Stewarding my talents for the Church

Ervin TanFeature

Stewarding my talents for the Church

Gabriel Koh was invited to provide his technological expertise full-time, after close to two years of volunteering at the Digital Church Office. He decided to answer this call and take up the challenge.

Growing up as a cradle Catholic, I have been supported in faith by my family and countless wonderful brothers and sisters whom I came across in my journey. After leaving primary school, I had great difficulty adapting to a secondary school, and struggled to make friends. I started being nasty towards others and became somebody I was not proud of. Despite all that I did, and even when I was at my lowest, I saw the face of Christ through my parents. They were patient and never gave up on me, always showing their unconditional love. I felt God’s presence through them, which led me out of that darkness and back to Him.

Many voices, little resources

Following this period of my life, I entered the workforce and was a technological lead for two different start-ups, developing digital solutions for businesses. At the height of the pandemic, even though I was not yet aware of the Digital Church Office (DCO), I grew curious about their work. At that time, everyone relied on the Mass Attendance and Registration System (MARS) on myCatholicSG to book Masses, and I was interested to find out who was responsible for the system. The last FAQ on the platform was “How can I help?”, and I eagerly contacted the team through the email address provided there. I learnt that it was only a team of five, all of whom were serving part-time at that point. In addition to having been developed during a difficult period, this small team served the vast majority of the faithful in Singapore by making the celebration of the Eucharist available and unifying the entire Church in Singapore in the digital space. This inspired me to begin working on projects with them as a volunteer in January 2021.

Of course serving the Church was not without its challenges. I helped with building the pilot phase of the Catechetical Enrolment System, as well as in analysing the sheer number of responses from the Catholic200SG Collective Discernment Exercise and the Archdiocesan Synodal process. Thousands of Catholics in Singapore want their voices heard, yet there is little groundwork when it comes to analysing big data within the Church, without which conclusions and key decisions cannot be made. Many Church ministries and organisations also approached us with a variety of IT problems. Unfortunately, due to limited resources, we had to turn some of them down.  Yet another difficulty I faced was working much more on my own than I was used to. Each of us in the team had to see projects through, from start to finish, mostly on our own as we did not have enough bandwidth to fully support one another.

Inspired to serve further

Though the challenges were great, God blessed me with the strength to continue this journey. I began working more independently and picked up the necessary skills in web development that I needed to serve Him. The DCO also fostered a close-knit relationship with parishes and Archdiocesan organisations, without which much of our work would be in vain. Through the grace of the God, after serving at the DCO for almost two years, in September 2022, I was asked if I wanted to convert to a full-time position. Having witnessed the dedication of those who served alongside me, I was greatly inspired to accept the offer, and left my previous job without hesitation.

Today, I fulfil two roles – one, to plan and develop systems for various Church organisations, and the other to study and implement data science techniques and artificial intelligence in the service of God and the Church. Among the various places I have worked at, nothing compares to what it is like at the DCO. I feel the most engaged and enlivened when working with and for the Church. The time and effort I have given in service have been fruitful and have allowed me to witness how God truly creates from nothing; He will provide what is necessary, and He makes miracles happen.

The joys of stewarding

While difficulties and challenges are plentiful, they pale in comparison to the great joys I have received through persevering and overcoming them. There may be many others who are more capable than I am, and I understand that what I have offered Him is but a drop compared to His infinite love and mercy for us. It is through this same mercy that He lifts up the work of my hands as a worthy sacrifice. I am greatly undeserving of the role God has placed me in, but I am grateful nonetheless for the opportunity to steward my gifts for Him and His Church.

The Digital Church’s mission to “Connect, Empower and Grow”. We are a team that strives to innovate and connect all of our faithful and empower them by giving them the right tools and support so that they may all be missionaries and also grow in their faith journey. It is my hope that through our work in the DCO, we can make processes in the Church more efficient, so that the different parishes, ministries and organisations will have more time to serve those in need.

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