Christine and I were taken aback when our daughter, Charmaine, told us one day when she was in primary school, “Do you know we are the only normal family? I am the only one amongst my friends that has a mum and a dad. The rest come from broken families.”
Charmaine had probably meant this as a causal remark about our family, but it dawned on us how much we as parents have to make sure things work out for our children.
Fr Arro’s Nugget of Wisdom
40 years ago, when we were preparing to get married, we decided we had to get married in church. Fr Arro, who has been with us through many stages of our life, asked us why. Our reply was that it was scary to be married and there were so many marriages that went wrong. But if God is in our lives, there is a much greater chance we will have a good, lasting marriage.
“If the parents are fine, the children will be fine”
On our wedding day, Fr Arro gave us a nugget of wisdom that we have kept close to our hearts; he told us children will give us headaches right from the beginning, but they will be fine, as long as the parents are fine.
Building Bridges with Our Children
From the very early stage, we made it a point to always talk to our kids and explain things to them. In this, Chris said something I will always remember. She advised me to participate in activities the kids wanted, as there would come a time when they would not want to do those things with me.
“It gives both of us great joy and comfort knowing we have the trust of our kids”
That advice stuck with me. I did little things like read to them before bedtime, then piggy-back them to bed.
We encouraged them to invite their friends home. Their friends knew they were always welcome to our home, to hang-out and for meals, especially during Christmas.
As they got older, we made sure to develop a relationship with every one of them. It was not easy, especially with my work commitments. There were many times when Chris prompted me to reach out to them, spend time with them one-on-one.
I gained a lot from her wisdom in this. When our kids have problems, they know they can come to me too, not just to mum. They know they have a relationship with us whereby they can talk to us about anything. It gives both of us great joy and comfort knowing we have the trust of our kids.
Building Prayer into Our Family Life
Chris and I believe it is really important for every family to have a parent that takes the mantle in leading the family in prayer, providing the guiding poles in the family’s spiritual life.
I really appreciate Chris for taking up the baton in this; she is the one who has been actively praying for the family, for me, for the kids; bringing the family together for family prayers and church; lifting up the work we each have to do.
We find that this has been so important in keeping us faithful in prayer, making prayer the centre of all we do.
When we are troubled, we pray; whenever we squabble, we pray about it; and we find that all the frustrations and anger dissipate. Then we are able to say, ‘Oh why didn’t I see it this way?’, and things somehow work out.
“Prayer – at the Centre of All We Do”
Prayer was what held us together as a couple and as a family when we lost our second child at birth. The anguish after months of anticipation really tore into us and was especially painful for Chris. It was only because of prayer and the ability to surrender the pain completely to Our Lord that the Holy Spirit healed us and made us live as a family once again.
In our service at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (OLPS) – Chris as a Lector and me as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion – we have seen how prayer has kept us focused on Our Lord. It is so easy to be distracted and discouraged when serving, but prayer keeps us hopeful and joyful. It gives us the wisdom we need as facilitators in the Wedding Preparation Service, helping couples prepare for the Sacrament of matrimony.
Prayer, especially, gives us a heart that hears, when working with young adults at the Choice Weekend. In our 16 years in Choice, we prepare ourselves spiritually before each Choice Weekend and surrender every encounter to Our Lord. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us discern the sharings of every retreatant, so we can help them truly rediscover the significant relationships in their lives.
Building Prayer into My Work
In our 40 years of marriage, I am fully convinced prayer, along with Chris’ influence on our prayer life have stood me in good stead through the toughest times at work. There were many times I needed God to guide me through my thought processes. Each time I had to speak to thousands of people or attend a stressful meeting, I felt I had to lift up everything to Him.
But the challenge was finding a quiet space. There was no prayer room I could go to at the office, or at the auditorium, or the function room, and that was when I thought ‘why not the toilet’. I would lock myself in the cubicle and commend everything to the Lord. The calm that came every time I did that and the way things turned out was miraculous – it was truly the Holy Spirit working during those difficult times at work.
Bringing the Faith to the Workplace
In 2006, when I became the CEO of Prudential, it was like a dream come true. But I also knew it was not so much about me, but that God had a reason for that. I had always wanted to ‘give back’ at the workplace but had kept putting it off.
A few years after my appointment, I told myself I could not wait any longer. I reached out to some people to join me in organising Thanksgiving Masses. They were open only to staff of Prudential as well as their families and friends.
These were not huge events but they were an important step forward for me in giving thanks to God for all His blessings in my life and career. I made sure any announcements about Masses never went through email. I did not want my staff of other faiths to think I was promoting the Masses because I was the CEO, so all invites to the Masses were by WhatsApp or word of mouth.
From there, I would ask at official dinners and lunches with my staff if they were comfortable with me giving thanks for the food. I made sure I did it in a way where those present, even those of other faiths, understood we need to appreciate what we have and to give thanks for what we have received. I felt it was so important to witness and testify to how wonderful God is.
“It was so important to witness and testify to how wonderful God is.”
What moved me in these events, was that people started asking me to share about becoming a Christian at the workplace. Not only the Catholics approached me, the Christians of other denominations invited me to share with them my experience of being a Christian at the workplace. It was really wonderful to see the hand of God in all these encounters.
Our Journey Continues …
After my retirement, Chris and I have been asking Our Lord what we should do next, how He wants us to serve, but did not receive any message or specific direction.
Recently, both of us went for a one-week Silent Retreat at the Good Shepherd Oasis. As I was praying, a little whisper came to me – “you do not have to do big things, you can be there for each other, your family, your children, your grandchildren”.
Chris received a similar prompting. That set me thinking – I have spent so many years having coffee with my staff. Now it is time to be with my children and grandchildren. As Mother Teresa once said ‘we can do small things with great love’, this is Chris’ and my journey moving forward.
Our prayer for the Catholic Church’s 200th Anniversary
We thank you for your blessings and guidance for the Archdiocese of Singapore throughout these 200 years. Small as Singapore is, we have always had wonderful Archbishops and priests who have prayed, counselled and journeyed with us. Our faith and the Archdiocese have flourished in tandem with the development and prosperity of Singapore. We are confident that You are always with us in spite of difficult and sometimes perilous circumstances, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. We fully believe that You and only You are in charge and You will make all things good and new in Your Time. We continue to pray to our Holy Spirit to keep our faith strong and guarded.
Dearest Mother Mary
We pray for your intercession for World Peace and Healing. Beloved Mother, you have brought about healing and reconciliation through your guidance and intercession through these 200 years of Catholic faith in Singapore. We give you thanks and ask you to continue your intercession and guidance.
We make all these prayers in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen