Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM)

The official logo of the Scheut Missions

The official logo of the Scheut Missions. Photo credit: Fr Paul Staes, CICM

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.

Painting of CICM Bishop Carlo van Melckebeke, the Apostolic Visitator of the Overseas Chinese, by local artist Georgette Chen

Painting of CICM Bishop Carlo van Melckebeke, the Apostolic Visitator of the Overseas Chinese, by local artist Georgette Chen. Image credit: Fr Paul Staes, CICM.

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.

Visit of Superior General Fr Edouard Tsimba to Singapore in 2006, with confreres at Pandan Valley (L-R): TOP: Frs Frans De Ridder, Albert Brys, Edouard Tsimba, Romeo U Chang, Angel Luciano. BELOW: Frs Robertus Sarwiseso, Anthony Lim, Paul Staes

Visit of Superior General Fr Edouard Tsimba to Singapore in 2006, with confreres at Pandan Valley (L-R):
TOP: Frs Frans De Ridder, Albert Brys, Edouard Tsimba, Romeo U Chang, Angel Luciano.
BELOW: Frs Robertus Sarwiseso, Anthony Lim, Paul Staes. Photo credit: Fr Paul Staes, CICM.

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).

References

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.