Statue of an angel at the cemetery of Vinderød in the Halsnæs municipality, Capital Region of Denmark. Photo: Roman Deckert via WikiMedia Commons
Serving wherever God Leads
Since baptism, Michael Tan has served in several Church ministries over the years. Now 80, he continues to live out his faith through obediently serving where God leads him.
I was not born into the faith, and only began my journey at the age of 21, when a friend of mine invited me to attend Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (OLPS). I subsequently attended a three-month catechism class conducted by the assistant parish priest, then Father Nicholas Chia, and was baptised soon after.
Beginning of service
Since then, I have served in many areas of the Church. Whenever I hear God’s calling to a certain ministry, I try to follow His lead and see how I can use the gifts God has given me in service to Him and His Church. When I feel the need to rest, I take a break. Once I receive the calling to something else, I move on.
It all began more than 55 years ago, when I joined the Youth Christian Worker group. This movement helped young adults to reflect on the Gospel and commit ourselves to take authentic Christian action in our everyday lives.
Supporting the marginalised
In 1968, I joined the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SSVP)at the Church of the Risen Christ. As a member, I helped manage the tiny thrift shop, which sold items such as canned food, used clothing, bags and shoes donated by parishioners. The donated canned food items made up part of the rations that were distributed every month.
When I moved to Marine Parade in 1974, I joined the SSVP at the Church of the Holy Family and served as its Vice-President. With the help of two other members, one of whom was a teacher, we started a tuition centre in the parish. Organising classes for the less fortunate was fulfilling and we were greatly encouraged whenever the children showed improvement in their studies. We felt like we were better equipping them for the future.
Spreading the Gospel
I subsequently left SSVP but continued to follow God’s calling to serve in my parish as a catechist, teaching various levels of students, from primary to secondary.
Later, I was part of the pioneer group that started the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at the Church of Saint Alphonsus (Novena Church) under the guidance of Fr Bernard Teo, CSsR. Soon after, when the Church of the Holy Family also adopted RCIA, I heard God’s call to assist Fr Johnson Fernandez, and did so for the next ten years.
Following this, I decided to take a break from Church ministry to recharge myself. Upon my return, I became a Eucharistic Minister who gave Holy Communion to the homebound.
In 2008, I became a Funeral Minister at the Church of the Holy Family where I help families through what can be a painful grieving process. I assist in bringing the remains of their loved ones to Church, ensure that Mass is arranged accordingly, and assist the priest with the Rite of Committal at the crematorium.
Through our service, Funeral Ministers aim to comfort and assist our brothers and sisters in Christ as they mourn their loved ones.
In this ministry, I support people who may not be in their best spiritual or emotional state, or who are at varying levels of faith, and have to be very tactful and respectful during their time of grief.
For example, some family members leave the deceased’s favourite items as an “offering”, and I would need to gently remind them that such practices are contrary to our Catholic belief.
I continue to find joy in my service today, as I am able to comfort family members in their sorrow and to continue praying for them in their grief.
Faith and good works
Besides attending retreats and reflecting on the Word of God, I have discovered that ministry work keeps my faith alive.
Many ministries in our community need help, and we should remember the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), and recognise that Jesus invites us to serve Him for His greater glory. I pray that more Catholics will step forward to offer their gifts in the service of God and His Church.