From the Pope to Us
Since the GIFT campaign was launched, Catholic Foundation has received many heart-warming responses. One of these is a sharing by Theresa Goh, chairperson of M3 (Magdalene Mission Myanmar), a Catholic group that works closely with the Canossian Daughters of Charity to elevate the level of education of poor women and children in Myanmar.
I first heard of the Giving in Faith & Thankfulness (GIFT) campaign in Dec 2016 through a video shared on my phone. It paraphrased the needs of the Archdiocese of Singapore in the forms of prayers by ordinary Catholics and sought financial support to the Catholic Foundation.
For many, such a direct call from the archbishop would be a test of their sense of belonging to the archdiocese. My first thought, however, was on how the numerous fundraising initiatives that were on going in the archdiocese would be competing for donors.
I justified to myself that I am already serving the Church in other ways, such as leading a humanitarian cause with M3, heading a cell group, attending a theological certificate programme and active involvement with several non-profit organisations.
A continuing financial pledge was something I was not used to, but a healthy challenge I needed in my journey with God.
New leadership, new fire
Until recently in my Catholic life, I grew tentative roots in the faith. Perhaps the seeds sowed in my path had landed on loose soil. Oftentimes, I am surrounded by busy Catholics who are rooted in works, but only somewhat in faith. Some were frankly not interested in knowing more as they focused on the good works that will lead them to their version of God’s Kingdom.
This led me to yearn for a revival amongst Catholics. I thought the stars aligned themselves for one to happen when in 2013, Pope Francis and Archbishop William Goh took over the leadership of the Catholic Church.
Both had fiery messages about the past of the Church and what changes are needed for the present and future. Both focused on compassion, the need to change mindsets, and the importance of faith. Faith driven by knowledge and understanding, strengthened by personal revelations while pursuing Scripture and Traditions.
These require a Church that is engaged and committed, that means all of us coming together to support the direction set out for us by both our pope and archbishop.
Pope Francis’ vision of a bruised, hurting and dirty Church jolted me. Yes, he is not afraid to challenge the status quo and make big bold statements to put his points across. Archbishop William echoed this with his cascaded vision of building a more vibrant, missionary and evangelistic church in Singapore.
Both are aligned in the preference for “a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security” (Evangelii Gaudium 49). Both do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and thus end up being caught in a web of obsessions and procedures.
This was a big change that required an overhaul of past mindsets, moving away from the knitting decisions that have accumulated in outstanding debts to be paid. Future initiatives need to be executed to outreach to Catholics who are disengaged, while even more needs to be done for the lost sheep. Talents need to come forward to work full or part time for things to happen in a coherent way.
It is good to know that from the time the archbishop took office, more and more Catholics have stepped up to help. But this is not enough, as we know that only a third of Catholics in Singapore attend Mass, and out of this one third, less than 10 per cent are actively engaged.
Besides the above known challenges, there are many unknowns. The leadership will need resources to work through concerns surrounding information, personal, implementation and other areas that come with every change.
New initiatives, ways of communicating, roles and controls will need to be put in place to ensure that we do not drift in the mission of our Church.
The archdiocese is not seeking a technical change, but a transformative one that targets our values, beliefs and principles. A change of this depth cannot just depend on positivism and inspired energy alone, but it must be supported with adequate funds, processes and people.
Through this and other new initiatives, I am hopeful that a more engaged Church will arise. In fact, I am already experiencing change in my own parish, Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace. A few days ago, I received my parish brochure and on the cover, it stated our mission is “Towards becoming a vibrant, missionary and evangelical parish”.
The leadership of our Church is aligned, from the pope to our archbishop, our priests, and now, the mission has cascaded down to us. It is time to do our part as members of the Body of Christ.