St. Laurent Marie Joseph Imbert (1796-1839), a French Catholic priest of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP), landed in Singapore on Dec. 11, 1821. (Photo: Wikipedia)
The Singapore Church has marked the official beginning of year-long celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the advent of Catholicism in the city state by calling on local Catholics to “ignite and shine with faith.”
The start of the jubilee year was marked on Dec. 13 with a virtual Mass celebrated by Archbishop William Goh of Singapore, the launch of a jubilee website and a special jubilee logo, and screening of a documentary on the social impact of the Catholic Church in Singapore.
The celebrations will end on Dec. 11, 2021, with a concurrent Mass in all 32 parishes in Singapore.
The theme for the jubilee year is “Ignite and Shine with Faith” in line with the pastoral vision of the Archdiocese of Singapore to shape a more vibrant, evangelizing and missionary church.
Events will focus on renewing the faith of the Catholic community through four aspects: deepen, discern, witness and celebrate.
The Catholic community will attend prayers to collectively thank God for their missionary forefathers and to contemplate the challenges of living out their faith today. At parish level, churches will organize spiritual and community activities to deepen the faith of their communities
Conferences, talks and events will be organized by church organizations on various aspects of Catholicism and its impact on Singapore with topics including education, business ethics, social responsibility, serving the poor, strengthening family relationships and interreligious dialogue.
A virtual Christmas concert will be held on Dec. 25.
The highlight of the year-long celebrations will be an eight-day festival from Dec. 4-11, 2021. Most activities will take place in four Catholic locations — the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Church of Saints Peter and Paul, St. Joseph’s Church (Victoria Street) and the Catholic Centre (Waterloo Street).
Among the planned activities are an exhibition of Christian paintings and 3-D artwork by select artists; a presentation of local Christian literary works and Cana Films Showcase and an exhibition of 200 years of artefacts, heritage and Catholic culture in Singapore.
A specially curated Feast of Music will be presented via concerts at St. Joseph’s Church with performances by local artists. There will be walking tours to Catholic religious sites.
A celebration for all Singaporeans
Father Valerian Cheong, co-chairman of the jubilee committee, called on Catholics and all Singaporeans to join the celebrations.
“2021 will be a special year for Catholics in terms of the renewal of their faith. The celebration will also help them to appreciate the Church’s impact on the development of Singapore these past 200 years, especially in the fields of education, health care, social services and interreligious dialogue,” Father Cheong said.
“So, as we celebrate this pivotal year, we’d like to invite all Singaporeans — not just Catholics — to join us in these activities to exchange ideas on how we can shape a better and more caring society.”
Singapore is the smallest country in Southeast Asia. It was a Malay fishing village when it was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles who made it a British colony in 1819. Soon afterwards, Catholic missionaries arrived and the Catholic Church is credited with vital contributions in nation building through education, health care and social welfare.
St. Laurent Marie Joseph Imbert (1796-1839), a French Catholic priest of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP), landed in Singapore from France on Dec. 11, 1821, for missionary assignments to Penang (Malaysia) and China.
He sent a report on the presence of Catholics in Singapore and the need for a church mission to his bishop in Siam (Thailand), marking a new era for Catholicism in the country. The date of Father Laurent’s arrival in Singapore is historically viewed as the beginning of the Church, which also shaped modern Singapore.
Singapore, with a population of about 5.6 million, is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. Most Chinese are Buddhists and most Malays are Muslims. Christians comprise about 15 percent of the population.
The Archdiocese of Singapore has 360,000 Catholics spread across 32 parishes.