Spanish-speaking community thrives in Singapore

Opus Dei Father Joe Lopez, who is one of the community members, recently spoke to Catholic News about the activities of the community in Singapore and their interactions with the local Church.

Singapore
Feb 27 2014, 6:52 PM
Spanish-speaking community thrives in Singapore

Settled far away from their homeland, there is a Spanish-speaking community in Singapore, which has enriched the Catholic community in the island nation.

Members of this community hail from Spain, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, Paraguay, Uruguay and Ecuador. Opus Dei Father Joe Lopez, who is one of the community members, recently spoke to Catholic News about the activities of the community in Singapore and their interactions with the local Church.

The community organised itself after a group of Mexican Catholics invited Father Lopez to celebrate a Mass in honour of Our Lady of Guadalupe in December 1999.

Father Lopez, who now takes care of the community, said that there were no official statistics on the Spanish-speaking Catholics in Singapore. He estimates there are 80 to 90 Catholics who attend the monthly Spanish Mass. Some others would join the English Masses at the various parishes. 

Christmas is an important affair for the community as they gather for carolling, penitential service, the pre-Christmas Las Posadas celebration and the Christmas Mass. However, the community does not celebrate Easter with any special Mass and they are encouraged to join the Mass in the parishes. The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is also celebrated.

The families move from country to country, staying between three and five years in Singapore, Father Lopez said. The parents want their children to keep their Catholic and Spanish roots.The catechism classes in Spanish were started because of parents’ requests, with books in Spanishbrought in from Spain or Mexico and parent volunteers as the catechists.

A parentsaid that because the children go to international schools, religion is given less prominence. Thus coming to church allows the children to have a sense of community and enhance faith.

Father Lopez said the community has a “great sensibility for the needy in other poor countries”and mentioned the change and joy in the teenagers when they participate in the outreach efforts heinitiated likevisiting orphanages in Vietnam andan old folks’ home in Indonesia.The community has been generous in their donations – in both cash and kind.

However, “Some are just transient and do not know what is going on within the local Church. Some of them interact just amongst themselves.Some have lesser degrees of proficiency in English; therefore they are lost during the Mass and are unable to join in the hymns,” hereasoned thelack of interaction between the Spanish-speaking Catholics and local Catholics.

There are occasions when the Spanish-speaking community would incorporate their music during the Mass in other parishes. During Pentecost, some members of the Spanish community would sing a particular Flamenco-style song during the Mass.

Father Lopezconceded that more could be done, like, opening the Las Posadas celebration to the locals. He said that the Singapore Church has had a good influence on the Spanish-speaking Catholics.

“They see how seriously the Catholics in Singapore take their faith,” adding that many of the Spanish-speaking in Singapore “are baptised but not practising” their faith. “They benefit a lot when they go to Mass in the parishes,” he said.

Source: Catholic News

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