Christopher Wong used to serve for all the wrong reasons until he attended his first Prayer Experience Retreat

Up till 4 years ago, I had served the Church for all the wrong reasons.

As a cradle Catholic, I took my faith for granted. As a teen, I followed what my church friends did, which is to join the Altar Servers so that we could play football and meet girls from the choir.

As an adult, when our parish asked for volunteers, I joined the Lectors Ministry because I could not sing and I did not want to usher or clean the church!

The Major U-turn

2017 is a year I will never forget.  That year, I attended the Prayer Experience Retreat (PER) at the Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC) for the first time.

All my life, the Holy Spirit had been a mystery to me. Unlike the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit seemed distant and remote. I could not feel it, could not sense it.

4 days and 3 nights changed all that.

“Let go. You have to let it all go and open your heart to Jesus.”

I went to the Prayer Experience Retreat not knowing what to expect. I did not know any of my fellow retreatants. I told myself that since I had signed up, I might as well make the best use of the time there and learn something.

On the first day, most of the retreatants raised their hands during Praise and Worship. On the first night, most spoke in tongues. Nothing happened to me though I tried – hard. I was disappointed.

At the end of the healing session, before bed, I texted my wife and told her my first day’s experience and disappointment. All she said to me was “Let go. You have to let it all go and open your heart to Jesus.”

The Life Changing Moment

On Day 2, I heeded my wife’s advice. The silent retreat mode we were in also helped. I opened myself completely to God, let Him into my heart.

“The experience was one of sheer joy and warmth.”

I found myself filled with an overwhelming sense of love, peace, joy and warmth. Never had I thought I would be able to speak in tongues and raise my hands during praise and worship.

I broke down and cried my heart out. The same happened the next day. The experience was one of sheer joy and warmth.

It was a life changing moment. I had experienced the Holy Spirit. It was a ‘eureka!’ moment. It changed the way I lived and the way I served in church.

Discerning Where I Should Serve

I continued serving in the Lectors Ministry after the Prayer Experience Retreat. Then an opportunity came as I was asked to serve in the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC).

“I wanted to serve for the right reasons.”

I thought of, prayed and discerned for a long time before giving an answer.  Unlike joining the Altar Servers or the Lectors, ministries that I had ‘jumped’ into, I wanted to serve for the right reasons.

During that period of discernment, I thought of how much I have been blessed by God throughout my life. At work and at home, I cannot find a single reason to doubt that God has been holding my hands, guiding me every single day.

I asked myself, “if God had provided me with so much and given me so many talents, should I not be using it for His greater glory?” I was reminded of Matthew 25:14-15, 19-21. That was when I made up my mind to say yes.

For the last 3 years, I have been serving as a member of the PPC. Though I have been in leadership roles for a good part of my working life, taking on leadership roles in church was different. I realised that I had to focus on Jesus as my role model. I have to be a servant leader. It is not easy and I am still learning today.

Grooming Future Leaders

In 2018, I was tasked to chair a social event for the parish. I chose to organise a Family Fun Walk, and I had several objectives I wanted to achieve.

First, I wanted to promote a healthy lifestyle and bonding amongst fellow parishioners and their families. Just as important, I wanted to get inactive parishioners involved in the organising committee.

70% of my committee, therefore, did not belong to any ministry. It was an achievement I am very happy with. I also made sure everyone in the committee was younger than me. I wanted to groom future leaders for our church.

Till today, I am glad to note that all the committee members then are still actively involved in church and have joined at least a ministry or have participated in the parish’s faith formation activities.

My Journey Continues …

Each time I look back, I am reminded time and again, God has given me the grace and talent to lead and inspire people. In whatever I do now, I always look for avenues to inspire and groom His flock to serve Him, whether at work or in church.

Within my family, by His grace my wife is a catechist, my two sons are altar servers and my parents were Eucharistic Ministers when they were in better health. My “newfound” fire from the Holy Spirit prompts me to instil in them how blessed we are despite all our challenges in life and that God will never put us through anything more than we can handle.

With daily prayer, trust and faith in Him, I believe this has been keeping my father and family going despite his very trying health condition.

4 years back, receiving the Holy Spirit at PER was my IGNITE moment.

Now, I want to SHINE my brightest to bring others closer to God.

My prayer for the Catholic Church’s 200th Anniversary

Lord Jesus, I thank you for the missionaries who came to Singapore 200 years ago to plant the seeds of faith. With your loving guidance, they have sacrificed much and I am forever grateful to you for all the graces and blessings you have showered upon me and my fellow Catholics in this country.

As we celebrate this milestone, I pray that we remain humble, faithful and put all our trust in you to continue the good work of those early missionaries. Let us never forget the poor, the downtrodden, the elderly and the sick as we progress as a nation.

Let us never waver in our faith despite the many challenges we face as individuals or as a people; but unite us as one loving faith community, focussed in doing your will.

May we all be ignited so that we can go forth and shine the light of faith brightly for all generations to come as we grow our Church to be more vibrant, evangelistic and missionary.

This we ask through Christ our Lord, Amen

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