Following this, after many more fundraising efforts, the community rejoiced when Archbishop Michael Olçomendy blessed and declared open the Blessed Sacrament Church on 8th May 1965.
Imagine yourself in pre-independence Singapore, standing where Blessed Sacrament Church sits now. Queenstown was in its early years of existence as Singapore’s first “satellite town” surrounded by a secondary jungle. Now imagine you were a Dutch priest, newly arrived in Singapore standing at that spot, looking at the surrounding jungle and realising that you had very little to start your church building project. What must have gone through the mind of Father William van Soest as he thought about what lay ahead for him in his new assignment?
The development plan for Queenstown provided for places of worship, and religious organisations were invited to apply for the use of these sites. Archbishop Michael Olçomendy was looking to provide for Catholics living in Queenstown. So he applied for a site and was allotted the area where the Blessed Sacrament Church is today. Meanwhile, he asked the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (SS.CC) whose priests were already in Indonesia if they would like to assist. Thus Father William van Soest arrived in Singapore in 1958 followed by Father Odo Tiggeloven to take charge of the church.
Fundraising was tedious and difficult but eventually the money collected saw the parish hall being built. On 17th November 1963, Damien Hall, named after Saint Damien of Molokai, was opened and Catholics living in Queenstown could finally have a place to attend Mass. Thus began the life of the Blessed Sacrament Community.
Following this, after many more fundraising efforts, the community rejoiced when Archbishop Michael Olçomendy blessed and declared open the Blessed Sacrament Church (BSC) on 8th May 1965. As Queenstown itself grew, so did the number of parishioners. Programmes and activities like the Parish Renewal Experience, Life in the Spirit Seminar and the Youth Lenten campaign for the poor, also took flight. For many, Sunday mass was often followed by breakfast and fellowship in Damien Hall. Blessed Sacrament Church’s mini “zoo” also proved to be a big draw, even among people living in the neighbourhood.
In 2005, the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) officially accorded the Church a “conservation status”. As one of URA’s 7,000 conserved buildings, BSC was now part of the effort to conserve Singapore’s built heritage as important reminders of our past.
When Damien Hall was practically bursting at the seams, a decision was made to rebuild the hall. It was later blessed and reopened in September 2007.
One highlight in the Church’s history was 11th October 2009, the day Father Damien de Veuster was canonised. After a week-long celebration, the 11th October itself was celebrated with a special lunch for the Church’s Friends-in-Need (FINs). The festivities culminated with a mass with Archbishop Nicholas Chia as the main celebrant, followed by a dinner held on the church grounds.
While the building milestones mark the Church’s history, it is the people, parish priest Father Anthony Hutjes and his fellow priests, who fill the buildings that built up Blessed Sacrament Church, bringing life into it. Hence the church marks their anniversary from 1964 when the first parishioners gathered for the first masses at Damien hall.
This article was extracted and edited for brevity from the publication, Blessed Sacrament 40th Anniversary.
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