Compare..the Veritas! website

Compare the online face of the Catholic Church, with the online face of a Catholic Church:


St Mary's


Daniel said...

Ummm... what are we supposed to compare?

Anonymous said...

The things to compare would be layout, the colours, the pictures....all the important components that visually appeal to the user.

The St. Mary's website is clear and clean in visuals. usability and accessibility, thereby encouraging repeat users to the site.

It also gives every website visitor (who may have never been to the church before) a positive attitude towards the church because it is a peek of what the church is like. In short, it is a professional and well-done website, if updating is sustained.

In comparison, the Veritas page is functional in nature but visually not very appealing to the normal user because of the overload of words on one page and the bland colours.

It is totally possible to have a website that is both informative and lovely to look at. To me, the Vatican website is a PRIME example of beauty and information in a great package.

From: Loretta

ChrisYeo said...

"the Veritas page is functional in nature"

If I may just comment on this, I believe that the Veritas website is not very functional at all. It really seems in truth nothing much more than being a web transcription of the church directory.
That being so, it should be should be renamed "Veritas! - The Official Directory of the Archdiocese of Singapore" rather than "The Official Website of the Archdiocese of Singapore", and take the web address of www.catholicChurchDirectory.org.sg, rather than catholic.org.sg.

An official website is the front door, the welcoming face, the first impression, and a representation of the person and identity of an organisation to a whole generation of Singaporeans and to the world. You can of course see this in the Vatican website: http://www.vatican.va/ ; and if you're feeling adventurous, you may just want want to check out City Harvest's website: http://www.chc.org.sg/. They show what an official church website really should be like.

"Ummm... what are we supposed to compare?" Well, just take a look, and I hope you realise that there is actually a lot there to compare.

From the Veritas! website: "Our Mission: To provide an effective medium for communication and dialogue within the Archdiocese of Singapore. Our Vision: To be the centre of information and dialogue in the Archdiocese of Singapore". Seriously... what does this mean and is it fulfilling it?

Daniel said...

Well, a bit of history would be appropriate here.

The Veritas website was first set up by six individuals who, up to now, manage it, even though some of them are no longer in the country.

It's more than a website; it is also a server, meant to host the websites of all Catholic organizations and parishes in the diocese.

Unfortunately, several parishes have decided to break away from this and start their own website on other servers, which testifies to the disunity in the diocese.

The Veritas team also receives announcements of various events, which are then updated on its website. But this is only as effective as the community that visits it lets the team know of the upcoming events.

Furthermore, if you notice, many more "welcoming" parish websites are actually quite unfriendly, because they depend on the users having newer versions of browsers. Without those browsers, certain parts of the website would be inaccessible. That is not something that Veritas runs into, due to its simple layout.

Finally, the diocese website runs on the efforts of the Catholics in the diocese. If it appears rundown, as some other diocesan-level structures are (like the Cathedral), it is only because the Catholics in the diocese do not volunteer their services to make it better.

The trouble in this last part is that the original team that runs the website is still around... and that's what the website needs. It needs committed people who will manage the site on a long-term basis. Few Catholics are willing to do this. For their parish maybe, but not for the diocese. And of course, not for free...

Nick Teo said...

I think that's the story of Singapore's Catholic Church. Where everything that needs professional services is dependent on volunteerism. Basically nothing is wrong with that, after all we are what we are because of God and we should offer it up to His Church.

But in reality, how many is willing to give that much time and effort for free? Every working adult have their own family to feed, have bills to pay and have datelines to meet. If they constantly provide free services and their rice-bowl is affected, then how are they to survive. So naturally, if they ever offer free services, it would often be done in a simple form. That's what we call "you get what you pay for", if you don't pay you don't get anything of substance.

And I think Saint Mary and Father JP is creating a precedent, he is showing the rest of the church that to project an image parallel to the needs of the modern church, there is a need to use modern ways. The late John Paul II The Great too was a major advocator of media and modern technology. There is simply no excuse for mediocrity, especially not our Catholic Church when we claim to want to lead the world. Who would follow if they see that their leader is lacking in ability to meet the needs of the masses.

Argue however you want that we should not belong to the world, but I believe we should take that into context. We should be offering our Catholic Values for this world to follow, but we need to deliver them such that it will touch the people. What is the point of having the best secret but no one is interested to find out? Look at how Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead, He reached out effectively and people are willing to listen because He touched their hearts and they were won over by His abilities and teachings.

If our church cannot reach the depths of people's hearts, then there is hardly any point in expecting people to follow us because they won't. Nobody will, especially new enquirants.

I am not saying that a website maketh the church, but honestly speaking I believe even the most die-hard of all apologists must agree that our church is really lacking in general modernisation to reach out effectively to people and to meet their needs.

No use saying that no one is offering their services, no one wants to do it for free. Even the priests and religious get free lodging, free food, a car and some allowance every month. Offer me all these basic necessities and I will work for free too.

Daniel said...

When we talk about Singapore's Catholic Church, we usually mean the bishop, the priests, and the people employed by the Church. We forget that every Catholic forms Singapore's Catholic Church. In fact, they are the reason the bishop, the priests, and the people employed by the Church are where they are.

It is the duty of every Catholic to support the Church in whatever way he or she can. Look at a parish. How does it run? Do you think it runs with financial support from the bishop? No, it runs with the support and generosity of its parishioners. In fact, the bishop's office runs with support from the parishes, not the other way around.

If a parish is suffering from lack of funds, it is because its parishioners are failing in their duty to contribute to their parish. Likewise, if the Singapore Catholic Church is lacking in anything, it is due to its Catholics failing in their duty to contribute to their diocese.

This applies naturally to more than just financial support. It is also the duty of parishioners to support the parish in terms of manpower in its ministries, and the same applies on a diocesan level.

You are right in saying that the late Pope John Paul II was an advocate of media and modern technology. He was also an advocate for the laity's role in the Church and in the world, marked by his support for the Focolare, Neocatechumenal Way, and Opus Dei, all lay organisations in the Church.

You are also right in saying that the leader of the Church in Singapore needs to set an example. St. Mary is able to function the way it does because it has a good leader, and its parishioners support their leader; their parishioners contribute well to the parish, no doubt due to their parish priest's leadership as well. But not all bishops or priests are gifted with that kind of leadership.

It is important as well for Singapore Catholics to observe their shepherd and see the direction and vision that he is setting for the diocese, and to follow him in that direction. There is no point in setting off in a completely different direction and saying that the bishop is not leading us, when it is we who are in fact not following his leadership and going off to do our own thing.

Finally, if you want all the basic necessities that priests and religious get from the Church, the Church gladly awaits your response to their invitation to you to join the priesthood or a religious congregation.

Nick Teo said...

I think Daniel may had misunderstood my comments, so just a little summary.

1. Volunteerism is very important but in reality difficult to achieve because of worldly distractions and practical demands. There is no point expecting and demanding people to help out in the church because its just not realistic. Are you implying that anyone who wants to help out full time should join priesthood? Then why does the church employ secretaries, shouldn't secretaries be religious as well? The biggest challenge to a volunteer is that they are only able to work during their evenings or during weekends, but that is the time of rest for them. So naturally, there is only that much time and energy they can offer up to the church. We all know that we should volunteer, I myself had volunteered my services to the church for the last 18 years. But I learnt that as I grow up, I have so much more to contribute but practically impossible because I need to work as well. And so ideas and opportunities to help my church were given up instead.

2. To be a leader means you must be open to changes and learning and keeping up with modern ways, but not values. So if leadership is not good enough, either make up the difference by learning or by employing professional help. I believe to be a church leader doesn't mean that God will only inspire you to make a difference by yourself but also have the wisdom to seek help from others. If you want something done, ask. Not wait for people to appear and volunteer. Father JP interact with professionals and keeps himself abreast with the needs of his parish, and thus he seeks individuals to help him, and not wait for volunteers to appear or wait for them to be inspired.

No one is moving away from the church's direction, we are only suggesting that since laity is so much treasured by the church, then empower them. No one is asking for power or money in the church, we are only seeking a more professional and modern way in reaching out to people's needs. Such vast resources and doing so little is such a shame. The primary role of the priests and bishops is to lead the people in faith, no one expects them to be fantastic administrator. And that was the wisdom of the apostles, they realised that and elected the 7 deacons.

Daniel said...

Thanks for sharing and clarifying, Nick.

I believe your comments are sufficient to explain the presence of organizations like the Jesuits and the Opus Dei. The Opus Dei, especially, as they are mainly for the laity.

The reason I write this is because the message of the Opus Dei is the sanctification of work. You (and I) have learnt that it is practically impossible to contribute much to the church because you need to work as well, but what if your day-to-day work actually contributes to the church?

This is the true church that we speak of, one that is not restricted to parish buildings and diocesan websites, but the church that is alive in its people. You and I are the church. Sometimes we forget that. The work that we do, whatever our job is, can and does contribute to the church if we can only see that. It doesn't matter where we work or who we work for. Even the time that we spend writing out our thoughts on this blog is time spent working for God and his church.

Do we believe that the daily work we do really helps to build up the kingdom of God, or is our work separate from our spiritual life?

The time that we spend working for God cannot and should not be the leftover time that is meant for rest. ALL our time, whether it be working for the company, spending time with the family, spending time with friends or during recreation - all that is time spent working for God. Even rest can be considered work for God if it is done the right way.

But getting down to the more narrow aspect of the discussion, we must remember that the church is not as rich as we think it is. St. Mary's is a rich parish (just ask how much was raised in one weekend of selling pottery!). It therefore can afford to employ people to help. Is the diocese rich enough to do the same? Are all parishes rich enough to do the same? Some parishes can't even collect enough money to feed the poor. Where do these parishes get the money to support themselves then? Obviously from the diocese funds.

What are our people's real needs? Is $2,000 a month better used to sustain a website designer and administrator who could very well use his daily skills helping the church, or would it be of better use to channel it to feeding 5 families living in poverty?

You are right - the primary role of the priests and bishops is to lead the people in faith, and for what it's worth, I'd say that they are doing a good job. Not a fantastic, perfect job, but a good job nonetheless.

Nick Teo said...

Once again, I would like to summarise what was said by me.

Firstly, I am not saying that Catholics should separate being a Catholic in real-life and being in church. We are talking about something specific here, which is to do something concrete in church. Perhaps have some mass reach-out to non-christians or charity effort to the poor. Such massive objectives need alot of planning and efforts. We are not talking about being kind to your colleagues or giving 20 cents to the little boy during flag day. Each of us contributing in small ways without a doubt is necessary in our Chritian life, but yet I was writing on the stand on massive programs which the religious are not able to manage. Basically because they are not and should not be administrators BUT spiritual leaders. And I hardly think our bosses and supervisors would appreciate us planning for our parish activities during our working hours. Judging by the success of the PPC or rather the lack of it, we know that lay people's effort is limited due to their family and work commitments. I know for a fact, because my girlfriend is a member of the PPC.

You claim that our archdiocese is not rich, but you say that St Mary is rich. By whose standard are you making such remarks? You seem to imply that a single parish is richer than the central organization in which that parish belongs? I think the key here is that the parish sees a purpose in employing someone to do a work full-time but whereas certain leaders seek sacrifices from working people. Which I would like to state here officially that I am not against, even Saint Paul sold tents to feed himself then. But how many of us are and can be Saint Paul who was willing to make such sacrifice of poverty and a life of celibacy with no family to feed but himself? We can aspire to be like him, but surely reality creates limitations.

And by the way, I am not asking all parishes to employ people or to have beautiful websites. We are asking for necessities and meeting of needs. If the parish is unable to feed themselves, no one would expect them to spend money on creating websites. However, I find it suspicious that our Archdiocese is not able to afford some money to do a website. People in the know, know the market rate of hosting a website and it doesn't cost $2000 a month regularly. If what you said is true, I am indeed very curious where is our contributions to the Archdiocese going to.

Fair enough, the church is doing a very good job. But surely, they can do a much better job if they keep up with times. Maintenance is not improvement. Just like the servant who hid the One Talent in the sand, that's maintenance. But surely, we need to make investments so as to truly please the shrewd Master.

My stand is simple, I am not diluting the roles and sanctity of religious. They are very important and very respected by us, and should be honored for answering the call to serve our Lord. But also accept that by having more helpers, to work hand in hand will reap more rewards. Accept the fact that religious may not be excellent workers, and do the necessary which is to either learn how to do everything by yourself or to seek help. And if help is not enough, then acknowledge the fact that people need to get paid so as to fully serve without the fear of going hungry.

And I believe that by making the church more professional in terms of administration and reach-out programs, we would be able to utilize the money collected more efficiently and optimally such that more than 5 families will be adequately provided for.

Lastly, I believe the priests are taking volunteers for granted, many young adults do not see the merit of volunteering because they are already so stressed out over their survival in the working world. The priests must spend some effort in making people see the need of volunteering of services. And don't expect people to know that volunteering in church is important, because to them helping in church is just as well in helping out elsewhere. Or not volunteering at all wouldn't make their life any worse.

So the crux of my argument is...

1. When I say there is a need for paid workers, I am talking about getting them to do massive tasks that the priests cannot manage by themselves.

2. Pay for the important necessities. Eg Veritas website is never updated. Many contacts are invalid and even time of mass for days of obligations cannot be found. In this case, if there is someone who is constantly updating the website would reduce unneccessary calling and finding out. That is the whole point of having a "directory" website. And it also speaks well of a modern "people-centered" church. And not an old-fashioned and lagging system.

3. Having full-time experts of their field helping out priests may reap more rewards than perceived because they would be able to plug the inadequacies of the religious who then can concentrate on being real full-time spiritual leaders.

4. Do not take volunteerisms for granted. People need to be educated in the merit of volunteerism. And it's up to the religious to preach that, because that is their responsibility. Being administrators of the church, the day to day running of the structure depends on them. If the Catholic Church falls, its the fault of all Catholics. If the structure of the Church falls, its the faults of the administrators running it, and in this case... the religious.

I hope I do not sound too harsh, but this seems to be my personal observations currently. All things said, it might change if I have more facts. But right now, with my limited knowledge, it seems to be that way.

Norman said...

just to add my 2c worth.

I think Nick Teo (NT) is essentially saying this - if the Church needs professional services, it should pay for it and not expect volunteers to step forward.

While Daniel Tay (DT) is essentially saying that - it is the duty of every Catholic to support the Church in ways that they can.

It looks very much to me that it is about paying a just wage for honest work done. We have to recognize that occupations eg. musician, website designer, writer, tailor etc etc are not just hobbies but a means to earn a living for many. In saying this, I also recognize that volunteering one's services is also praiseworthy but, as Nick Teo pointed out, there are limits to what volunteers can do without neglecting other responsibilities. We can certainly find ways where people can volunteer without taxing their time too much - jobs like a warden at Mass comes to mind immediately.

Let's have a thought experiment - if one expect websites to be built and maintained for free, why not take it further and say that "no architect is coming forward to volunteer his services to design the new Church of Divine Mercy" ? Hence, I don't see a conflict between DT's and NT's position. If an architect were to do work for the Church and be paid for it (and maybe charge a lower fee or give freebies), isn't he contributing to the Church as well?

Nick Teo said...

I wrote to Veritas asking for the mass times of all churches for the recent Day of Obligation.

This is their response...

We would like to but unfortunately the times are decided, sometimes
quite late, by the individual churches and we find it very difficult to
obtain in a timely and accurate manner, so we feel it best that people
contact the relevant churches directly.
I don't know...is that a satisfactory reply? Surely there is someone who can call up the 30 churches and update it once and for all? Or is it implied that the church only decides the mass time on the day itself?

I think if this is the so-called directory of the Catholic church, then there are much more improvements to make.

Whoever is in charge in updating should not be waiting for the church to give the times, but provide the services for the whole catholic community. Wouldnt it be better for the church if the secretary have lesser calls to pick up over the same enquiry?

And I'm sure there would be many reluctant catholics who would rather not go for mass cos they have to call up to find out.

I'm just upset with the lack of service when its part of the services provided.

Daniel said...

Why not you be the one to call up the 30 churches and inform the ones updating the website?

Daniel said...

The PPC... I know one reason it doesn't succeed is because the laypeople or priests in power do not let go of their control. In parishes like SFX, it works well. However, yes, it does depend on the parish priest's leadership and ability to motivate his flock to action. We cannot judge the success of the programme by only a few parishes' failures to utilize it. Some parishes and priests are just not ready for such a radical shift. In such parishes, the project was doomed before it even started.

We are surely called to aspire to be like St. Paul, and we can be like him in reality. As I said before, if our reality prevents us from serving in the church ministries, then perhaps our vocation is to be a Christian where we are, which certainly does not have to be in church. For example, if a Christian has many obligations to his family, but takes family time to use to serve in church ministry, he is surely not being responsible to his family. Even if he spends every evening in church in a myriad of church ministries, he is neglecting his family, where his true vocation lies. By serving his family the way he should be, he serves the church far better than he would in those many other ministries he's in.

I am not privy to the accounts of individual parishes, but I can say that only some parishes employ staff officially and we know that these parishes are located in areas where there are few poor people. Other parishes have to rely on volunteers. These parishes are, of course, run by the parish priests, who are in turn in charge of the accounts. It is they who decide how best to use the funds each parish has.

Every parish contributes a certain percentage of their collections to the archdiocese. This is the only source of the archdiocese's funds. The archdiocese then distributes the funds to the organizations that require it. Many of the commissions like ACMA and ACMI, and organizations like Catholic Welfare Services, receive large sums to keep their services running. Parishes who are unable to collect enough for maintenance also receive funding from the archdiocese. Much of it goes towards sustaining the survival of families and people who cannot survive on their own. Indeed the church's treasure has always been in the poor, the neglected, the sick, and the unprivileged.

I believe that it is not that the archdiocese is not able to afford money to sustain a website. I believe the reason is that there are much better uses for that money, such as feeding the hungry.

It is important, yes, to keep up with the times, but not at the cost of leaving behind some people. The church would rather run slowly with the last person in the race, than to keep up with the fastest runner, even if it means to lose the race.

You do have a point that making the church more professional will be better utilizing the money we collect more efficiently. But using the simple example we have, we have $2,000 for five families to support them. If we take that $2,000 and invest it, and in 10 years', we can feed 20 families with that $2,000, that is good. But what about the five original families? Will they still be there or have died from starvation?

I believe that the priests do not have to do anything extra to instill the idea of volunteerism in his flock. All he has to do is to be a good priest in whatever that entails. His very life itself is a witness to volunteerism, for he has, in fact, volunteered his very life to the service of Christ. All he needs to do is to be a good priest to inspire others to follow his example.

Regarding the crux of your argument:

1. There are already paid workers e.g. Family Life Society, Catholic Welfare Services, etc, who are carrying out massive tasks that the priests cannot manage by themselves.

2. The Veritas website was originally meant to the centre of internet activity for the diocese. The server itself was meant to host the parishes' websites, but as you can see, some good ideas don't always work out, because humans are unpredictable. For some reasons or other, they will choose to do things their own way. After all, even God had problems controlling the Israelites, and us today, what more the archbishop...

3. Are full-time experts of their field willing to work for a lower salary than they would be paid in the secular world? And secondly, are they willing to commit on a long-term basis? It would be pointless to call in an expert and pay him to work only for a while. The church is concerned with continuity as well. These are some of the difficulties faced by the church, which partially explains why the church is choosy about who it picks for its positions.

4. See above about each priest, each Catholic living out his vocation properly. That is all that is needed to instill the spirit of volunteerism. What the church needs is people who not only observe changes that need to be made, but actively does something to make those changes himself.

Incidentally, regarding the internet, there used to be a Brother Peter Michael, ofm, who helped with the running of diocesan websites. He is currently serving the Franciscan community in Rome. He also manages the official Franciscan website (www.ofm.org) Alas! The best are always sent to Rome to minister to the mother church.
There are also other religious that are capable of designing and updating websites. Being in the internet circle of Singapore Catholics, I am sure you have come across several already. Unfortunately, many of these have other commitments. Currently we do not have someone dedicated solely to maintaining and improving diocesan websites. Our last one was good, so good that Rome wanted him. :P


To Norman's thought experiment, that idea of an architect might be possible if there is an architect whose has no responsibility to his company. Most architects, if not all, work in teams and companies who do want to get paid, I believe.

What the individual Catholic architect could do was to donate his fee to the church, and I believe there are those, not only architects, that do such things.

The whole idea about volunteering is that it cannot be "expected". It is welcomed, but to "expect" volunteers already hints that something is wrong at the idea we have about volunteers.

Nick Teo said...

All I can say is that I respect your views, but you are basically not addressing my views but rather trying hard to defend what is visibly wrong.

There can be many sound and real reasons for everything, but the fact remains. I make certain observations and to me they are problems.

I think you are making a lot of sweeping statements with no real reasons. Perhaps I am wrong and that you are speaking on behalf of the church. If that is the official stand of the Archdiocese, then I accept it.

But if you are not, perhaps it would be more fruitful if you read my intentions before being an apologist of the catholic church administrators.

There is no merit in asking me to do the calling up of the 30 churches because we have to find out who is responsible for it and feedback to him so that he knows that there are people in need of such goodwill services.

Your remarks about PPC working well in SFX and only a few parishes are not, are based on your personal experiences and facts gathered?

Once again, the topic about "working in church" is about having a few individuals who can contribute full time in church and not those wardens and choir members on sunday. Do not mix up these obviously different group of people.

Why do you make such a sweeping statement again that there are only a few poor people in those parishes that employ staffs? You counted the poor and the rich in all 30 churches such that there is some satistics? Or are you implying that all rich churches can employ and all poor churches cannot have full time workers?

On the same note, do all money of the church goes to the poor? And thus no money should be spent on necessities? Then surely not all priests deserve to drive a brand new Toyota, but instead drive a Proton or Kia, as a basic. I would like to state here that each car price difference is about $15000 on average, and yet how many priests have their own Toyota?

And I believe I never once mention that the church should move at the speed of the fastest runner, please do not misunderstand me. I am asking for basics to be refined and to be improved. Asking for contact lists and mass times to be updated accurately isn't asking for radical changes I hope.

And as for not paying for someone to help out in church, I am rather curious why do you work fulltime for the CatholicNews, is your job more justified then someone working in a parish? And do you mind sharing if you are contributing to your parish by doing the work you do for CatholicNews?

And please clarify what do you mean that the priests should not do more? Then surely they need not preach or give homily or give any talks outside of mass, but instead just be himself and we will be able to learn all there is to know about being a servant of Christ.

And please tell me why are full time experts expected to receive lower salary? And why do you assume they will not work longterm? And do we need them to be on long-term basis? You mean whoever starts working in church must stay there forever, and what is the merit of that? You mean that expert is irreplaceable?

I am not arguing for the sake of argument because it is really pointless. I just hope you can be more objective and post comments that helps people to understand the situation. There is really no point in giving such defensive statements that are not official nor facts.

And the fact remains, the website is inaccurate and not updated. Contacts of religious are also invalid. Why do you want to give me all kinds of reasons? Who is interested whether the website is supposed to be this, supposed to be that?

All I want is for the website to function as a directory as you claim it to be. If it is not, just as well for it to be inexistent. And of course you are going to say, why don't I volunteer to run it. And now I will tell you the answer...

All of us are volunteering in different parts of this church, but going by your arguments, everytime I see a problem in church, I will have to do it myself. Then who would dare to make any criticism? And how many events can I volunteer? Volunteer for all organizations that I see with problems? Surely that is not the most sensible thing to do.

Norman said...

Daniel, thanks for providing insight into how the Archdiocese is run.

Now let's try to make this as clear and concise as possible.

Firstly, if the Church wants to rely on volunteers to get things done, fine, but recognize that there are limits to what volunteers can do. This, I think is pretty obvious. Volunteers can help out at Mass, at the Church canteen and so on but you can't expect them to embark on heavy projects/larger tasks like designing and maintaining a website, nor building a building, or providing a proper music programme.

Secondly, for things to work properly, sufficient resources must be devoted to them and you must get the right people to do it. If not, you just botch up the job. It is not enough to buy computers and software and then expect a good website to spring up from people who will happily step forward.

Thirdly, contributing to the church means doing what we are able to, and what we cannot do, we leave it to others who are in a better position to do so. That often means seeking out experts or professionals in the field, people with the necessary knowledge and experience, or taking the trouble to train people. In using their skills in the church, they are already contributing to the Church.

Fourthly, recognizing that very often these people depend on it for a living, and so it is only right that we pay them a just wage. What they do with the fee is entirely up to them. If someone already has sufficient means and chooses to donate his fee back to the church, fine. If someone is trying to keep a business afloat, or needs to balance his household expenses and needs the money, also fine too.

Therefore to say, "What the church needs is people who not only observe changes that need to be made, but actively does something to make those changes himself" is somewhat missing the point. If I point out that "Catechism classes are conducted badly" , does that mean I must go and teach Cat class even though I am bad at teaching, or I have a full schedule? Extending this, if I point out "my favourite bus service needs a shorter headway", must I go and drive a bus?

To ask, "Are full-time experts of their field willing to work for a lower salary than they would be paid in the secular world? And secondly, are they willing to commit on a long-term basis?" is essentially barking up the wrong tree. People leaving their jobs to seek greener pastures after a while is a fact of life. People needing to be paid a proper wage is also a fact of life and economics. Essentially, the Church will have to manage these things like everybody else.

Finally, if I am in need of money to keep the household afloat, it is only logical that seeking work with my skills becomes my priority. There is only so much that we volunteers can do in our free time. More can be done if the scope is expanded to tap on the skills of the people in society.

Anonymous said...

My name is Mark, some of you may know me while others may not. Pardon me as i give my 2 cents worth. And pls pardon all spelling errors as i'm not too gd at it.

The above arguments is both thought provoking and sad. Sad that ppl know what to do BUT are tied down by commitments.

Ulitmately, the bottom line is everything done for chruch is for GOD and his glorification. BUT do remember.. God gave us each a powerful gift, namely the Freedom of Choice. We can choose to do what we want, when we want and what we want. If God does not find fault with us who are we to critcise each other or others. In our own time and our own way we serve the Lord.

Yes there are lay movements, and even students have a duty according to Opus Dei to study and thru that glorify God. So in our own way going about our daily tasks we glorify God as and when we do each of our tasks. Helping out in church i feel is another topic and individual choice all together.

Money is always a funny issue. Should people who work for the church be paid? Well i think we have the RIGHT to be paid. should we not want it then its up to the individual.

And the church is NOT poor. some parishes may not be as well to do as other BUT they too are not poor. How can the Vatican be poor? If they were just sell of a painting and thats at least a few million. How they allocate the money among the different churchs and countries I do not know. And its not my job to find out or question. Each of us have our role to play.

I know my points are all over the place but hope it makes sense to some of u. Lastly i would like those who read this to go flip our Bible and read 1st Corinthians Chapter 9. Read it, think and about and then perhaps u carry on with your responds here to mine or any of the above.

Daniel said...

Dear Nick,

I am not speaking on behalf of the archdiocese any more than you are speaking on behalf of your insurance company. I come to this blog and share my views as someone who has an insight of the diocese's point of view. I can understand a bit about where the diocese is coming from, and I can understand where you are coming from because I've been there too.

There is indeed merit in asking you to do the calling up of the 30 churches because there is no one responsible for it. There are people in charge of maintaining the website and these people are system administrators just as Chris is administrator for this blog.

It is not his job to go and check the facts that we post on this blog, is it? It is not his job to verify the information that we find on this blog, is it? Who verifies it? Who supplies the information of, say, Liturgy of the Hours in Latin to inform us? It is not the system manager, but the people using the blog, isn't it?

The same it is with the Veritas website. The people in charge of it are merely system administrators. They maintain the website and make sure it keeps running. It is not their job to verify the facts. The information on the website is only as accurate as the people using the website care to submit changes.

If this analogy doesn't work for you, take Wikipedia, which also runs on volunteers. Again, it is not the job of the administrators to verify the facts on Wikipedia, but that of the community using the website. If they spot a mistake, they make the changes or alert the administrator to the mistake.

Incidentally, the people who run the Veritas website are also volunteers. And actually, asking for mass times and contact details to be updated really is calling for a radical change, especially in the mindset of the laity, many of whom still expect to be spoon-fed. (I'm not referring to you, so don't take it the wrong way!)

Regarding the PPC, it seems to work in parishes where the parish priests and the parishioners see eye to eye, see the value of such a system, and are determined to make it work. Some parish priests were cynical of such a system before it was even put into place. Without cooperation from both parishioners and parish priests, the PPC in such parishes is doomed to fail before it begins.

And yes, the topic about "working in church" has always been about those who contribute to the church in ways other than the usual parish ministries, for those who are reading in on this discussion.

Regarding rich and poor parishes, we must look at the area at which the parish is located. It is well-known that there are areas in Singapore where the rich people live, and where the poor people live.

The Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, for example, is located near Little India. Its parishioners are mainly migrant workers who have little to give to their parish (but they still do, and that is good).

The Church of St. Ignatius, on the other hand, is located in the heart of one of the richest housing estates in Singapore.

Which parish would you say is rich enough to employ full-time workers? Remember that it is the parish itself that employs the worker, not the diocese. The worker is paid by the collections from the parishioners, not from diocese funds. Obviously then, the rich churches can employ and all poor churches cannot have full-time workers.

The money collected by the parishes goes towards maintenance of the church building, as well as utilities. Each parish usually has a branch of the Society of St. Vincent De Paul (SSVP). Every month, a second collection is taken for the poor of the parish. SSVP members go down the aisles and collect money. This money, which comes from the pockets of the parishioners, is used to feed the poor in the parish.

What happens when the collection is not enough to feed all the poor in the parish? The SSVP branch receives funds from the head office, which channels funds from the richer parishes that usually have surplus in collections. The head office, if unable to balance its budget, in turn receives funding from the diocese.

Regarding cars, the cars that the priests have are provided for by the diocese, not the parish.

As for my job, I don't feel that I have to supply my personal reasons on this public blog. You can email me if you want to find out my reasons for working at this job, and my personal contributions to the diocese.

Our modern world tends to equate church activity with holiness. Serve more ministries, set up more groups, etc, seem to make people think that they are holy people. As Catholics, we are always expecting the most of our priests who, like all of us working people, have work that never ends.

The challenge is not to do as much work so as to finish it all, but to do it in a holy, godly way. For priests, as well as for laity, this is how we live out our individual vocations in the world. This is the path of holiness through work. The same it is for our priests. A holy priest is not one that takes on project after project, starts group after group, but one that does all that he does in a holy, godly way, doing all that is required of him by the will of God, not the will of men.

All priests are called to volunteer their whole life, time, and effort for the good of their flock. When their flock sees that kind of generous volunteerism in the life of their priests, they too will be inspired to give of their own life, time and effort for God's people.

No one working in the church can expect to receive the kind of salary that they can get in the secular world. The primary reason for this is that the church is not a business; it cannot afford to pay its workers the way a profit-generating business can. All who intend to work full-time in the church must realise this basic fact - the church is not a business.

A highly qualified expert will have to do with a much lower salary than he would receive in the secular working world. Some are content with that, some are not. After all, one of the important reasons why we work is to earn money for ourselves, and our families, is it not? A highly qualified expert has a higher tendency to leave his job in the church for one that pays him better.

It's not that they are greedy or anything. It's just the high cost of living in Singapore, and the desire to give our children the best that we can give them.

The merit of a person who works long-term in the church is that of continuity. To put it simply, think of CSS Excos, how every Exco sets its own objective and vision which lasts for a year, then the next Exco takes over and often decide to steer down a different objective. It might work in CSS, but for an organisation as big as the diocese, often it takes several years for any one objective to be obtained.

The Veritas website is not, and cannot, be constantly updated by just one person alone. Take my word for this, it is impossible for any one person to be completely in touch with all the changes that take place in this diocese, even if he was paid to do it.

There is only one way that the Veritas website can be a source of updated information and directory for all its users. It is when all its users play their own small role in alerting the administrators of changes every time they notice it.

You can do your part, I can do my part (if I use the directory), Chris can do his part, John can do his part, Norman can do his part... if everyone does his part, the directory will be updated... because if someone spots that it is not, it is his part to alert the administrators.

It doesn't take a profession to keep this website updated. Just the small contributions of all its users.

Indeed Norman, your post and this post of mine agree on many points. You are right in saying that if you see that catechism classes are conducted badly, you are not expected to go and teach them. However, it is also your responsibility as a member of the community to alert those who can and should do something about it. If your favourite bus service needs a shorter headway, it is your role to inform the bus service company, not sit somewhere and gripe about the problem.

It is the same in parish life. If you see that your priest is giving a lousy homily week after week, it is your duty as a parishioner to bring it up to your priest, and perhaps offer suggestions for improvement, not to complain to one another about his lousy homilies.

Ultimately the point I'm making is: the church can and does run on volunteers. It always has.

(For those who want to start volunteering to update the Veritas website, there is a section on the lowest part of the left column titled "Interact". There, you can submit comments and suggestions, submit events, announcements, web links, and alert the administrators to directory updates.)

ChrisYeo said...

Dear Everyone,

I would like to step in here and ask for the sake of clarity that a new post be started if you want to talk about the various issues that are brought up here.

The comments have indeed been informative and I'm sure everyone appreciates every point and argument that has been shared.

So far, what has been raised has covered:

1. Should the Veritas website be something different from what it is now?
2. Whether and when the church should hire people to run things in the church.
3. What attitude should a Catholic take towards volunteering in the church?
4. What attitude the church should take towards modernity - e.g. the Internet.

The question which began it all was whether the Veritas website should be something different from what it is. So let's continue with that question and begin new posts for the others.

ChrisYeo said...

Hi everyone. To continue...

First off, there is an obvious difference in opinion towards what the Veritas website is seen to be. To Daniel (and the archdiocese it seems), it is just a server. Churches are supposed to use it to host their webpages, volunteers help put up the church directory, and it just sort of leads a minimalist life, extraneous to the church.

This is the first and fundamental disconnect between people like Daniel and the rest of the Internet world. To a new generation of people, young and old, the internet is a new frontier of interaction and evangelization. This blog is the very representation of this new reality. Websites are now the new ‘front door’ to an organization. I’ve never seen City Harvest’s church, but I have seen its website and flyers, all professionally done. It has left a lasting and positive impression of the church on me. When I visit the online front door of the Catholic Church, the Veritas website, I am left with a lousy impression. It is neither pretty, nor up-to-date, and only minimally useful. It is representative of a staid, stuck-up, laid-back kind of church, a representation, I’m sorry to add, that Daniel (who does not speak on behalf, but “has an insight” into the diocese) has further reinforced with his comments.

The solution that we suggest therefore, is for the Archdiocese to hire a web designer to update the website. It would be a short and relatively inexpensive exercise. The church should not expect that volunteers come forward to do this work for free, because this work requires expertise. If however the church asks for and gets professional volunteers for this, then that would be great. It should however not wait if no one comes forward, nor settle for non-professional volunteers. I have spoken to Nick and we are already in the process of contacting the relevant persons and explaining this to them. So far, Daniel’s comments have not convinced that the Veritas website should remain the way it is.

ChrisYeo said...

The Veritas website is not, and cannot, be constantly updated by just one person alone…
There is only one way that the Veritas website can be a source of updated information and directory for all its users. It is when all its users play their own small role in alerting the administrators of changes every time they notice it. It doesn't take a profession to keep this website updated, just the small contributions of all its users.

This argument is wrong. It is definitely possible for one person, or a team of persons, to keep a web directory updated. All you have to do is transcribe the official church directory published every year to the web format. When a contact number or address is changed, the church should have a central directory that is updated anyway, and this change should just be reflected on the web directory. It doesn’t take a profession, agreed, but it definitely can be done by one person.

But that’s beside the point, as we are not talking just about the church directory here. We are talking about The Official Website of The Catholic Church of Singapore. The Veritas website should definitely be different from what it is now, and it needs to be professionally updated and maintained. We should not wait for volunteers and should invest our money in attracting more people to church and God in every way possible.

Adrian Kok said...

Hi there, my name is Adrian, and I'm one of the original founders of the Veritas website. You're right - we provide little more than a transcription of the Church Directory, but you need to define what an Official Website means. To me, it's a reflection of the organisation - the Catholic Church in Singapore has yet to discover the Internet as an effective.

The problem is not with volunteers. We have been active at times over the past decade. But with time, most of us have become low-key, performing only the most basic maintenance work. Reasons are manifold. Some of us have progressed in our careers (I had a lot more free time 10 years ago) or started families. One has even retired.

We need to rejuvenate this team - and we need the Church organisation to make this a priority. Without effective direction, the most ardent volunteer will find themself swimming in circles. The team has never had much attention from the hierarchy, and less lay leadership too. Any takers?

BTW, if you find the directory is not up to date, post your comment to us via the website and it'll be updated soon.

God bless.

Nick Teo said...

I think these exchanges are going nowhere in respect to Daniel, so I think I shall end this off at least for me. After all reading the commments from other "posters", they seem to understand what I am saying.

I do not know how my insurance company is part of the issue, but I shall let personal attacks pass.

And as for not doing anything, I believe I posted the email exchanges I have with the administrator of Veritas, and that was when you ask me to call all 30 churches myself. But I shall let it pass as well.

But I thank Adrian for providing a real insight on the operations of the website. He had spoken the REAL reasons for not effectively make use of a website, and he had spoken about the people operating it and I believe he had also spoken that the inherent problem is the Catholic CHurch of Singapore has yet to discover the internet as effect, and it has no effective direction nor do they have attention from the hierachy.

ANd that to me is real insight...

Bill Timmins said...

I'm another of the still relatively active volunteers (and wrote that reply about days of obligation :-). I'm mostly concerned with the technical work.
I've read much of the comment above (and my immediate frivolous thought was that if you all have enough time to write that much maybe you should be volunteers).
But seriously, I think the current state does reflect the state of church organisation as we see it. It is very decentralised. Someone said that there must be a place where all changes in church directory are notified and recorded. There isn't!!! The printed directory is compiled basically by calling, mailing, or somehow contacting the organisations once a year. Sad but true.
Someone wants to hire a web design company to redesign the site. Do we really want a 'statue' or 'museumpiece' like most of the other sites I know which have been designed like that???
When we designed the current site, we were aware that there was unlikely to be a lot of effort available to maintain it. That is why we filled most of the white space with interactive content, i.e. submitted events/announcements.
If you don't like the colours/fonts that can be fixed too. They're all css controlled. Try adding ?color=red to the address :-).
Oh and I said "contact the relevant churches directly", this is not an invitation to call all 30. Most people are unlikely to travel to the other side of the island and we do have a "Find Church" map, which helps you to find the nearest churches. And we do sometimes manage to do the calling and put the times under Announcements. "Sometimes" unfortunately is a consequence of volunteerism and the fact that some of us haven't set foot in Singapore for some time and calling 30 churches from California or even Kuching is not that practical.
Someone mentioned that Fr JP Tan is doing a good job at SMOTA, just FYI, it was him and I who got Veritas! on the road in 1996 when I was a parishioner there.
When I was asked to read this blog through the Comments link, I had hoped to see some usefully usable, practical suggestions in here for what needs to be done to the site, unfortunately I don't really see any compelling ones.
1. Make it prettier?
Well yes, but surely not that important... We'd be happy to see some mockups though. Bear in mind that most of the content is in a database rather than in the html so a facelifted design is not horribly difficult to implement.
2. Make it more accurate and up to date?
We'd love to, tell us what to add/remove, and how to manage that content or volunteer your services on a long term basis if it requires regular work...
Sorry no time to write any more now... Use the Comment link to contact me directly, I don't like to put my email address (twa) online.

ChrisYeo said...

To Adrian and Bill,

Thank you for coming over and sharing your points. I apologise for not having more concrete suggestions to improve the Veritas website. I suppose we could not even move past the question of whether there was anything that should be changed at all! And thank you of course for maintaining the Veritas website for so long. We will discuss more concrete suggestions and forward them to you when ready.

Don't misunderstand that we do not want to volunteer. Each of us as actively involved in our own way in the church, so we have limited time and expertise to help, and I think we're all called in different ways.

As Nick has mentioned, the important insight and the more interesting question for us here is why the local church lacks central direction and efficiency with regards to the internet(as well as other things). Some individual parishes are moving; it's high time the archdiocese catches up.

Bill Timmins said...

Well, one man's "central direction" is another man's "dictatorship". So it's all a matter of degree.
And re City Harvest a look at the number of superlatives on http://www.chc.org.sg/english/building/index.cfm suggests to me that the Catholic Church uses it's money somewhat more wisely.

Bill Timmins said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that the other issue is the mandatory government license we have which makes us 'personally and individually responsible' for everything on the site, making any form of real interactive, blog-type content practically impossible.

Daniel said...

Bill's right. If we all spent less time attacking and defending the church (and ourselves), we would have a lot more time to spend actually helping the church, and there would be a lot less to attack and defend.

My apologies Nick. I did not mean to sound like I was attacking you. I was just saying that my job in Catholic News has as little to do with my posts on this blog as your job in insurance.

However, Bill, my position in Catholic News does assist in helping your team to update the website, which I will do so starting today.