(Special Post) Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Mother Church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, also the 120th Anniversary of its Consecration (14 February 1897) – History of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd

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On 14 February 2017, the Church in Singapore is going to celebrate a great occasion of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, which is the principal and mother of all the parishes and churches in Singapore. As the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Singapore, it is the place where the Cathedra or the seat of the Archbishop of Singapore is located at.

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The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd was established as one of the first church buildings in Singapore, in the earliest days of its history as a British colony after it was discovered by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in the year 1819. The Cathedral had its origins in a simple and small chapel built from wooden and attap structure constructed between the year 1832 and 1833.
However, the rapid growth of the Church in Singapore, growing number of the faithful and pressing need for a more appropriate place for divine worship resulted in the efforts to establish a permanent place of worship for the faithful in Singapore. Upon generous donations from various individuals including that of the Queen of France and the Archbishop of Manila, the permanent church building that would become the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd became a reality.

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The foundation stone was placed in the site of the future Cathedral in the year 1843 and the completed church was opened and blessed on 18 June 1847, on the Feast of Corpus Christi by Father Jean-Marie Beurel, one of the pioneer priests and evangelisers in Singapore.

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(Picture: Fr. Jean-Marie Beurel)

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd was named as such upon the inspiration from the holy martyr St. Laurent Imbert, one of the first Catholic priests to visit Singapore, who went on to be the first Vicar Apostolic to Korea, and was martyred for his faith there during the violent persecution against the Church and the faithful. It was told that he gave himself up to the authorities in order to safeguard the other faithful under his care, saying that “in times of great need, the Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” in the imitation of the Lord, our Good Shepherd.

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(Picture: St. Laurent Imbert)
As the Diocese of Malacca (established in 1558 in Malacca, now in Malaysia) was reestablished in the year 1888 after it has been temporarily suppressed in 1839 (and later revived as the Vicariate Apostolic of Western Siam in 1841), the church that was to become the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd was elevated to the status of a cathedral, and Bishop Edouard Gasnier became its first bishop. He was interred in the Cathedral’s crossing (between nave and transepts) upon his death in 1896.
The Cathedral was dedicated by Bishop Gasnier’s successor, Bishop Rene-Michel-Marie Fee, who dedicated and consecrated the Cathedral to our Lord Jesus the Good Shepherd, on 14 February of the year 1897, 120 years ago to the current date. Ever since, the Cathedral had become the hub for the growth of the Church and the Christian faith both in Singapore and throughout the region for the next 120 years.
Ever since, the Cathedral had weathered through good and difficult times, including the turbulent years of the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, when it was functioning as an emergency hospital, but it weathered through them. Nevertheless, time and the rapid construction around it and underneath the ground due to the building of the Mass Rapid Transit train line caused the foundation of the Cathedral to be affected, and serious cracks started to appear on the structure.
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Therefore, serious efforts for a major renovation was carried out, and after many years of preparation, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd finally was closed on 28 October 2013, for a thorough and extensive renovation and modification. Throughout this major project, various discoveries were made on the historic nature of this Cathedral, including the discovery of the original foundation stone placed in site in the year 1843. The original layout and architecture of the Cathedral were also restored.

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Finally the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd was reopened on 20 November 2016, on the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King, by His Excellency Archbishop William Goh of Singapore during the Opening Mass, where he solemnly reopened the Cathedral for the purpose of divine worship.

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And now, on the 14th day of February of the Year of our Lord 2017, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd is going to be dedicated to the Lord before all the faithful people of God.

Pray for the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, pray for the Church of God in Singapore!

(Singapore – Solemn Pontifical High Mass) Tuesday, 14 February 2017 : 120th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (14 February 1897), Solemnity of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd after 2013-2016 Major Restoration (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 19 : 1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man named Zaccheus lived there. He was a tax collector and a wealthy man. He wanted to see what Jesus was like, but he was a short man and could not see Him because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. From there he would be able to see Jesus, Who was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today.” So Zaccheus climbed down and received Him joyfully. All the people who saw it began to grumble, and said, “He has gone as a guest to the house of a sinner.”

But Zaccheus spoke to Jesus, “Half of what I own, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.” Looking at him Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

(Singapore – Solemn Pontifical High Mass) Tuesday, 14 February 2017 : 120th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (14 February 1897), Solemnity of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd after 2013-2016 Major Restoration (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Ephesians 2 : 19-22

Now, you are no longer strangers or guests, but fellow citizens of the holy people : you are of the household of God. You are the house, whose foundations are the Apostles and prophets, and whose cornerstone is Christ Jesus.

In Him, the whole structure is joined together, and rises, to be a holy temple, in the Lord. In Him, you, too, are being built, to become the spiritual Sanctuary of God.

(Singapore – Solemn Pontifical High Mass) Tuesday, 14 February 2017 : 120th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (14 February 1897), Solemnity of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd after 2013-2016 Major Restoration (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 18: 8-10, 15

The Law of the Lord is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of YHVH is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of YHVH are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of YHVH are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of YHVH is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of YHVH are true, all of them just and right.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart find favour in Your sight, o YHVH – my Redeemer, my Rock!

(Singapore – Solemn Pontifical High Mass) Tuesday, 14 February 2017 : 120th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (14 February 1897), Solemnity of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd after 2013-2016 Major Restoration (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Nehemiah 8 : 1-4a, 5-6, 8-10

In the seventh month, all the people gathered as one man in the square before the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which YHVH had given to Israel. Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men, women and all the children who could understand what was being read. It was the first day of the seventh month.

So he read it before the plaza in front of the Water Gate from dawn till noon, before the men, women and those children who could understand. All the people were eager to hear the book of the law. Ezra, the teacher of the law, stood on a wooden platform built for that occasion.

Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was in a higher place; and when he opened it, all the people stood. Ezra praised YHVH the great God; and all the people lifted up their hands and answered, “Amen! Amen!” And they bowed their heads to the ground.

They read from the book of the law of God, clarifying and interpreting the meaning, so that everyone might understand what they were hearing. Then Ezra, the teacher of the law, said to the people, “This day is dedicated to YHVH, your God, so do not be sad or weep.”

He said this because all wept when they heard the reading of the law. Then he said to them, “Go and eat rich foods, drink sweet wine and share with him who has nothing prepared. This day is dedicated to the Lord, so do not be sad. The joy of YHVH is our strength.”

Sunday, 20 September 2015 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, and St. Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scripture the difficulties and challenges that we all will encounter on our way as we live out our lives in faith in the Lord. It is important for us to take note that to have faith in the Lord, it is likely for us to encounter challenges, opposition, ridicule, rejection and bad treatment, even from those whom we considered to be good friends and relatives.

It will not be an easy life for us if we decide to walk the Lord’s path and follow Him to His salvation. Those who think that becoming the disciples of the Lord Jesus is easy will find that they are mistaken. This is because to become a member of God’s Church, as His disciples and children, it is necessary for us to make sacrifices and to let go of certain things that prevent us from achieving what God seeks from us to be saved

And this is the attitude of rejecting oneself, one’s own ego, needs, desires and all the temptations of the flesh, the temptation of worldly glory and fame, and the temptation to be ignorant and exclusive towards the sufferings of the world around us, our brethren who need our help. If we are able to accomplish all these, then we are indeed one step closer to be good and devoted disciples of our Lord.

God Himself mentioned through the parable of the dishonest and wicked steward, who cheated his master of his possessions, and when he was discovered and fired from his position, he used his power to safeguard himself, by using his trickery to cheat out of his master’s debts owned by several people, where he gained favour by reducing those debts and so, while he lost his job, he hoped that those whom he had helped would help him in return.

That is the way of the world, the way of the wicked, the way of those who serve themselves and are servants of money and possessions, and not servants and followers of the Lord. This is what the Lord mentioned, when He said that those who follow one master will not be able to obey another master, for either he will despise one and love the other, or vice versa.

In that way therefore, to reinforce what I have mentioned earlier on, that all those who want to follow the Lord faithfully shall suffer and face numerous and various challenges and obstacles on their way, that is their lives. There are many differences between the way and customs of this world as compared to the ways taught to us by our Lord, that is faith, righteousness, justice and love. The world on the other hand, prioritises selfish desires, money and pleasures of the flesh.

It is not necessary that the two ways should clash with each other, but what is to be expected is that it is inevitable that conflicts between the two will arise in time, as we will be made to choose between our Lord and His ways, and with the world and its ways. There will be moment when the difficult choice will be presented to us, or it might even have happened to us in the past, when we have no choice but to choose between appeasing the world and displeasing the Lord, or appeasing the Lord but displeasing the world.

Do not be surprised that one day people will scold us, rebuke us, reject us and ostracise us because we decide to do what is right for the Lord but considered wrong in the eyes and perception of the world. For example, if we have been aware of the state of the world so far, we would already know how far the culture of death is spreading throughout the world and into all echelons of society. And it is worrying indeed how our faith and the Church are under increasing pressure to give up our struggle and fight in the defence of the faith.

For instance, many people around the world, and even regretfully even counting among those who are in the Church, who believe that committing something as heinous and unthinkable as abortion and euthanasia, and many other actions that trample on the sanctity and dignity of life is not wrong or considered morally acceptable to do so. And there are many of those who pushed and lobbied for the acceptance of such sinful things, and claim that they are representing and defending our human rights to be able to do as we please with our bodies and with ourselves.

But they did not realise that such abominations are wicked and evil in the sight of not only men, but in the sight of God as well. Life is sacred and holy, no matter under what circumstances it is. Instead of honouring and protecting life in all the means they are able to contribute, we mankind instead strive to destroy them, whenever we think of them as obstacles to our own selfish desires and wants.

Indeed, the pressure is great for many of us to accept and acknowledge the legality of such vileness, but as those who truly believe in the Lord, if we really are faithful to the Lord, then all of us should persist in our resistance against such injustice and wickedness committed against innocent lives. Let us all not ignore or shy away or be afraid from standing up for our faith, as it is better for us to suffer and be rejected, and yet receive God’s approval and salvation, rather than to be accepted by the world but we lose the grace and favour of our Lord.

Let us all then reflect on the lives of the holy saints and martyrs whose feast we are celebrating today, the martyr saints of Korea. There were many of them, and all of them had had different lives and came from different periods of time spanning about two centuries, but they all share one thing in common, that is they gave their lives up in the defence of their faith, or that they were martyred and killed on the frontline of their works as the servants of the Lord and His Church.

Today there are many Christians, our brethren in faith in Korea, and the numbers are continuing to increase rapidly over the years. But if we look at the current situation, in comparison with how it was in the past and what it meant to evangelise to the people of Korea about the Lord Jesus, then we certainly will find it difficult to understand the kind of challenges and sufferings these faithful servants of the Lord and the faithful encountered there.

St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon was the first indigenous Korean who was ordained a priest of the Church, and he and many of his other Korean brethren who have believed in the Lord encountered great persecutions by the government of Korea at the time, which was intensely against the Faith and persecuted these people whom they considered as traitors to their nation.

And counted among these martyrs were also the missionaries from different countries, but many came from France as part of the missionaries to Asia. Among them were St. Laurent Imbert, the Vicar Apostolic of Korea, one of the first bishops of Korea, and St. Jacques Chastan with many other priests and missionaries who braved rejection, cultural and linguistic barriers, and even the threat and real risk of death to bring the Lord Jesus and His truth to the people who have yet to hear of Him.

And they did their works faithfully, carrying out all the missions which had been entrusted to them without worry or fear. And when many of the faithful were under the threat of death and suffering, and the government was offering an exchange, allowing the faithful to live and to go unpunished if the missionaries and the leaders gave themselves up, St. Laurent Imbert as the bishop of the faithful gave himself up willingly, saying in his now famous words, which he took from the words of Jesus, that ‘the good shepherd lay down his life for his sheep.’

He and the other missionaries could have continued to hide themselves or to run away and abandon their mission, and in the process saving their lives, but they did not do so, because they know that if they try to preserve themselves and to put themselves first before the needs of others, as the world advocated them to do, then they would not preserve their lives in the world that is to come.

Remember that Jesus Himself said that those who tried to preserve their lives on earth would lose them, and those who lost their lives for God’s sake, in the defence of their faith would gain eternal life? This is precisely what it meant, and all of us ought to heed it as well and learn our lesson from what we have talked about on this day, or else we risk falling into sin and darkness yet again.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have to realise that suffering is a part of our faith, and rather than fearing it or running away from it, why not we embrace it with full faith and full trust in the Lord, that He will be with us through it all? Running away from the problem does not resolve it, and indeed made the matter even worse. Instead, we really should face it with faith and trust in the Lord, and make a solid stand for our faith and for what we truly believe in.

May Almighty God bless us all and keep us always in His grace, and may we all learn to put our trust in Him and know that He will be with us as long as we are faithful to Him, and He will not let harm that lasts to come to us. Let us all realise that at the end of the difficulties and the sufferings we are to endure as the followers of our God are our crosses that we carry together with us, that in the end, just as our Lord is risen in glory, we too may rise with Him together into the glory of eternal life. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 20 September 2015 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, and St. Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 9 : 30-37

At that time, after leaving the place where He drove out demons from a young boy, Jesus and His disciples made their way through Galilee; but He did not want people to know where He was because He was teaching His disciples.

And He told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, but three days after He has been killed, He will rise.” The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest. Then He sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.”

Then He took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting His arms around him He said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes not Me but the One who sent Me.”