We have been serving as a couple since the 1980s. The call to serve came after we attended the Marriage Encounter (ME) weekend in 1981. During that weekend, the presenters invited us to go out and serve as a couple, using our gifts and talents.
Upon the invitation of our parish priest, we started serving in our parish’s Infant Baptism Preparation and in the Teens’ programme (organised by the late La Salle Brother Conleth).
Serving in Marriage Encounter
In 1990, we attended a second ME weekend – yes! we attended it twice. While the topics presented were the same, we gained new insights about each other, our thoughts, feelings, our dreams and hopes as we had moved on to another stage of our life journey.
In 1990 we accepted the invitation to serve as a presenting team couple for ME. The many formations we received in this community as well as the personal retreats at the Seven Fountains Jesuit Spirituality Centre in Chiang Mai and at our local retreat centres helped us grow in intimacy with each other.
These retreats and formations enriched our faith and deepened our relationship with God. We have been given much, and we felt the call to give back, to serve together.
We hope that as a couple serving together, the people who interact with us can see that our marriage is a Sacrament, a visible sign of God’s love for His people, and that even as we face challenges and struggles, we have hope and faith in God who loves us so much and will always be with us.
Surrendering to God’s Will
In the early years of marriage Shelley had difficulty conceiving. We both underwent fertility evaluations and procedures. Finally, the doctors recommended IVF.
We wanted a child badly and discussed it with a priest. He listened to our situation and guided us with the kindness of an understanding shepherd, helping us understand the Church’s teaching on IVF.
We left his office strengthened in faith and enlightened about the Church’s stand. We decided to surrender to God’s will and accept whatever happened next, whether we had a baby or not.
To our surprise Shelley conceived our first child. Then it was another six-year wait and a similar surrender to God’s will before Shelley conceived our second child. The third was born thirteen months later. We trust that God knows what is sufficient for us.
A Grace Moment for Us
In 2018, we were honoured to be invited by the Vatican and His Grace Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, to be panel speakers at the World Meeting of Families. We were asked to speak on the topic “When Plates Fly – Pope Francis on the Reality of Love in Family Life”.
It was held on Thursday 23 August 2018. But months ahead, we had prepared our script and had submitted to the organising team in Rome for coordination and translation.
The night before, we prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide us and bless us during our presentation. Very early the next morning, about three hours before the talk, Shelley woke up with a thought – to remove some paragraphs and insert a personal story.
We hurriedly made the amendments and managed to have the hotel print out copies of the revised talk. We made ourselves vulnerable to the attendees at that main conference hall with the personal sharing.
Immediately after we spoke, the moderator, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark USA, commented positively on what we had shared. Then as the panel discussion ended, reporters came up to us to get an on-the-spot interview with us.
Over the next few days, lay people, priests and religious came up to us to thank us for our presentation. We must have touched hearts that morning as we spoke – truly it was a grace moment for us.
The Holy Spirit had prompted us to amend our text and gave us courage to change it at the last minute. In fact we only managed to hand the hurriedly revised text to the organising team less than an hour before our scheduled talk!
Serving in Our Parish and Beyond
Over the years, we had served in various ministries in our parish, Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (OLPS). We assisted in Infant Baptism, the Teenage Programme for Secondary 3 and 4 youths, and faith formation sessions, as well as participated in the Family Life Ministry and the El Shaddai Choir together with our daughter.
Shelley also served as a volunteer for the Pregnancy Crisis and Support team. Daniel is currently serving as a Funeral Minister at OLPS; and before the Covid-19 pandemic, Shelley would accompany Daniel to visit the family of the deceased, as well as join the Funeral Mass and prayers at the crematorium .
As a couple, we are also serving as members of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, where we contribute to the development of strategies and guidelines in support of the Dicastery’s mission of promoting the life and apostolate of the faithful.
Sharing Stories with Our Children
Within our family, we make it a point to share stories and memories with our children especially when we gather for meals. We share about our hardships, challenges and the wonderful moments of grace, serendipities that we experienced, from our early childhood right through to our senior years now.
We continue to worship as a family, either in online Mass or in-person Mass at our parish. Nowadays our children ask us to pray for them when they face challenges at work or in their personal lives. It is interesting that when we discuss about movies to watch, they will quip “not for you mum and dad, you would not like the coarse language or the violence”.
We hope that they too will take the cue from us to watch wholesome movies that inspire and teach good values. Our hope is that our children will also pass on our stories, memories and values we have shared as well as their own stories to the next generation.
Our Prayer for the Catholic Church’s 200th anniversary
Psalm 145:4 “One generation commends your works to another;”
On this 200th anniversary of our Catholic Church, we pray that all Catholics in Singapore will come to experience the love of God in their everyday encounters and situations. May we all live our lives in deep communion with God, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, bring the light of Christ to those around us through our words, deeds and values. We offer grateful thanks to the dedicated and selfless priests, religious and lay servants of the Church in Singapore who, over the past 200 years, have guided us all closer to God.