From Mission To Church



Trace the footsteps of our founding Fathers as the Church grows from Mission to Church. Peek into the diary of an adventurous French priest in the humid jungles of Bukit Timah, or read about the fearsome Chinese secret societies who persecuted the early Christians and how the Church first nurtured the family unit in an immigrant society.

The First Catholic Chapel in Singapore

Father Jean-Marie Beurel, MEP Arrives in Singapore

Chapel of St Joseph in Kranji is Built

The Church of the Good Shepherd was Blessed and Opened

Persecution of Chinese Christian Converts

Building of a Small Church, São José

Establishing an English-Medium Mission School for Boys

Church of St Joseph is Built at Bukit Timah

The IJ Sisters Open the First English-Medium Catholic School for Girls

Church of Sts Peter and Paul is Built


From Mission To Church

From Mission To Church

1880 - 1945

15th November 1885

Catholic Church as a legal entity

By the ordinance of 15th November 1885, the Bishop was designated as "The Titular Roman Catholic Bishop of Malacca resident in the Straits Settlements" and the Catholic Church was incorporated as a legal entity. The first Bishop to be thus recognised was Bishop Edouard Gasnier.


Land was Given to Build the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes

In 1885, the colonial government granted the Church a piece of land at Ophir Road. The Church of Our Lady of Lourdes was opened in 1888 to serve the Tamil speaking Catholics.

In 1885, the IJ Sisters also assumed administration of the General Hospital (later Singapore General Hospital). The Straits Government’s intention to recruit trained European nurses coincided with Bishop Edward Gasnier’s intention to have the Sisters establish an alternative hospital.

Image & Credit: Church of Our Lady of Lourdes (1959). Photo: Fr R Nicolas

23rd January 1886

Jurisdiction of the Diocese of Macau

The Portuguese parish of St Joseph in Victoria Street is placed under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Macau, together with the parish of St Peter in Malacca.

11th December 1894

The Canossian Daughters of Charity Arrive in 1894

The Canossian Daughters of Charity arrived in 1894 to work with the Portuguese Mission at the Church of St Joseph. They took over St Anthony’s Girls School in 1895.

14th February 1897

The Church of the Good Shepherd was Consecrated

The Church of the Good Shepherd was consecrated and raised to the status of a Cathedral.

11th September 1910

The Church of the Sacred Heart was Completed and Blessed in 1910

Land was acquired in 1901 in Tank Road to build a church that would cater to the Cantonese and Hakka Catholics. The Church of the Sacred Heart was eventually completed and blessed in 1910.

2nd July 1911

Father Michael Seet was Ordained

The first local Catholic priest, Father Michael Seet, was ordained.


Two More Local Priests are Ordained.

Two more local priests, Father Stephen Lee and Father Rudolf de Souza, were ordained.

Bishop Emile Barillon also reported anti-Christian feelings and open acts of hostility such as vandalism and assaults of Christians by anti-Christian secret societies. This persecution may have been due to anti-foreigner sentiment after the fall of the Qing Dynasty in China in 1911.


A Chapel in Katong

A small chapel was built in Katong and dedicated to the Holy Family. It was later demolished and the Church of the Holy Family was later built in 1932 to minister to Eurasian families in the area.


The Beginning of the Church of St Anthony

100 Chinese refugees from Swatow arrived in Singapore. Fr Stephen Lee wrote to the Government for a grant of land so that these settlers could set up homes and cultivate crops. After repeated applications, 100 acres of hilly terrain was made available. The village came to be known as the Catholic Village.

A chapel was also built to attend to the spiritual needs of these Catholics. This was the beginning of the Church of St Anthony.


Church of St Teresa was Blessed on 7 April 1929

Fr Stephen Lee also oversaw and completed the construction of the Church of St Teresa in Kampong Bahru. The land had previously been acquired in 1902 for the Hokkien Catholic community. The church was blessed on 7 April 1929.


Carmelite Monastery Begins Construction

At the invitation of Archbishop Adrien Devals, the Carmel of Bangkok sent Mother Therese des Anges with three Sisters to start a Carmelite monastery in Singapore. It was blessed and opened in 1938.

30th July 1935

The Redemptorist Fathers were Invited to Start a Foundation

The Redemptorist Fathers were also invited to start a Foundation in Singapore, they arrived on 30th July 1935.

Bishop Devals also introduced the precursor to today’s Catholic News, the Malay Catholic Leader, beginning with a modest circulation of 3000 copies.


Gabrielite Brothers Arrive and Take Charge of Holy Innocent English School

The first Gabrielite Brothers arrived on 20th November 1936. They took charge of Holy Innocent English School (later on known as Montfort School) in 1937.


The Good Shepherd Sisters Arrive

Again at the invitation of Archbishop Devals, four Irish Good Shepherd Sisters arrived in December 1939 to set up a house for girls in need.

Bahau 1943

The Church Under the Japanese Occupation

Singapore fell to Japanese forces in 1943. About 300 Eurasian families and 400 Chinese Catholic families were sent to Bahau. Archbishop A Devals went along with them, but eventually died there. The Church under the Japanese Occupation suffered a great deal but emerged stronger and well-placed to serve Singapore after the war.

Image copyright © Archives des Missions Étrangères de Paris.


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The Mission and First Catholic Converts


The Church in Post-War Singapore