Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cathedral of the Good Shepherd

Good Shepherd Cathedral
On Sunday 19 Feb, I was at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd for the Social Mission Day celebration, to mark the Re-dedication of the Cathedral.  The Cathedral had been closed for about three years, as it was undergoing a massive renovation and restoration programme.  It was re-dedicated on 14 Feb 2017, the 120th Anniversary of its Consecration (the original church was completed in 1847).  Over the following 12 days, Catholics in Singapore celebrated the dedication with a series of events ending with the closing mass on 26 Feb 2017.

Social Mission Day was the day when all the Church's social mission organisations (mine included) shared their work with the Catholic Community.  It is a platform for raising awareness and outreach to the Community (aka getting volunteers).  Of course (let's not kid ourselves) most people were there for the Food Fair.  There were also souvenirs on sale - the bricks from the old pillar which collapsed, a praying lamb (it IS the Good Shepherd Cathedral after all) and commemorative books (I got one, a lovely hardback book with chapters written by ST journalists).

I was there primarily to man the booth but I went for mass first.  The church was packed and I had to stand throughout but it was worth it.  The Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ sings at the 10.30am mass, and it was truly uplifting and inspiring to hear their voices lifted up in song throughout the mass.  Mgsr Philip Heng's sermon at mass can be found here. After mass, he also made a short presentation telling the congregation about the gardens and facilities of the newly reopened Cathedral and invited us to pay them a visit.

Homeless Mission
Which, of course, is what I did.   I managed to spend some time walking around the gardens of the Cathedral.  In particular, I really liked the Garden of the Resurrection - which featured the statue of the Homeless Jesus.  This is a replica of a statue by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schwartz.  Christ, covered almost completely by a blanket, is lying on a park bench.  Only his exposed feet, market by the nails of the cross, reveal his identity.  One with the homeless, one with the poor, he reminds us that "so long as you do it for the least of my brethren, you do it for me".

Within the Cathedral itself, I was moved by the little memorial to St Laurent Imbert who was said to be the first MEP priest who said mass here.  He was subsequently martyred in Korea, during a time of persecution, giving himself up so that the young congregation of believers could be spared.  Fr Imbert wrote to his fellow priests, reminding them of Christ's words that he is the Good Shepherd who gives up his life for his flock.  And it is in reference to that letter, that the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd was named.
Old coins and trading markers found in the time capsule
Beside the Cathedral is a new building containing a small Heritage Centre.  Here, you can see the original foundation stone of the building, and a time capsule containing items put there when the foundation stone was laid.

I read a little more about the history of the Cathedral (from the commemorative book I had purchased) when I got back.  It was a compelling, fascinating story of how the Church first set up in Singapore and how the French priests from the Mission Estrangers de Paris (MEP) contributed to building the Catholic community here.  In particular, I read about Fr Jean-Marie Beurel who not only raised funds for and built the Cathedral, but also brought in the La Salle brothers and IJ sisters to start up Catholic Schools in Singapore.  Of course, the first IJ convent was set up directly opposite the Cathedral (and SJI nearby).  So, my family including myself are indebted to him for our education.  Through reading the book I was better able to appreciate why the Cathedral is truly the "Mother Church" of all the Catholic Churches in Singapore.  And why the Cathedral also sees it as its mission to celebrate the rich heritage of the Catholic Church in Singapore.  From this Church sprung all the parishes in Singapore, now over 30 in number.  It brought in the teaching orders into Singapore, and helped provide nurses to the "Sepoy Lines"  Hospital, and later set up Mount Alvernia Hospital.  If so much can spring from the efforts and faith of just a few pioneers, imagine what all of us can do!

The banners representing all the Parishes in Singapore
For more photos, check out my Flickr page.

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