Empowering the Awakened
In response to the pope’s call for a renewal of the Church’s mission worldwide, the Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore (CTIS) was established in the local archdiocese. Anthony Yoong discovers why, and how, this was an important step in growing the Church.
If you were given the task of renewing the fervour of Catholics in Singapore for the mission of the Church, how would you go about doing it?
This is the challenge that Archbishop William Goh faces every day since he first took office in 2013.
During his first Sunday Mass after his episcopal ordination, Archbishop William told the congregation, “My desire is to bring the love of Jesus to all of you… So that you can be empowered to proclaim the Good News.”
For Archbishop William, empowering Catholics to participate in the mission of the Church is imperative. Since, in the same year as his episcopal ordination, Pope Francis had also similarly challenged Catholics around the world to a renewed missionary impulse in his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.
To bring this about in the local archdiocese, several new organisations were established, including the Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore (CTIS).
Archbishop William described in a letter, “It is our hope that these new entities under my episcopate will drive and coordinate all the Church’s efforts in bringing back the lost, healing the wounded, rekindling the dry and empowering the awakened.”
In a multi-pronged approach, it is hoped that these new organisations will lead Catholics in Singapore to a rekindling of their faith and excitement about the mission of the Church, while CTIS provides the formation and fuel to allow each person’s faith to burn brighter.
Fuel for the light of faith
Amidst a society filled with “consumerism”, “the desolation… of a covetous heart”, and a “blunted conscience”, as Pope Francis describes in Evangelii Gaudium, CTIS aims to nurture Catholics to be better bearers of Christ’s light.
Its key mission is to provide a systematic formation in Catholic theology for the laity, in faithfulness to Holy Scripture and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
“The study of theology truly opens one’s heart and mind to the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith. Just imagine how, with a firm foundation in theology, you could serve as a much more solid catechist, a more enlightened RCIA sponsor, a more informed parent when explaining the faith to your children, a more effective ‘missionary’ when speaking to your non-Catholic friends, and the list just goes on,” said Fr James Yeo, Rector of CTIS.
CTIS offers Catholics a chance to delve into different depths of the faith. Students can start with a Certificate in Theology course before advancing to a Diploma, or even an Advanced Diploma thereafter if they desire.
The courses explore major theological disciplines such as Scriptural studies, doctrine, Church history, pastoral studies and moral theology. Through these courses, students learn in-depth knowledge on central topics such as the sacraments, Mariology, the Second Vatican Council and Canon Law.
Kareen Frances Chua, a 26-year-old Youth Coordinator from the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, has been undergoing the Certificate of Theology course at CTIS since January last year.
“I had many questions regarding the knowledge of God and the traditions of the Catholic Church, but was only able to pick things up bit by bit through occasional workshops and talks in our archdiocese,” she said.
The courses at CTIS, however, has helped her to “find the right footing in learning the key elements and principles of Catholicism,” says Kareen, who is able to share her newfound knowledge with the youths from her parish. It also enables her to explain her faith in greater detail to non-Catholic friends who are curious about it.
“There is so much to discover about our faith, God and the Church. It’s a lot easier to have someone to unpack and present it in a systematic way.”
Apart from equipping those serving in ministry, 65-year-old Krishna Ramoo, who aims to attain a Diploma in Theology by the end of 2017, finds that studying theology also prepares Catholics to evangelise with greater conviction.
“Learning Catholic theology challenges us to explore how our belief in God leads to ethical living, advocacy for justice and care for others,” says the retired parishioner from the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace, who serves in his parish’s Faith Formation and Outreach ministries.
Facing a squeeze
As CTIS strives to continue attracting more Catholics to deepen their faith and extend their programme offerings, an immediate challenge they are faced with is the squeeze in their current location at the Catholic Centre in Waterloo Street.
“There are simply not enough rooms in the building for the 15 classes that CTIS holds per week, for both the English and a Mandarin programme,” explains Teresa Hoe, Office and Finance Manager of CTIS.
Addressing these issues, plans are underway for CTIS to share a new campus with the St Francis Xavier Major Seminary at Bukit Timah upon its estimated completion in 2018. The S$19-million, four-storey facility will feature nine classrooms, an auditorium, a library, a chapel as well as a dining room.
With some initial funding from the Catholic Foundation, construction of the much needed facility kicked off in October 2016. However, much more has yet to be raised. The Foundation has set up the “Seminary and Formation Building Fund” for donors who wish to contribute directly to the new facility.
As the archdiocese moves into the fourth year since it embarked on its new pastoral vision, Catholics in Singapore are continually called on to participate and support the Church’s endeavours.