By Sr Grace Lee, fsp
The Founder of the Daughters of St Paul (FSP), Blessed James Alberione, had always wanted to bring the Gospel to those vast regions of Asia where many people did not know Christ. In 1965, the Sisters asked to bring their media mission to Singapore but were told by the bishop [Bishop Michael Olcomendy] that Singapore already had many religious congregations. So the FSP superiors in Rome sent the sisters to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia instead, where they were warmly welcomed.
In 1994, the congregation launched a MISSIONARY PROJECT to open houses in 10 different countries which seemed full of promise for their apostolate of the media. One of these houses was Singapore.
In May 1994, three sisters arrived in Singapore, a Singaporean, an Italian and a Japanese. Sr Mary Grace Lee the Singaporean, came a few days before the other two to prepare the way. The archdiocese allowed them the use of the big complex in Jurong West, the former provincialate of the Infant Jesus Sisters. There were three huge buildings. The sisters settled in one of them containing 16 rooms. The archdiocese later gave one building for a kindergarten and the other to the Franciscan friars.
As a Singaporean fully conversant with the life and people here, Sr Grace had few problems. But for her two companions, life was difficult for them as in other new foundations where they did not know the language and the people. Right from the beginning, they began their mission, particularly of home visitation, bringing their books and audiovisuals to the people.
Before arriving in Singapore, Sr Grace had already ordered all kinds of books and AVs from the FSP sisters in India, Philippines, USA and UK. Unfortunately, they had erred in their judgment regarding Chinese books. Since the population of Singapore is 75% Chinese, they thought that they would read Chinese. So the sisters brought boxes and boxes of Chinese books from their Taiwan publications. They soon found out that firstly– Singaporeans use simplified Chinese. Secondly, Singaporeans do not necessarily read Chinese books even if they are Chinese-educated! Happily, these errors were easily remedied.
The first vocations entered soon after their foundation. Since the local congregation were only three professed sisters, new vocations were sent overseas for their formation. They sent them to Boston, USA where the FSP have a big province and many sisters also in formation.
Over the years, the FSP Sisters have written and published some books and produced tapes and VCDs. They have visited many offices, factories and families to distribute many books and AVs. They also supply books, religious articles and AV material to some parishes for their parish religious bookshops, and manage the Apostolate of the Media Centre in the Church of Risen Christ. The sisters have also reached out to schools and conducted Media Literacy sessions for youths and adults.
A very special ministry is the Sisters’ outreach to mall shoppers in Jurong Point. They were given a cart to display all their media products including seasonal items like calendars and liturgical diaries. Here they received enquiries and sharings about the Catholic faith and about religious life. The sisters even made friends with some Muslims and Christians who were “surprised to see us in the market place.” The benefactor of the Cart told them that he understood their mission, not for business, but for evangelization.
From three Sisters at the beginning, the congregation in Singapore currently has seven members, two of whom are from Italy (one of whom was a pioneer here) and Korea. The rest are Singaporeans. They also have two Singaporean Sisters abroad in Hong Kong and in Taiwan.
This article has been edited and published with the kind permission of the Daughters of St Paul. Read more about their mission and good works at www.pauline.org.sg.