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Melody Zaccheus
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Singapore

Archbishop Goh on a mission to draw Catholics back to the fold

The Straits Times | Melody Zaccheus | Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Archbishop William Goh leading the Good Friday procession at St Joseph’s Church. The leader of Singapore’s Catholic Church plans to train more youth leaders to relate to the needs of young people.

People have been at the heart of Archbishop William Goh's ministry since he took over the reins as head of Singapore's Catholic Church last May.

A year into his term, the 56-year-old told The Straits Times in an interview last Friday that a key priority is to draw Catholics back to the Church.

Pews may be filled every weekend - with worshippers spilling onto the aisles - but many are migrant Catholics.

"We have a strange situation in the Church," he said.

Many of the 100,000 Catholics who attend church regularly are migrants from countries such as India and the Philippines. The archbishop said he is looking to draw local Catholics back to the Church.

He is particularly concerned about young Singaporean Catholics who have dropped out in their teens.

Rather than pursuing material wealth, he believes many are searching for the meaning of life. The Church should be with them on this journey, he said.

"The Church should never stifle the young. If they have left, it means that we did not give them the space to grow," he said in an interview at his office and residence in Victoria Street.

To woo them back, he plans to train more youth leaders to relate to their needs.

Earlier this year, for instance, he set up the Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore which has started to train about 100 lay people in theology.

Mr Arthur Goh, 42, the academic director of the institute, said the archbishop sees the potential for the Church to grow through "human agency".

He said: "The archbishop has a lot of fire and has been concerned with internal reform and enlivening the community." Archbishop Goh's dedication to the Church comes in part from his late mother, Madam Lucy Ng, whose devotion to Mother Mary inspired him to start training for priesthood after national service.

According to a previous interview, he would accompany her to Novena Church services when he was just four. While his friends played, he was drawn to prayer.

Archbishop Goh was ordained in 1985 and served at the Church of the Holy Cross in Clementi and St Anne's Church in Sengkang for several years.

For 21 years, he taught at the St Francis Xavier Major Seminary where he later became its rector. He was also director of the Catholic Spirituality Centre for almost a decade.

He started spiritual retreats which he still conducts.

A well-loved figure known for his passionate sermons, he took over last year from Archbishop Emeritus Nicholas Chia.

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