The Catholic Church in Singapore in retrospect

Many times, there is confusion between the different Christian denominations in Singapore. There are Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, and many other smaller churches normally classified in the larger Protestant section.

For Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians, they also emphasize the important role of Mary, the mother of a man who lived 2,000 years ago in Israel named Jesus, just like Roman Catholics. The largest section of Christians, the Protestant section consisting of various denominations, rejects this theological concept that Mary should have such an important role, as they believe that only God in the form of Jesus should be honored and prayed to. That is the difference between Catholics and Protestants.

After Father Anselmo Yegros, many more missionary priests like him came to Singapore. Between 1830-1832, a French missionary priest named Father Jean Marie Beurel arrived from the religious order called Mission Entranges le Paris or also known as the Paris Foreign Mission who built the first Catholic church building which was situated along Bras Basah, which later became a school under the name of Saint Joseph Institution. Later, the church became the cathedral or mother church of the country. This church was built in 1832. Father Beural was not very happy with the church and decided to start a fundraising campaign to relocate the church and build a bigger one as the Catholic population at that time was slowly increasing. He wrote to the British colonial government in Singapore at the time requesting a plot of land, where the church now stands. he was granted he traveled the world raising funds for his new church from Europe to the Philippines. The bells were cast from the Philippines. Ultimately, his hard work paid off, as in 1846 the church was completed. He had commissioned Denis McSwinney, who once worked for George Drumgoole Coleman as a clerk, to build this new church.

George Drumgoole Coleman was a well-known architect at the time whose style in building construction influenced not only McSwinney, but also many other architects after him. Blessed, named the Church of the Good Shepherd and dedicated in that year, the church had a congregation made up of a mostly non-local mixed crowd. That soon changed over the years as many Chinese and Indians converted and soon there was no room to accommodate everyone. A new church had to be built to help alleviate the overcrowding. In 1870, a new church was completed located on Queen Street, the same neighborhood where the first mass was said some 45 years ago. It was now home to the growing number of Chinese and Indian Catholics who moved across the street. Named the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, it was a solution to accommodate the growing population. Soon, it became too crowded and another church was built in 1888. This church is located on Ophir Road and was named the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes. This church was built for the Tamil-speaking Indian Catholics. Soon, among Chinese Catholics, there was an ongoing problem between Hakka-Cantonese-speaking Catholics and Teochew-speaking Catholics. Hakka-Cantonese-speaking Catholics were not happy having to attend Mass at St. Peter and Paul Church and wanted a church that catered solely to their needs. In the year 1910 the Church of the Sacred Heart located along Tank Road was built. In 1929, St. Teresa’s Church was built to serve the needs of Hokkien-speaking Catholics. St. Teresa’s Church is located along Kampong Bahru.

So it took the Roman Catholic Church in Singapore over 100 years to get to where it is today. Now well established with a diocese of 31 churches, it has a population of around 300,000 who mostly worship in neighborhood churches.

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