In my growing up years before I entered primary school. Fathers Becheras, Abrial & Berthold used to do house visits, as it was common for Catholic priests to do so in those days. All three spoke very good Teochew dialect and that was my mother tongue.
You see, my parents were amongst the “working poor” in the post-WWII period. My father’s transport business – 6 lorries – had been mobilised by the British military to fight the invading Japanese. All the mobilization papers which were kept in Granny’s house were destroyed when the Japanese planes bombed what is present-day Toa Payoh Estate. When the British returned, my parents did not have the proper documents to claim compensation. And so our family fell on hard times during those years.
My mum told us about a dream she had where a lady in white showed her the
way to a church. We were then living in Havelock Road in a pre-war house that is still there. Mum decided that she just had to find the church in her dream. So started walking even though she didn’t really know which church or where it was. Surprisingly, through trial and error, she found her way to Sts. Peter & Paul Church, which is quite a distance away from Havelock Road. She was even more surprised that the first White priest she met in the church compound could converse with her in the Teochew dialect.
I have visited many Roman Catholic churches in Quebec, Canada as well as Italy, Germany and England. Although very old, like dating back six centuries, they are still majestic and well preserved. Many still feature pulpits and operating pipe organs. Sts. Peter & Paul’s pulpit was removed during church renovation in the 60’s and also gone was the pipe organ on the choir balcony.
Singapore does not have the space to preserve the old. I remember right beside the rectory there used to be a grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, which was a miniature replica of the actual Lourdes in southern France. Unfortunately the grotto is no longer present for the younger generation to see.
Contributed by Mr Dominic Tan
2 June 2016