Labourers for God
There are many paid staff in the Church who labour tirelessly and often go unnoticed. Who are they and what role do they play in the vision of the archdiocese?
God calls His faithful to be salt and light of the world in many different ways. For some, this call takes the form of a full- or part-time position within the Church.
In 2016, there are roughly 400 paid staff working in over 100 organisations in the Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore.
Most of them are lay Catholics who choose to serve the Church instead of working elsewhere. There are also a small number of non-Catholic staff, as well as priests and religious who take on leadership roles.
The need for skilled staff in the Church has risen over the years as the archdiocese grows and works toward its pastoral vision to be more vibrant, missionary and evangelistic.
Those called to work in the Church play a pivotal role in helping to realise the archdiocese’s vision. Who are they? What do they do? And why does anyone even desire to work in the Church?
Not workers, but disciples
The cold truth is, many of those working in Catholic organisations are capable of earning more in a commercial sector. Yet, many are willing to bring less money home in order to serve a greater purpose.
It is, in fact, a personal conviction in the mission of the Church to “unite all things in Him” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 772), that empowers those working in the Church. They are not merely workers, but disciples.
“If you do not believe in what the Church is doing, I don’t think anyone would even want to work here. It really is a demanding vocation, there is always so much to do, in so little time, with so little resources” said Msgr Ambrose Vaz, Vicar General for Pastoral matters.
In an address to staff and volunteers of Catholic organisations in 2014, Archbishop William Goh said: “I don’t see paid workers in Catholic organisations as workers. I see them as collaborators in our mission for Christ. The only difference is that, as Jesus says, the labourer is worthy of his wages.”
In Singapore today, the Church is involved in numerous areas of work such as education, healthcare, migrants, youths, families, evangelisation, humanitarian aid, and numerous others.
“For the role the Church plays in society, it is our responsibility to provide the right people with both the heart of a disciple and skills necessary to reach out to others,” explains Fr John-Paul Tan, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Singapore.
For instance, handling donations and disbursing them to the poor requires an accountant who is both professional and compassionate. This person would need relevant knowledge of regulations highlighted under the Charities Act, as well as a belief in the social teachings of the Catholic Church.
Other fields that require special talents include managing buildings under the care of the archdiocese, organising humanitarian aid missions, handling social work cases, providing healthcare, training catechists and educators, and so on.
“Many might not understand that the Church also needs competent lay people to further our Christian mission at the professional level,” Fr John-Paul said.
“At the same time, those who dedicate their lives to the Church should not be disadvantaged,” he adds.
The need for a professional and faithful workforce in the Church is the reason why an important aspect of the archdiocese’s vision also involves improving the spiritual formation of its staff.
In the Catholic Church, all talent, time, or treasure, are viewed as gifts from God. They are freely given to each individual so that each one is capable of being a gift to others in turn. In a letter to the Ephesians, St Paul explained that the Holy Spirit brought gifts “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12).
Thus, the archdiocese spends significant effort in encouraging its staff to pray and study the Word of God.
Some initiatives that were recently introduced in the archdiocese include daily prayers every morning, additional days off for spiritual retreats, and sponsorships for formal theological studies.
“Those called to work for the Church have to be a prayerful people who depend on God. We are simply the labourers who plant the seeds, but we must remember that it is God who makes them grow, not us,” says Msgr Vaz.
He encourages all Catholics to pray for the Church, its mission, and especially for those called to work in the Church.
Why do you want to work in the Church?
Catholic Foundation poses this question to some staff of Catholic organisations in the archdicoese.
I had never considered working in a Catholic organisation. In fact, I believe it was a call from our heavenly Father. The promptings were soft and never forced. I’m filled with joy to have answered this call and to be blessed with the necessary graces from God to work for His mission.
Caritas Humanitarian Aid and Relief Initiatives Singapore (CHARIS)
It brings me immense joy to think that my efforts and IT knowledge are able to aid the Church in educating and nurturing individuals in Catholic Theology. It is a constantly humbling experience to see how Catholics of various ages yearn and seek to learn more about God.
Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore (CTIS)
I’ve spent the larger part of my working career in the commercial world, followed by almost a decade in the social and non-profit sector. It’s like God had sent me on a long journey to learn and nurture my knowledge, skills and competencies, to prepare me for my current role. Where previously I learned to do good well and to do it right, I now learn to do so with great love.
Archdiocesan Commission for the Family (ACF)
I have always desired to work for the Church and was always moved by the call for a “New Evangelisation”. A year later, I answered a job opening at the Office for the New Evangelisation. It really is a calling. Unlike the corporate world, there’s a real joy in the spirit of giving and not counting the cost.
Office for New Evangelisation (ONE)
Towards the end of my university life, as I asked the Lord where He is calling me, I had a sense of building the Kingdom of God in Singapore, to serve the Lord single-mindedly as a full-time worker of the Church. It is my blessing to be able to journey with young people in life, to walk with them in faith, and to see God’s grace and love move in their lives.
Office for Young People (OYP)
Working in a Catholic organisation seemed like a natural progression from finding my vocation as a catechist. It is because of all the graces I have received, that I hope to share the joy of being a catechist with others. I find it most rewarding to be able to play a part in helping catechists grow in communion with one another and in their formation.