I was a very mischievous boy when I was growing up, and had my fair share of family issues. My mum placed me under foster care. I went to St. Patrick’s Boarding School, studying and staying there for most of my teenage years. When my foster family moved to Queenstown, I continued travelling daily to St Patrick’s.
It was also at Queenstown, however, that I met my sweetheart, Sue. Coming from an entirely different background from me, she was a non-Catholic, grew up in a Mandarin-speaking family with strict ethics and went to an elite school.
Our paths crossed because of the regular tuition she gave around our neighborhood till late at night. It was also when I returned after a full day of sports, studies and the occasional fights with the rebellious, bigger boys for the sake of justice in school; we would accompany each other on the journey home. Our friendship soon blossomed into love; and race and religion aside, I was accepted by her family readily.
During my days at Saint Patrick’s, I practised my faith diligently alongside Catechism lessons. After I left school, I kept the faith, but I was not the most fervent Catholic. Work got busy, and when Sue and I eventually got married in 1970, she was not baptised yet. Our two boys, Mark and Don, then came along, and it became an enriching and challenging journey for us as parents.
The turning point came when we visited St. Bernadette’s Church…
Our Catholic family friend had dropped by the Church after a swimming lesson with our boys, and had left their gear there. We had to return the next day to collect it, and that gave us a chance meeting with Fr Joseph Tan.
The 3-hour chat we had with Fr. Joseph that day brought me back to Church. I told Father I would bring my wife and children to St. Bernadette’s for Marriage Encounter as well as Catechism lessons.
Subsequently, these sessions with Father gave us so much edification, conviction and active engagement that my wife and both our children got baptised on the same day eventually. We saw the bond, and the purpose in marriage which is in itself a life-giving journey together. Since Sue’s conversion, we have also helped as RCIA sponsors in St. Bernadette’s and have grown as one in faith.
When we moved from the West to the North, we switched to the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea. Sue continued to serve in the ministry dedicated to Children’s Catechism and Liturgy, since her days as a tuition teacher as well as a sponsor in RCIA gave her the affirmation to continue serving in the little ways that she could.
Incidentally, during our visit to St. Bernadette’s, I picked up a bulletin which had a call for volunteers by the Family Life Society (FLS) for their Pregnancy Crisis programme. Keen to find out more, I registered my interest to join the team. It was not till much later that I got a call from FLS, and eventually joined the team under Dr John Lim and FLS founder Fr Edmund Dunn.
The time spent with FLS looking into the well-being of teens in the Pregnancy Crisis programme spurred my desire to do more. Hence, I went for a course in family therapy and counselling, specialising in marital and family therapy. I continued my counselling sessions with FLS until 2003.
I next joined Br. Collin Wee at Hopehouse, a halfway house for troubled teens, which is based at St Patrick’s Secondary School. The inaugural sessions with Hopehouse went well for 1.5 years. I was planning to retire then but FLS was in a search for a senior Catholic lady who is able to speak Mandarin.
Without a doubt, I went back to volunteer on an ad-hoc basis. In between, I also volunteered at Kingsmead Centre for a year. To date, I am still supervising and actively facilitating the FLS sessions 3 to 4 times a week.
As a wife, daughter and mother,
I would not have been able to cross my own hurdles
if not for the opportunity to grow in faith and service
through RCIA, FLS and Hopehouse.
My near-death experience with a car accident a few years back proved that God’s love and compassion is real, so much so that the doctors in the hospital were amazed at how I did not sustain any brain damage or spinal injuries even though my vehicle was totally crushed.
On another front, when my younger son Don had a heart attack, we prayed hard for him and God heard our prayers. He is well and active today. Witnessing God’s graciousness in these moments only taught me to be grateful even more – that my life belongs to him, and for what He has called me to do – I will continue to glorify His name and do what I am called to do.
God Has A Plan for Us, Brian Shares
It is through God’s providence that Sue and I have both served and walked with each other and as a family for the past 50 years. We celebrated our beautiful 50th wedding anniversary in 2020, with a mellowed-down surprise by our children in the current Covid times.
It is our privilege to be able to give back to Christ, which is why I choose to use my God-given talent purposefully. Having a voice which anchored most of my career as a professional radio deejay, I am no stranger to being an Emcee.
Through my contacts with musicians, I started the “Down Memory Lane” dinner to raise funds for Family Life Society in 2000. The oldies played, the presence of the religious priests and nuns as well as the dinner that night made it so memorable that it sparked off a few more ‘Down-Memory Lane’ fund-raising dinners subsequently.
I was glad to volunteer to help raise funds for the various ministries. I continued to use my voice as an ad-hoc Emcee for the Catholic Foundation and a number of parishes. Whenever I was invited to host their fund-raising events and funfairs, I would try to fit it into my schedule.
To date, I will not say that work is always smooth sailing. Yet, each time I encounter a challenging situation, I will talk to God. Be it in the car, at the recording studio, during my walks or at home in my quiet moments, it is a two-way relationship connecting with God. I believe by praying, doing my best and leaving it in the hands of the Lord, somehow, I will be able to troubleshoot each difficult situation with His grace.
As a family like any other, Sue and I do face issues and crossroads. However, the one thing that sustains us as a couple and a family, is praying together to nurture, to serve and to walk in His ways.
We’ve walked through 50 years as a couple, and we look forward to many more good years ahead.
For our fellow Catholics on the 200th anniversary of our Catholic Church, this is the prayer we offer in unison: that as one big community, we will be life giving to one another, and in whatever we do, we will never lose sight of The Lord!