St Joseph’s Church (Bukit Timah)
620 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 678116
Their presence prompted the French missionaries to send Father Anatole Mauduit to first build a small chapel in the Kranji area in 1846, and subsequently in Bukit Timah, when the plantation farmers he cared for moved there.
Within 15 years of Singapore’s founding as a trading post, 350 gambier plantations where 3,000 workers lived and worked were found in the western interior of the island. Some of these Chinese immigrant plantation workers were already Catholics when they left China for Singapore. Their presence prompted the French missionaries to send Father Anatole Mauduit to first build a small chapel in the Kranji area in 1846, and subsequently in Bukit Timah, when the plantation farmers he cared for moved there.
By 1860, the number of Catholics that made up the parish of St Joseph in Bukit Timah was dwindling. Many had left the plantations for the Singapore town to gain better working prospects, and to escape the harsh jungle which was plagued with tigers and snakes. Although considered very much a kampong outpost, it was from St Joseph that other village chapels, such as St Anthony, Our Lady Star of the Sea and Our Lady of Fatima (precursor to the Church of St Francis of Assisi), were established.
During the Japanese Occupation, the parish became a place of refuge from marauding Japanese soldiers. The parish priest Father Peter Chin, in claiming to be the Bukit Timah village “chief”, had set himself up for frequent assaults by the Japanese soldiers, by just trying to protect his people.
After the war, and under Father Joachim Teng’s tenure as parish priest, the church’s biggest challenge was undertaken as it underwent a massive renovation. The church’s sanctuary and wings at the back of the church were constructed, while the main body and church tower were integrated into the wings and the altar. On top of this, a new St Joseph’s Shrine was also installed.
In 1948 and 1949, the land adjacent to St Joseph’s Church was levelled to provide a site suitable for the Gabrielite complex which included Boys’ Town and the Assumption English School. In 1957, the Infant Jesus Sisters’ Convent as well as a school for girls was built in Chestnut Drive.
On 11th December 1991, St Joseph’s Church installed the first life-sized statues that made up the Stations of the Cross. Championed by a long time parishioner, the late Mr Lee Seng Huat, this unique Stations has, since its completion, drawn many Catholics to walk the way of Christ, especially during the Lenten season, .
Four years later, on 19th April 1995, the Chapel of the Resurrection was blessed and opened by Archbishop Gregory Yong who chose its name. The chapel was built over the site of the old cemetery of the Church.
To cater to a growing community of Catholics in the area, a new parish hall that would accommodate the people was built in 1997. More than the physical infrastructure, the Church community started to blossom with the introduction of various initiatives such as the formation of the Divine Mercy Group in 2002, Christian Meditation Group in 2003 and Apostleship of Prayer in 2004. An outreach to the migrant community started in 2008 and was renamed the Parish Befriender Group in 2010.
Father Edmund Chong, then parish priest, said “Let us always remember where we have come from, never to take our faith for granted and let what has been hard won be drowned in a flood of materialism, indifferentism and ingratitude. St Joseph, guardian of the Holy Church of God, pray for us!”
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