My name is Lawrence Seet, I am currently a sacristan for Sts Peter and Paul. I grew up on the grounds of Sts Peter and Paul, as my grandfather and later my parents were sacristans for the parish.
The picture above was taken on Waterloo Street, near (what used to be) Beng Swee place and the synagogue. The houses in the picture don’t exist anymore. The procession would leave from the church to Waterloo Street—Bras Basah Road— stop at the SJI Porch for Benediction—return via Queen Street back to Sts Peter and Paul. The priest in the picture is Father Matthias Tung. I am in the furthest left-hand corner.
Up to the 1960s, my grandfather, Augustine Seet, was in charge of the altar boys as he was the parish sacristan. At that time, the Mass was conducted in Latin so all altar boys had to learn Latin by heart. We couldn’t read from the book. At 9 years old, I started off with carrying the procession banner during the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul. After I learnt Latin I started serving Mass. There were quite a few of us altar boys staying around Waterloo and Beng Swee place. Sometimes two or three of us would serve morning mass, around 6.00 or 6.30am. After Mass we would take breakfast and go to school nearby in St Joseph’s Institution (SJI).
After my grandfather passed away in 1965, my parents Francis and Teresa took over his duties. I used to help them with closing and opening, doing things like locking up, preparing the altar for feast days, making flower decorations… At that time we had no florists, so my family decorated the altar by ourselves.
My mother would wash and clean the cloths used for the altar. When my father passed away in 1998, she continued to look after the parish. Since I worked in town, I could help her open the church in the morning while she took over until the evening. After that I would help her close. In 2008, I took over her duties as she was getting on in years.
This article was contributed by Mr Lawrence Seet, who comes from a long-serving Catholic family. His great-grandfather, Seet Twa Tee, was a dedicated catechist for 42 years, from 1883 to 1925. His granduncle, Father Michael Seet, was the first locally-born Chinese to be ordained a priest. His grandfather, Augustine Seet, served as the parish sacristan from the age of 15, and received a Papal Medal from Pope John XXIII, in recognition of his service when he was 81 and still carrying out his sacristan duties. Both of Mr Seet’s parents, Francis and Teresa, also earned the prestigious Bene Merenti Medal from St John Paul II for their long service to the Church.