Giving Him everything: My joy in serving

Ervin TanFeature

Giving Him everything: My joy in serving

Sandra Ross, 50, has been with the Sacred Heart Choir at St Joseph’s Church (Victoria Street) since she was six years old, and serves in the church in other ways as well. In this article, she shares how and why
she joyfully offers her time and talent for God.

Sandra (front row, second from left) and the Sacred Heart choir with Msgr Philip Heng, S.J. at the St Joseph’s feast day Mass in 2018 at CGS.
Photo: Sandra Ross.

Baptised as a baby, Sandra was already serving in St Joseph’s Church at Victoria Street (SJC) back when it was still under the Portuguese Mission. She used to follow her late grandfather to his choir practices with the all-male Sacred Heart choir, one of the oldest choirs in Singapore. Thanks to him, she joined the choir as its first female member at age six.

Praising God through music

Although SJC is currently closed for renovations, its ministries continue to serve at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (CGS). Like other choirs, the Sacred Heart Choir conducts regular practices, learning new songs and choosing hymns appropriate to the Sunday readings.

“Singing for Mass is not a performance. We only lead the congregation in singing to God. At the end of a hymn, we smile at each other because we know we have praised God,” Sandra shared.

She added, “If you ask me to speak or read in front of everyone, I get so nervous that I feel nauseous. But I have no problems singing solo in church, such as when I cantor the Responsorial Psalm. It’s like I’m in a different ‘zone’, visualising every verse I sing.”

When her elder son started catechism, her family switched to a parish nearer to where they lived. She had to take a break from the choir, but still saw SJC as home. She explained, “The people in the ministries all know each other well – wardens, altar servers, the choir and communion ministers – and can call on each other for help. I was attracted to remain with the SJC community because of the kampung spirit.

“I found other ways to serve in SJC. They almost always involved music. For example, as I previously played the role of Veronica for the Good Friday procession, I gave the ‘new Veronica’ vocal training. Based on my choir experience, I taught her to sing her lamentation with conviction.

The preparations took two months, but I didn’t mind travelling all the way to SJC.”

Blessed in giving

Sandra was kept busy coordinating events for SJC and attending many church meetings on weekends or straight after work on weekdays. “I don’t always get enough sleep, and while I often look tired with my hair in a perpetual mess, I still have the energy to serve. The Lord gives me a power boost that’s better than any energy drink,” she laughed.

On why she served in church, she said, “It is difficult to explain. The closest, I guess, is that it is simply a result of my faith and love for God. In embracing my faith, serving is something I do wholeheartedly. Just like in a marriage, I don’t give halfway.

Imagine telling my husband to cook his rice himself for dinner. If I cook for him, I will do the whole meal: rice, fish, vegetables, and all.”

She felt that God had blessed her because of her service. She recalled, “Last year, I left my previous job. I was praying hard and sending out CVs, but received no response or was told to wait. On 13 November 2018, just before the monthly procession for Our Lady of Fatima, my cousin asked me to take over reciting the rosary as she had a very bad throat. After much persuasion, I agreed. “Before the rosary, I prayed, ‘I need a job badly. Please give me a job, whatever you deem fi t for me.

You know what’s best for me.’ That same day, I received a call from SJC asking if I wanted a job with them! Since December 2018, I have been giving to the church in a new way, as SJC’s Administrator and Sacristan, and am still with the choir.

By serving the church, I feel that everything in my life has fallen into place, thanks to His grace.”

Faith grew stronger

Noting that any ministry would inevitably have misunderstandings or miscommunications, she pointed out, “No one is perfect. We are all sinners. As long as we try to accept each other the best that we can, God will bless our ministries.”

Grateful for the experiences with the choir over the years, she could not imagine what her life would be like if she were never in it. She mused, “I might have drifted away from God.” Joining the choir at a young age helped her faith journey. She elaborated, “When I started working, I got swamped and tired, and at times felt reluctant to go to church.

Thanks to the choir ministry and friends who were also growing in faith, we supported each other and I felt a sense of responsibility towards them. Though I sometimes dragged myself to church, I had an interior joy after serving that made me want to continue.”

Everyone can serve in their own way

Sandra acknowledged that everyone had work or family commitments, but she believed there was a way for each person to serve. Referring to the Hail Mary prayer, she reasoned, “We ask Mother Mary to pray for us now, so why can’t we also give the Church our time and service now? Those of us with young children could at least promise to serve when our kids are older. It need not be a full ministry: maybe a part-time warden, a volunteer in the bookshop on some days, or canteen duty on alternate weeks. Ministries always need help.”

She urged everyone to look deep within themselves and ask God which ministry they should serve in. “In God’s time, He will answer us. If every Catholic were to serve, how dynamic would our Church be!” she enthused.

Sandra turned 50 recently. Reflecting on how her faith grew stronger because of her service, she declared, “I pray that God will continue to lead, guide and empower me to serve Him in the coming years, and I will continue giving to the Church, always.”

Share this post with family and friends