Drug trafficker confronts hanging

These articles talk about Nguyen Tuong Van's conversion to Catholicism, and his faith in God as he confronts his death. Van will be excecuted by hanging on Friday, Dec 2nd at 6 am.

I've linked these articles here for our own reflection.

Nguyen seeks solace in martyr

Loving son's letters from death row

Nguyen's correspondence

The local church in 20 years

Let's talk about vision.

Practicalities aside, what would you want the Catholic Church in Singapore to be like in 20 years time? What would be different, ideally?

The Seven Deacons

ActsChapter 6
1 At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.
2 So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. 3
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task,
whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. 4
The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

As I ponder about the role of the priests or for that matter parish priests in our Catholic Church today, I cannot help but think about this passage from the Acts.

What is the original role of our priests? Is it just a managerial role, to be concerned with the profit and loss and fund-raising? Or to provide sacraments to the people?

A priest can do the job of a 'deacon' but certainly, a group of 'deacons' cannot administer any sacraments like a priest.

With all due respect to priests and their vocation, by controlling everything in their little 'kingdom', it would take very little for the power to get into their head. Such that they lose focus in the taking care of parishioners and offering them spiritual food but instead be overly concerned about their physical aspects such as fund raising, rebuilding and renovations.

I wonder why there are so little spiritual programs offered on a local basis, or community services offered to the less fortunate.

But yet there are so many "fund-raising activities" going on in all churches.

Am I missing anything here?

Is there any reason behind this lack of empowerment? The cynical me questions if it's because they want to hold on to the power, so there is a lack of oppurtunities for lay people to be involved in church. So by keeping us at bay, they will keep that power of spiritual knowledge and we will continue to hold them with respect because we would not know what is the spiritual truth.

Jesus said. "No one should be called teacher". So power and prestige should be secondary for religious.

Does anyone have a different view or am I myopic?

Full Time Workers in Church

Recently, I had this sudden urge of seeking an oppurtunity to work in the church. The thought had come into my head again after a hiatus of a few years. Perhaps something might change.

But I was thinking it wouldn't be different and had even soughted the websites of protestant churches hoping to get some headway.

However, something told me that I should just try asking at the relevant authorities and speak to someone and at the same time send in my resume.

So I went to SPI and spoke with Miss Wendy Louis. I must say that she is encouraging but the fact remains, the situation isn't encouraging.

First of all, SPI has a small team of workers only and there is no budget to increase the workers. Even in schools, those pastoral workers are employed as teachers. In fact, the budget for anything that needs to be done is limited. She gave me the example saying that their website is simply done because there is no money to pay anyone, and so it was done for free.

Then she told me, even if she were to offer me a post, like all jobs interview, she would like to know if I have any 'paper qualifications'. That was a fair question, but I told her that if that is her criteria, then it would seem like she would have problems employing anyone at all for the church since no one would have studied in any Catholic University with any degrees.

We talked about the lack of education and the lack of oppurtunities for interested person to study and come back to serve in the church. And I told her that it would be impossible for anyone to want to go study if there is no guarantee of any oppurtunities. Especially since a theology degree is pretty much useless in secular Singapore.

The bottom line is this, she told me to try out CAYC and see what they have to say.

CAYC said they are not employing. Apparently the 3 of them is enough.

So I guess I should go take a look at the Salvation Army.

Fr. Aloysius' Blog

I chanced upon this blog of Fr. Aloysius Ong. It contains links to many other interesting Catholic blogs. It appears that there are many Singapore Catholic bloggers out there.

I wish to ask:
Should we introduce him to our blog? What do you think he will make of it? Are we ready to 'publicise' this blog in this way?

I'd like to hear your comments. We could discuss the point of this blog, what we're trying to achieve, etc. etc.

Christopher Yeo

Social Work and the Church

The Salvation Army is a church that runs a gamut of social services - for the prisons, drug addicts, teens, disabled, elderly, etc. There is no denying the good that these services provide. There is also no denying the evangelism that takes place through these good works.
The Catholic Church also runs a range of social services (and I do not deny the good work that they do too), but these are run by the religious, and appear limited in reach and variety.
The Catholic Church does not pay for full-time social workers to contribute to society and the church, and many Catholics who want to work as social workers find no place within the church. It is therefore ironic that so many Catholics are now working in the Salvation Army, rather than in the Catholic services that surely require help.

This interesting factoid came up recently, and I would like to ask for people in the know to elaborate. Many years ago, a priest by the name of Vincent -something, I forget- was investigated by the government and deported because of communist activities. This was a famous case, but people of my generation do not seem to know of it. I remember having heard about this case before because somebody commented that the Catholic church and Archibishop Emeritus lost a lot of its bite after the government arm-twisting in this case.

According to my choir master, the reason why the church does not fund full-time social workers may be linked to this bit of history. Apparently the church did hire full time social workers in the past, and this Fr. Vincent -something- was heading the group. After the clampdown, all funding for lay social workers was stopped, and seems to have remained that way till now.

Today, the church may be gearing up again to fund lay social workers. I hope to find out if there is any truth in this link, but I want to add that after more than 15 years, there really should be no more reason for the church to hold back in this regard. Let's encourage the church to look towards full time social workers, teachers, youth workers, organisers and the like. It is the only way forward.

"If you can't trust a priest, who can you trust?"

In the most recent news on the saga of Fr Joachim Kang's case, Emily Chan was quoted as saying:

"If you can't trust a priest, who can you trust?".

I would like to invite your views on this comment.