Mentoring the youths of the Church

Ervin TanFeature

Shaun Liu (in orange) alongside Fr Jude David, Fr Brian D’Souza and his colleagues at the Office for Young People’s Nox Gaudii celebrating OYP’s 9th birthday.
Photo: OYP

Mentoring the youths of the Church

Shaun Liu, who works at the Office for Young People (OYP), was a recipient of a Catholic Foundation scholarship to study theology. Empowered by what he learnt, he continues to mentor young working adults in their faith journey and encourage young people to steward their gifts for God.

Growing up, I did not see the importance of my faith. With no understanding of proper Mass etiquette, nor the need for prayers, all I knew was that “someone” had died on the cross for me.

My faith journey really began when I started to search for this “someone” right after my National Service. I had just entered junior college and decided to attend the School of Witness, a discipleship retreat over several weeks organised by the Office for Young People (OYP). For the first time, I recognised God’s unconditional love for me. This spurred me to put Him at the centre of my life.

Called to do more

Inspired, I joined OYP in 2014. I worked with various communities under our care, comprising young men and women aged 18 to 35. I also mentored young people from various backgrounds.

Two years later, I realised I had the desire to continue to work in the Church for the long term. The chaplain for the Office, Father Jude David, encouraged me to consider furthering my studies. This prompted me to discern more, and it led me to apply for a Catholic Foundation scholarship for a three-year theology degree programme at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas in Rome. I was happy and grateful when I received the green light to go to the University in 2017.

During the programme, I took a wide range of modules ranging from books of Scripture to various aspects of theology. As most of my examinations were conducted orally, I was pushed to internalise and articulate what I had learnt. The programme was rewarding and allowed me to build a solid foundation in theology.

It also allowed me to meet with classmates from around the world. Despite coming from different cultures and backgrounds, we could share our faith and desire to know God more deeply with each other.

Trusting Him

This study opportunity came with its challenges. It took me quite a while to get acclimatised to a new environment in a new country with a foreign language and to call it home. Transiting from being active in pastoral ministry in Singapore to the life of a student was not easy. I was not used to the number of readings I had to do. Amidst all this, I continued to place my trust in the Lord as I knew He had called me here so I could better enrich the youth in Singapore.

The pandemic did not do me any favours either. When the Italian government announced the closure of schools, I found myself on a flight back to Singapore within just 24 hours, not knowing when I could return.

Fortunately, I was able to complete the final half of my programme virtually back in Singapore. I am grateful that my university made this possible, even though it was difficult to keep up and focus on a computer screen, without the classroom interactions we were all accustomed to. It was a challenge I needed to persevere through, and I am grateful that I completed my course.

Upon graduating, I quickly returned to pastoral work at OYP but had not expected how different ministering to the youth would be at the height of the pandemic. Conducting pastoral work online was difficult, and journeying with the youth and running events virtually did not have the same impact as holding them physically.

Empowered to empower

It has been more than a year since I graduated. I believe what I learnt from the course has brought a strong foundation and sense of clarity to my sharing and sessions. I do not know everything, but my studies have enabled me to look for the resources to find the answers I seek.

Through my service, I have seen the fruits of our labour blossom. For instance, when we first ran the Combined University Retreat (CUR) in 2014, we catered to only about 200 students. Now, our recent CUR’22 flock grew to around 400 students. I recall looking out of the office and into the crowd, and was uplifted to see many young Christians come together for Jesus. It gave me hope and encouraged me, and in that moment, I thought of how it was indeed possible to raise a generation for Christ. Amidst all the challenges during the pandemic, I learnt to continue placing my utmost trust in the Lord. I know He will continue to work through the little things we do for His glory. I also learnt not to be complacent, giving Him thanks for the blessings we have.

As we continue to journey with and empower young people for Christ, I encourage you to steward your gifts – to build a more vibrant, evangelising and missionary Church.

The Office for Young People is funded by GIFT and ministers to young people from 16 to 35 years of age. OYP seeks to raise up a generation of young people passionately in love with Jesus and His Church and committed to a lifestyle of discipleship and communion. The Catholic Foundation Scholarship is administered by an independent board to provide financial assistance to Church workers pursuing theological studies.

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