The Church of St. Teresa in Singapore was built in 1929. (Photo: Singapore Archdiocese)
A historic Catholic church built by French missionaries on the outskirts of Singapore has reopened to the public after two years of closure for restoration to continue its mission to serve seafarers and the local Chinese-speaking community.
The Church of St. Teresa sits on top of hills on Kompong Bahru Road overlooking the port of Singapore. Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP) priests built the church in 1929, making it the first rural church in Singapore. The missionaries aimed to carry out a mission among the rising number of Chinese-speaking Catholics in the area, according to the church’s historic records. Later, missionary activities included seafarers.
MEP Bishop Pierre Louis Perrichon, coadjutor bishop of Malacca Diocese, which then covered Singapore, dedicated the church on April 7, 1929.
This is the only Catholic church in Singapore built in the Roman-Byzantine style with it large domes, arches on the facade, and cupolas, according to the National Heritage Board (NHB) of Singapore.
Father Jean M. Ouillon, procurator of the MEP in Singapore, was deeply inspired by the architecture of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Montmartre, Paris, France, when he drew the initial sketches of the church’s design, NHB noted. Emile Brizay prepared the final architectural plans.
The materials to construct this stunningly beautiful church were imported from France and India.
Besides serving marines and Chinese Catholics, the church has also opened its heart to people in distress
In 1958, the Singaporean wing of the Apostleship of the Sea, an international Catholic association that serves the spiritual needs of seafarers, was launched in the Church of St. Teresa and is still based there today.
In 2009, the church was gazetted as a national monument due to its historical and social significance, architectural value and importance to the local community.
The church remained closed for renovation for two years and reopened on Oct. 2, reported the Straits Times.
Besides serving marines and Chinese Catholics, the church has also opened its heart to people in distress.
In 1961, when a deadly fire raged in the nearby Bukit Ho Swee area, leaving four dead, about 50 injured and thousands of houses destroyed, the church offered shelters to many homeless people.
Over the years, the church has also offered educational and social services to the community.
Singapore 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.
With a population of about 5.6 million, Singapore 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.
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