Journey of Faith, Journey of Giving

Ervin TanFeature

Isaac, pictured with his wife and daughter, sees his GIFT contributions as a symbol of his commitment to the faith, a faith he wants to pass on to the next generation. Photo: Isaac Yeo

Journey of Faith, Journey of Giving

Isaac Yeo shares how the faith of his childhood took a downturn when he began working, and how his experience of and longing for the Mass led him back, inspiring him to give to the Church.

Growing up as a cradle Catholic in a staunchly Catholic family, attending Sunday Mass with my family was something I looked forward to, simply because it was the weekend and I could usually go out to play. My grandparents, especially my grandma, were fervent believers, and inculcated in my siblings and cousins the values of weekly Mass attendance and daily prayer.

Faith as a child

I spent my Primary and Secondary years in a Catholic school, but was never involved in any faith-related activities. Many of my classmates were not Catholics and we hardly discussed religion, though we remained close friends. This could be why, immediately after my First Holy Communion, I felt called to join the altar servers in my parish. What I encountered in the next six years as an altar server made it easier for me to assimilate the faith. My fellow altar servers were from different backgrounds, but the camaraderie that we had as kids growing in the faith together was unique.

As I matured, I grew to better understand and appreciate not just the Order of the Mass, but also what the faith was all about. My faith deepened with these experiences and this helped when I drifted away from the Church later.

Worldly distractions

As a curious teenager impatient for new experiences, I was tempted time and again to abandon my faith for worldly pursuits. In addition, in those “pre-Google” days, there was unfortunately no way to discover more about the faith or join a forum to ask questions. Much of what I knew was handed down to me as absolute facts, and it was taboo to ask why.

Being generally much more curious and impressionable than most teenagers, the roadblocks hit me hard and I started to question God. This was exacerbated by my working part-time whilst studying, when I thought He was less important. I was fascinated by the working world and happily soaked up new adventures. Slowly, these equated to less time for Him.

Reigniting faith

In the midst of enjoying my new and independent life, I unexpectedly reconnected with some of my childhood altar-server friends during a feast day celebration in church. We decided to meet
up weekly at weekend Mass. Slowly, we became pillars of support for each other, encouraging one another to attend Mass on weekend evenings and days of obligation together, despite our busy schedules. These also gave us opportunities to discuss, reflect and internalise what was happening in our lives. Though some of us had to fly frequently, we still tried to attend Mass together, but as more of us relocated or got married, we lost touch.

But now that my faith had been reignited, I continued attending Mass with my siblings. For me, the Mass had taken on a new meaning. I felt more enlightened, and the homilies especially, strengthened my faith. Unfortunately, the demands of my job required me to fly frequently, and I had to skip Mass periodically. This got me thinking about why people tend to fulfil work obligations but not spiritual ones.

Commitment to the faith

This was perhaps my turning point in understanding the importance of committing to God and His Church. I wanted to lead my life as a Catholic even if I could not attend Mass due to work. In one of the most memorable homilies I have heard, I recall Fr Valerian Cheong during Lent 2017 asking, “Why sacrifice something only during Lent? Why not do something good for someone in Lent that can be a habit for the rest of the year?”

That resounded deeply with me, and that year, I started contributing to GIFT, even when I was unable to attend Mass. As time went by, these contributions evolved in meaning for me – giving to GIFT is now a symbol of my commitment to the faith.

GIFT has also helped me realise the importance of faith formation and growth so that the Church can continue Her outreach. Through the updates and Annual Reports from Catholic Foundation, I have seen the good that GIFT has done and feel happy to be contributing to the work of evangelisation.

As a parent, this is what I would love to “GIFT” to my daughter – the legacy of faith. In my own small way, I am blessed to be helping to build the Church today for tomorrow. Will you join me?

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