I went to mass in a place popularly known here as Novena, the St. Alphonsus Church, this Iglesia is located in Thomson Rd situated in the central area of Singapore. It’s near where we live so I could just ride a cab for a short trip but the train is far cheaper, the North-South line serves the area where the church is, the station to get to is also called Novena, but we were running late so the taxi was the best pick.
Being a devotee of our Lady of Perpetual Help, I feel a certain affinity with the charming little church. It reminds me very much of our Baclaran church, which is also Redemptorist. Even more, when I saw devotees fervently praying in front of the Marian image brought by the Redemptorist friars (called Our Lady of Perpetual Success). The Redemptorist fathers spearheaded the creation of a missionary here, they also introduced Saturday Novenas that started in 1949 and still continues to this day, the Novena, was their way of strengthening the faith among the Catholics in the area of which all are from different ethnological backgrounds with their devotion to the blessed Virgin as the only bond they share with each other. Over time, the simple make shift church became a fortified structure, it was built on contributions, its land was donated by a wealthy Catholic Chinese family.
I was delighted to see that the parokyano’s here are very participative (the mass was in English), they dress well, very formal (In fact the only person thats wearing a shirt and a short was me, how embarrassing!) They are very good Catholics here, you would hear people praying and singing songs of praise, reciting the psalms (without the help of any visual projections). I even saw people praying the rosary after the mass has ended, while some flocked the image of our Lady close to the main altar. Seeing all this, takes me back to the very first time I visited to the historic Binondo Church, I was in high school, I was curious then how the Chinese there would pray, how are they as Catholics, I got my answer, they were no different. I was amazed how the religion has really taken root even amongst the Chinese (Filipino – Chinese), the religion has become the identity. Its the same here, Catholicism, regardless of its propagators has maintained its universality. Christian conversion was in deed the sweet fruit of the Missionaries persevering desire to Christianize the Asian continent. The Catholic faithfuls here are the testament to this.
I would have to admit that I have never seen such active participation this back home, we have our own way – we are often passive during mass, silent for the entire duration of the celebration. I mean it could be something cultural but they’re really different, they seem to be more aware and appreciative of their Catholic traditions. This could be the result of the Catholic community here being small, hence, knitted tightly, groups like this tend to be closer and active, something that we no longer feel.
It was an excellent experience, going to mass here, one that I would remember forever. For the first time in months, I feel spiritually Rejuvenated. Looking at them practice their faith inspires me. How odd it is that a nation not known to be Catholic could inspire a Catholic from a nation known to be predominantly Catholic. Surprises comes from unexpected places they say, I found my spiritual surprise here in the Lion city.
Although the church was only built in the late 40’s, it has already been declared a heritage site by the Government. They successfully restored the original bell towers donated by a rich Chinese lady. This place of worship, like almost all known places of religion here in this island nation is well maintained.
* Photo courtesy of NeilMark13