The history of the Congregation of the Disciples of the Lord (CDD) in Singapore is unique. While the pioneers from other religious orders were probably sent as fully professed members to offer their service in Singapore, the CDD first arrived in the form of its seminarians.
The CDD was started in Xuanhua, a county located in northern China, in 1927 by Archbishop Celso Costantini, the first Apostolic Delegate
to China. The mission of CDD is to strive to evangelise all peoples, especially the Chinese, through inculturation of the faith. Its defining characteristics are fervent love for the Holy Eucharist and devoted loyalty to the Holy See. Today, CDD members are also evangelising among Chinese communities in places such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Canada, Singapore and Taiwan.
From the mid-1990s to 2019, four Chinese CDD seminarians received their priestly formation at Singapore’s St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary. Without a religious house of their own, they were stationed in the Major Seminary together with the diocesan seminarians. The first batch of CDD seminarians had their first profession in 1997 in the Seminary.
After their ordination, some of them stayed in Singapore at the invitation of the Archdiocese, to offer their service as a gesture of solidarity and gratitude, while others were sent to other mission lands. In the meantime, there were also other CDD Fathers who joined the mission in Singapore.
Finally, on 23 August 2013, the CDD was formally recognised by the Singapore ecclesiastical authority as a religious order incardinated in the Archdiocese of Singapore, with its first religious house located at Angklong Lane (2013-2014). Subsequently, the religious house was relocated to Tai Keng Gardens (2014-2016), Cashew Park (2016-2019), and its current site at Chestnut Drive (2019-present).
The CDD Fathers have provided their service in Singapore as assistant priests in various parishes – St Anne’s Church, Church of the Holy Cross, Church of the Risen Christ, Church of the Holy Trinity and St Joseph’s Church (Bukit Timah). The other CDD Fathers, who reside in their religious house, have a different mission for their own Congregation matters and help out in different parishes, especially with their Mandarin apostolate.
Besides parish apostolate, CDD Fathers have been working closely with various archdiocesan level Mandarin-speaking communities and apostolates, in line with the vision and needs of the Archdiocese. For instance, they have been contributing in areas such as: religious education, migrants, family and marriage issues, seminarian formation, ecclesiastical tribunals, and Catholic publications.
In terms of religious education, the CDD Fathers have been at the helm of the Mandarin department of the Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore (CTIS). The first batch of Mandarin certificate students graduated in mid-2015.
Chinese migrant workers have often found it a challenge to merge with the local Catholic communities and ministries due to reasons such as different social background and work schedules. Thus, the CDD Fathers have been instrumental in forming Chinese migrant groups in various parishes, with programmes welcoming both Catholics and non-Catholics to activities ranging from moral education to fellowship and social-cultural celebrations.
Starting from the middle of 2019, the CDD Fathers introduced a monthly Holy Hour in Mandarin in their religious house at Chestnut Drive. This spiritual programme is inspired by Archbishop William Goh’s exhortation to bring people closer to Christ by Eucharistic Adoration, and it is also very much in line with the CDD charism. The Holy Hour is held on the last Saturday of every month at 10-11am. All are welcome to spend an hour with the Lord!
In their twenty years in Singapore, the CDD members have grown from seminarians to priests, from receiving formation to offering their service, and from serving as individuals to establishing a religious community. They have enriched the Church in Singapore in their journey as disciples of our Lord Jesus, serving the Archdiocese at large, especially the Mandarin-speaking people of God.
Contributed by: Fr Peter Zhang, Ms Jacqueline Lee (revised 20 May 2019)