The Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM), popularly known as ‘Scheut Missions’, was founded by Father Théophile Verbist in the Belgian town of Scheut in 1862. The evangelization of Chinese people and help for the poor and needy in China were Father Verbist’s main concerns. In 1865, he and four other companions went to Inner Mongolia where they set up a mission despite many obstacles. Unfortunately, Father Verbist died in Inner Mongolia less than three years after his first mission. Upon hearing the news, Pope Pius IX was reported to have said: “The man may have died . . . [but] God will not allow his work to disappear.”
CICM missionaries are called to go beyond geographical and religious boundaries to share Jesus Christ with all those who do not know him. Priests and Brothers from the congregation take the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and live in close contact with the local community rather than as a religious community. Many CICM missionaries in Singapore have served as priests in the various parishes and are or have been engaged in mission work outside of Singapore. They work with the poor, migrant workers and seafarers.
The first CICM missionary to Singapore, Father Richard Quintens, arrived in 1931. The congregation had a house on Nassim Road that served missionaries passing between China and the Philippines, and eventually housed missionaries expelled from China by the Communists. Japanese forces occupied the house during World War II.
In 1953, the Holy See appointed CICM Bishop Carlo van Melckebeke, the former bishop of Ningxia, China, to be the Apostolic Visitator of the Overseas Chinese. He had been forced into exile from China and set up his office in Singapore where he established the Singapore Catholic Central Bureau (now called Carlo Society) for the diffusion of Catholic literature in South East Asia. He also initiated several publications in Chinese, including Hai Sing Pao, the archdiocesan Chinese newspaper.
CICM members founded the Church of the Holy Spirit along Upper Thomson Road and built the Church of Christ the King in Toa Payoh. The Marriage Encounter (ME) movement was introduced to Singapore with the help of a CICM member, Fr Jean-Pierre Benit.
The Congregation has since welcomed two Singaporeans, Fathers Peter Koh and Anthony Lim, who have served in mission fields like Zambia. CICM today is a co-founder and active member of ACMA (Archdiocesan Commission for Missionary Activity) and promotes local evangelization, especially through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).
See, M. (2012, December 16). Scheut Missions marks its 150th anniversary. Catholic News. Retrieved from http://catholicnews.sg/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8171:-scheut-missions-marks-its-150th-anniversary&catid=322:december-16-2012-vol-62-no-25&Itemid=473
Scheut Missions- CICM in Singapore. (2013, March). In Scheut Missions- CICM Missionaries: Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Retrieved from http://www.catholicsg.info/scheut-cicm/cicmsing/index.php
The images in this article were provided courtesy of Fr Paul Staes, CICM.