The Church has to ensure everyone has a place to worship and serve God, as well as find care, love, and community.
To do this, the property arm of the archdiocese, the Archdiocesan Land & Properties Singapore (ALPS), is developing a master plan of the archdiocese’s properties. The master plan will be critical in planning for the optimal use of the Church’s physical structures.
Over the years, the Church’s buildings have been renovated as they aged, with the most recent major renovation being the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. A new parish in Punggol, the Church of the Transfiguration, was completed in 2017, and St Joseph’s Church (Victoria Street) is undergoing renovation.
Besides the parishes, the archdiocese has several properties which are in different stages of planning for redevelopment:
Bethany East, a residence for retired priests (completed)
A new seminary and formation centre (completed)
An archdiocesan centre
In addition, sinking funds, which do not currently exist for almost all of the Church’s properties, have been introduced.
There are currently over 150 priests in the Archdiocese of Singapore, of which nearly a third have been priests for more than 30 years.
With an expected rise in the number of retired priests in the future, the archdiocese made plans to build Bethany East, a residence to care for those who have given their lives to care for others.
The residence is a 7,000 sq ft, two-storey detached house with an attic. It has been optimally designed to be elderly friendly. It will feature a lift for easier access, a prayer room, and en-suite bathrooms for each bedroom.
It can accommodate up to eight retired priests and is located along Changi Road, a short walk from the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. Hence, the residents of the home can continue to play an active role in the community.
The construction of Bethany East was completed in July 2018 at an estimated cost of $2.6 million.
St Francis Xavier (SFX) Seminary Building
After almost 30 years of usage, facilities at the Punggol premises of the St Francis Xavier Major Seminary were in need of upgrading. Coupled with the limited lease of the land, a decision was made to look for a new and more permanent home for the seminary.
Hence, the SFX Seminary Building was built on freehold land within the compound of St Joseph’s Church (Bukit Timah), and features a multi-purpose hall, a library, a chapel and ten classrooms.
It is the new home for the seminarians and formators of the Major Seminary. The building will also house the Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore (CTIS) whose training facilities will cater to the formation of the laity.
It was completed in June 2018 at an estimated cost of over $19 million.
In line with the vision of the archdiocese, the number of retreats, talks, courses, programmes, services and other initiatives developed by numerous archdiocesan organisations are expected to increase in the years to come.
At present, however, the Church is already facing a squeeze to provide the needed space and facilities for the numerous programmes of archdiocesan organisations.
To optimise land usage in response to these needs of the archdiocese, a plot of freehold land on 49 Upper Thomson Road is planned to be redeveloped as a centre for the archdiocese’s activities. St Theresa’s Home, which is currently located there, will be moved to a new location with upgraded facilities.
Plans are still being studied and refined before they are submitted to the authorities, but some features that have been proposed include a residential training and retreat centre, a 2,000-seat auditorium, an adoration chapel, intercessory rooms, office space for archdiocesan organisations, a centre for the youth, a family centre, and a home for retired priests (in addition to Bethany East).
Situated in a prime location easily accessible by public transport, the centre is crucial in the realisation of the archdiocese’s vision. By housing multiple Catholic organisations together under one roof, Catholics in Singapore will, for the first time, have a one-stop centre for their spiritual formation and other needs.
The project is still in its preliminary design stage, and may be constructed in phases upon final approvals from relevant authorities. The centre is estimated to cost S$150 million.
In land-scarce Singapore, the optimal use of any buildings or properties is crucial in allowing the Church to grow unhindered by physical limitations.
More than a dozen properties of the Church are sitting on leasehold land today, each facing a risk of being lost if the archdiocese has insufficient funds to renew their leases when they expire.
As such, starting from 2017, the archdiocese will begin creating sinking funds for the renewal of archdiocesan and parish properties, and sinking funds for the renovation of buildings owned by the Church.
The effort will start small and thus further fundraising may still be needed when the actual renovations and renewal of land leases have to take place.