Being part of a Catholic organisation at work has humbled me. As the head of the household with a 19-month-old daughter, I have no qualms setting a good example in living my faith with my family. Yet, it can be trying at work when balancing the emotional demands and spiritual needs of what I am tasked to do.
I am very glad to be serving as a Programme Executive Trainee at Caritas Singapore (CS), which is made up of 27 different organisations that support a wide array of causes, such as the poor, youths-at-risk, families, prisoners, migrants, those with disabilities and more.
I provide administrative and logistic support to various programmes organised by CS and the organisations under its umbrella.
An example is the Agape Experience where we introduce Catholic social teachings and the Church’s social mission to the youths preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, and those preparing for baptism through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and Rite of Christian Initiation for Youths (RCIY).
Since embarking on this role in September 2020, I am not sure how much of an impact I have made in my capacity. However, I have been privileged to support Clarity Singapore’s BRAVE Festival, a Catholic youth mental health festival that aims to generate authentic and valuable conversations about mental health.
Indeed, mental and emotional health is something close to me. I have had the opportunity to write a reflection in Camino de Singapore (Caritas Singapore’s fortnightly reflection on local news) on the challenges faced by people who experience such issues, where it is so real, yet often dismissed subtly.
Therefore, I also hope that more Catholics will recognise the importance of integrating faith with compassion and love for those who are struggling with mental health issues. Instead of being judgemental, we should be reaching out when we can to help our brothers and sisters in need.
I do encounter stories of people who are going through tough times and feel overwhelmed by different emotions – sadness, frustration, anger, and sometimes a sense of hopelessness. In fact, a seminar I attended recently shared on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the poor, and I was struck by how some families had their total monthly income reduced to $400 a month.
In such trying times, it can be easy to fall into despair, yet it is also where I would turn to God more fervently in prayer and humbly offer them up, recognising that God only asks of me to do my best at my work and leave the rest to Him.
This is likened to the line from the prayer by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw – also referred to as the Oscar Romero prayer- which has never ceased to see me through difficult times:
“We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work …We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.”
An instrument to lead
Faith has always been instrumental in my life and I recall a particular incident that happened at a confirmation retreat a couple of years ago.
It was the third evening of a four-day confirmation retreat. The service team, Catechists, and facilitators, including myself, were physically and emotionally exhausted. There had been some deep emotional hurts in the confirmands that was revealed over the past few days, and the service team members felt at a loss at what to do.
I was asked to lead a spiritual preparation session on the third night, but I also faced insecurity and doubt as to whether I was the right person to lead. I prayed and recounted that my own confirmation name was “Andrew”.
Unlike Peter, Andrew did not really “do much” in the gospels, yet he was instrumental in the identification of the boy with the five loaves and two fishes that Jesus had multiplied.
At that moment, I realised that I was there to remind the service team that we only need to give our five loaves and two fishes, and God would perform his miracle. During the spiritual preparation session, I shared my story, and we surrendered our woes to God.
That night, the confirmands had a wonderful experience of healing, felt revived just as we did, and encountered the Holy Spirit. It is, once again, a reminder that so long as we cooperate with God, He will do the needful to make things work.
My prayer for the Catholic Church’s 200th anniversary
Dear God, we thank you for having called us as Your beloved sons and daughters.
Just as you have sent your Son, Jesus, on a mission to save all humankind, help us to remember that we too are sent on this mission.
Help us to be open to wherever You may call us. Guide us to use our gifts and talents fruitfully, to build communities as a witness of Your presence, and to share the Good News of Salvation with all peoples.
For this we ask through Christ our Lord.