Studying Theology on a bond

"Should lay people be sponsored by the church to study things like theology, and so give back to the church?"
Studying Theology on a Bond
By Nicholas Teo

RECENTLY I MET A PRIEST and had a chat with him as I shared with him about my youth group.

We were on the topic of youth coordinators and why the church do not send people overseas to further their theological education. I even suggested putting those people on bonds.

He told me that is not a new idea for in fact its a tried and failed method. That came as a surprise to me, because I didn't think anyone would try and cheat the Church, especially if their intention was to serve it then.

He told me that even he himself had sent people overseas but they never came back, in fact he sent as many as 8 before but only 1 came back. The only Samaritan!

So I questioned, didn't the Church sue them, isn't that the point of having bonds? He said no, because they are the Church.

Now, I appreciate the Church for the compassion of theirs, forgiveness is without a doubt a commendable trait but I think all they did was to sink their own ship.

First of all, they didn't sue and those who followed knew they would be safe. And because the church doesn't get any 'rewards' from sending people overseas, they totally give up! How many potential talents would they had wasted? A pity indeed.

In moments like today, where the modern Catholics are so intelligent and well-read, yet there is a lack of theologically-educated people around to complement priests, I find it unacceptable.

Instead we depend on volunteers or whoever has a good heart to come forward and teach our young whatever 'we were taught when we were young', and priests who are so busy doing every other things except teach. How then can we face the challenges and needs posed by this modern society?

In fact, this is the greatest irony in the church. The most spiritually sound person in the parish is the priest but because he is the only one who can do those 'priest-things', he has no time to educate the parionshioners. Instead he leaves it to the cathechism teachers who may not necessarily be good teachers (though perhaps good baby-sitters for some) to continue with that vicious cycle.

I lament that because I seek a proper education but yet the oppurtunity given to me is not adequate.

But yet I do not want to be an empty vessel making loud complaints but yet do nothing about it, I guess the next best thing is to just seek whatever available courses and hope that I do not get sucked into the cycle.

Nicholas Teo is currently a co-leader of the youth group in the church of St Stephen, that youth group is called Little-Crosses. His personal mission is to make young people realize that Catholicism can be a way of life.
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ChrisYeo said...

While I fully agree that more people should be trained to complement priests, perhaps we need to understand more of the facts surrounding the desertions.

Is it really true that the Catholic Church has sent willing Singaporeans to overseas studies where they subsequently failed to return back to contribute to the Church?

Did the said priest send those individuals himself or where they sent by the larger archdiocese?

What kind of education where they sent for? What was the agreement between them and the priest? How many years ago where these instances?

I think these facts need to be clarified for us to have a firmer grasp on the situation. However, I believe that the case for sponsoring lay people for theological education is still strong despite whatever past situation.

mochi said...

Firstly, I'm sorry, I'd like to demure that the priest is the "most spiritually sound" person in the parish. I don't think that is necessarily true. Please blame my Jesuit education.

I think the reasons for people not returning to S'pore after getting duly educated are the same reasons other S'poreans in other fields are breaking bonds and not returning to S'pore.

Once you leave the island and experience what the world has to offer, it's really hard to go back. Ok, so you could say that I am being defensive, since I am a potential island deserter, but sincerely, there are just a lot more lay people can do, for example, here in the U.S. than in S'pore, esp for us women.

The area that I am most familiar with is liturgical music and I shall limit my comments to such. When I returned to S'pore for an extended stay, it was very frustrating being unable to fully utilize and express my faith through lyrical music. In my chapel, music is seen as an integral part of the liturgy; it is proclamation of the Word, a Ministry. It isn't just a pretty embellishment or accompaniment.

Bro. Mike sadly told me once, in S'pore, the choir could all choke and die and the mass would go on. Rules such as not allowing songs that aren't written by Catholics to be sung during mass (Do pple realize some parts of mass we sing aren't always written by Catholics?) or that the psalm has to be intoned and not sung (just to name a few), I feel, limits the mass experience. To me, music helps the congregation bridge the gap between words and the prayers/praise/worship that we cannot express. There is so much beautiful music out there that cannot be less than God-inspired, Catholic or otherwise. Furthermore, good music is what helps keep people coming to mass, esp the youth.

So perhaps the church at home is a little stifling? A little too narrow-focused? Not to mention the thought culture and way of life of S'poreans in general, for example a lack of emphasis in the creative arts? (I think a priest who has good oratorical skills makes a big difference too!) So instead of blaming those who have 'deserted' the S'porean Church, perhaps we need to look at ways we can entice them to come home again and give their talents back to break that vicious cycle others speak of?

I apologise if I have spoken out of turn. I have to admit that I have been somewhat out of touch from home affairs and attending a Jesuit college has somewhat skewed my views, for better or for worse.


Nick Teo said...

Perhaps this is not a new discovery, but Major Seminary offers courses at $1250 a year or you can chose whatever courses attract you.

You would be taking the classes together with seminarians, however if you chose not to take the Degree, you need not take exams.

The degree would take 6 years and the classes are daily from 9am to 1pm, depending on choice of study.


ChrisYeo said...

Dear Nick,

Is it true that you are taking courses at the seminary? Are you paying the course fee?

Would you mind telling us what you are studying and how that would contribute back to the parish?

Nick Teo said...

I just saw this comment of yours, and thus sorry for the delay in responding.

But before I reply you, I would like to know how did you hear about me taking up courses? I didn't divulge it, but since you ask, I will not deny it.

I am undertaking the whole course, which is the first of six years. It's the philosophy cycle which would last for two years and then for another four years of theological modules.

I am paying for it by myself, though it isn't much relatively, I didn't source for sponsorships from the church or my parish.

So far, I've received a lot of encouragements from my parish priest and my fellow classmates. They seemed rather intrigued that a Male would want to participate in the religious education but didn't join the seminary, and some even wondered if I would ever consider priesthood.

As for the purpose, they are aware of the needs for 'full time workers' in the church and they are hopeful like myself that one day in the near future, many like me who chose to be active in the pursuit of knowledge can help in church as full time staffs.

I am networking and hoping that in the near future, the prospects would one day be clearer and distinct.

But on the downside, I am feeling the strain of trying to juggle studying and working. It is almost impossible even though the tempo is not as fast paced, but nonetheless the content is stressful.

I wonder to myself if I can get through it, even for this first year. I wonder if idealism is powerful enough to overcome realism.

So far, I'm just living the questions and let the days go by and hope to gain as much knowledge as I can.

And pray that God's plan reveals and prevails.