULFILLING ! 

I have attended Legion of Mary meetings (mandarin speaking), their Youth Ministry meeting and have just came back from an SCC (Small Christian Community) meeting. This has really been a really rewarding pastoral exposure so far.

In the church, I find myself staring at the statue on the left. This is the statue right in the centre at the sanctuary. I really thank our Blessed Mother for allowing me to serve my one month pastoral in this parish of hers.

I am really looking forward to the next four weeks or so left. I think I am really going to enjoy my stay here and benefit from the experiences of two great Priests. Praise and Honour and Glory be to God !!!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Exams are Over and Holidays are Here!

Dear friends of Kampung Punggol,

After an exciting and grace-filled first semester, we have finally come to its end with the completion of our first semester examinations. We were all busy mugging for our exams and have been unable to share with all of you some of the exciting occurrences here in Kampung Punggol. Now that the holidays are upon us, we hope to make time to share with you some of our reflections during this time of vacation. All of us will be spending 30 Days of our vacation doing our pastoral attachments at various places and after which, we will be getting ready for our much anticipated participation at the upcoming World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. 7 out of 8 of us Singaporean Seminarians will be accompanying the wonderful Catholic undergraduates from the National University of Singapore (NUS) whilst 1 of us will be accompanying the Archdiocesan Youth Office contingent. We hope to share with you some of our thoughts and excitement as we draw closer to the date in due time.

World Youth Days are amazing times of grace when the good Lord brings to birth many new vocations to the priesthood for His Church and we trust that He shall stir many hearts yet again at the upcoming World Youth Day. Do join us in praying for a powerful time of grace for all the participants of World Youth Day 2008. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses!"