Giving Thanks for 200 Years of Faith

Vanessa

In one of St Teresa of Avila’s prayers, she says “God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.”

In 2021, I have seen the power and significance of this prayer being repeatedly lived out. Five years into the workforce, I started questioning and contemplating about career progression and began setting high expectations on myself. I felt that it was important to do so, so as to not lose out and to match up to others around me. However, when these expectations weren’t met, feelings of self-doubt, failure and disappointment began to resurface. I soon realised that I was letting the worldly and material matters take priority whilst casting God’s plans for me aside. It was at that time when someone in my Catholic community, Living Ark, shared St Teresa’s prayer that immediately resonated with what I was feeling and has been stuck with me ever since. It taught me to be patient, to draw strength from the One above and to trust that He’ll chart out the best possible path in my life.

Through various life experiences this year, I’ve learned to never underestimate the gift of community. Each individual brother or sister’s constant encouragement, support and proclamation of truths in my life helped me to re-align my heart to God once again. Moreover, when the journey gets tough, it always helped to know that someone was praying with me and for me. While it is difficult to let go of living a life according to my plans, it is only through time and on hindsight that I’ve come to realise that God’s plans are indeed more beautiful and perfect. It’s just that I could not see it clearly yet. As we celebrate 200 years of Catholicism in SG this year, I am blessed and thankful to see the beauty of the Catholic faith and its relevance in our world through the unity and presence of community. – Vanessa Lee, Living Ark, Working Adult


Joelle

This year, the biggest challenge that I faced was dealing with the uncertainty of the season of my life and my walk with the Lord. It was really frustrating as I felt like I had to deal with adapting to school that changed to both online and offline persistently due to the changes in the COVID restrictions. I also felt like it was tough to trust in the Lord amidst of all these as while school and responsibilities set in, I grew tired and just desired for the Lord to reveal to me what He was doing in my life.

However, after wrestling and sitting with the Lord (and also running from Him), the Lord gently revealed to me that He knew what He is and was doing. He was inviting me to a deeper trust in Him, a trust that was not founded on certainty or circumstance, but on the reality that He was in control despite the chaos. Jeremiah 29:11 says,” for surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope”. He was gently leading me to claim this truth that He desires good for me even when I cannot see it!

The celebration of 200 years of the Catholic faith in Singapore reminds me of how important it is to live a life of remembrance. If the missionaries did not take steps to plant seeds of faith in the people then, the Church in Singapore might not even be here! I’m invited to model that in my own walk with the Lord, to offer what I can to those around me and leave everything else up to the Lord. I hope that as the young people in my generation continue to grow, we may lean in more to the Heart of the Father who loves us. That we can grow more in zeal for the Kingdom of God and be unafraid in doing small things with great love for God! – Joelle Tan, SIM CS, University Student


Nakeisha

My biggest challenge this year was returning to God and living life as His disciple, with the constant challenge to step out of my comfort zone. It started with having to realise the lies I was telling myself and having to overcome the past hurtful comments that had been made about my body. He helped me to have difficult conversations about my  and from there on, He moved in my family. He did not stop at just this one aspect of my life, but guided me to cope better with e growing more comfortable with the discomfort of loving myself, he also challenged me to step into self-acceptance and self-love through retreats like SHINE 2021, and EMPOWER 2021. 

He also called me to move out of my shell in school. I used to hide and talk to very few people or even on some days, no one at all, which sometimes was because I was tired and needed rest, but most times, because I felt inferior and out of place. However, God taught me it is okay to be different, and that though I feel like this and it is valid, it is difficult to share His love with all His children if I close up and do not let God open my heart. The Lord also taught me how to open up and learn to be vulnerable through a close friend at school. It was not easy, but this friend stayed, and chose to love and care for me just as the Lord has always done. In learning to trust in this friend, God has opened my heart like a blossoming flower.

I have learned that I will not grow  if I stay in my comfort zone. I have learned to lean on God, and rely on Him because apart from Him, I am truly weak weak, and am able to do nothing. But He strengthens, nourishes, grounds and roots me in His love so that I can grow. God has shown that He will keep loving me no matter what, just like the father of the Prodigal son, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10).

Celebrating 200 years of the Catholic faith in Singapore this year has impacted my own faith by inspiring me to want to stay close to God. It has impacted me by showing me God remains the same even with the passing of time. He continues to love us and have faith in us, and calls us to continue believing and having faith in him too because He never fails. He is unconditional in love, and through Him, we will see victory in our lives. My hope for the young people of my generation is that they may all one day encounter God’s beautiful and powerful love, and that in His time, all may come to see His beauty! – Nakeisha Lye, Catholic Youth Apostolate, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Student


Dexton

Recovering from Covid-19 was the biggest challenge I faced this year. I was one week away from my second vaccination when I was identified as an unlinked confirmed case. By God’s grace, I was the only one who contracted the virus despite being in close contact with my family and fiancée. Covid-19 hit me quite hard, and my friends and family were constantly praying for me.

Due to my hospitalisation, I missed 3 RCIY sessions with OYP. I was disappointed because it was only the start of my journey with the Lord, and I was already missing sessions. However, I felt that the Lord led me to come to know Him in a way similar to the conversion of St Paul the Apostle. Being a non-Christian, I had previous unpleasant encounters with preachers from other Christian denominations in the past but by God’s grace, I encountered Him through my fiancée and began attending RCIY with OYP.

After making a full recovery, I continued my RCIY journey and attended the Treasure#13 young working adults retreat where I witnessed how the Lord worked through each and every one of us in different ways. After the retreat, I felt motivated to go forth and spread the Good News, particularly to those who do not yet know Jesus.

It has been extra special for me to begin my Journey with the Lord while we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Catholic Church’s presence in Singapore. Although there is a small part of me that wishes I had discovered the Lord sooner, I believe that it is all in God’s plan. Blessed are the people who built the early churches in Singapore. Without them, it will not be as it is today, and it will also be much more difficult for us to encounter the Lord. 

I hope the young people of my generation will see and learn that they are not alone. I hope that they will take courage, and make time to help one another seek the Lord. Ultimately, I hope that they place the Lord at the center of their lives and surrender their struggles to Him. 

I also hope that my generation of young people can continue to build up the church by cultivating good values and witnessing to their children as they are our hope for the future. – Dexton Lim, OYP RCIY, Working Adult


                                                                                Alfonso

“The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” – Psalm 23

I was hoping that 2021, unlike the year before, would be a more peaceful year when things would return to normal once again. However, I would come to learn that this would not be the case. Just like any other second-year junior college student, the most significant thing in my year was my A-level examinations. The endless amount of content that needed to be internalized within two years certainly made me feel like David compared to the Goliath of academic rigour. 

However, I realized that a deeper struggle lay beyond my anxious anticipation of the A-Levels. My struggle encompassed not only worries for my academic performance, but fundamentally who I truly was as a person. The highly-significant nature of the A-Levels only helped to expose the true conflict within me. As I approached adulthood, I became more desperate in my search for identity, vision, and vocation. As I signed up for National Service and registered to vote in my home country’s elections at the same time, I found myself questioning where my true allegiances lay, having never really felt at home anywhere to begin with. 

I sought distraction through ministry, as a means of escaping reality. I was very active in shepherding a youth cell group in my parish, heading a Legion of Mary Praesidium in my JC, and occasionally volunteering with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP). I also joined the Mustard Seed community at OYP to further anchor my soul in the company of fellow second year JC students amidst the turbulent seas of A level preparation. I may have been physically present for all these gatherings but I felt like I was certainly not fully spiritually present. There were times that I found myself simply going through the motions.

One day, while in prayer, I realized that I needed to get my faith in order. Through kingdom friendships, I was reminded of the comforting and compassionate presence of God, which was boundless in mercy and overflowing with love. My life was re-illuminated with purpose once again, as I sought to be a better Christian so that the people around me could more vividly see Jesus in me. I still continue to struggle, but I trust in the guidance and protection of God to be “my Shepherd” and subsequently focus my desires more concretely on Him, for His greater glory to manifest within me. I have learned to place my trust more deeply in the Lord despite my flaws and imperfections. 

As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Catholic Church in Singapore, just as I have embraced my imperfections and strive to be a better Christian in what I do, think, and say, I hope that we as Church continue to grow. With the ever-so-fervent belief that Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, will always be there to guide us, I remain hopeful in the Church’s promise to grow, not only for the next two hundred years but for as long as God wills it to. – Alfonso Yuji Abeleda Cortez, Mustard Seed Community, JC/IB Community