The first Dominican that established himself permanently in Singapore was Fr. Antonio Gonzalez in year 2000. Previously he and former Provincial, Fr. Pedro Luis González came to visit Singapore to consider the possibility of opening a new house here.
The main objective of establishing a house in Singapore was to provide a place for the brothers in formation where English would be the main language of instruction. In recent years, most of the candidates for the Dominican Province of our Lady of the Holy Rosary came from East Asia, so a new plan was needed involving new houses of formation.
The Dominicans in Singapore belong to the province of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, a missionary province of the Dominican Order founded for the evangelization of Asia. As such, they do not have a fixed territory and since the 16th century have worked actively in the evangelization of Philippines, China, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan as well as other parts of Asia. Their latest openings have been in Korea, Macau, Singapore, Myanmar and East Timor.
In his first few months in Singapore, Fr. Antonio enjoyed the hospitality of the Redemptorists at Novena Church. Then in March 2000, Fr. Fernando joined him from China and later, Br. Cristino, from the Philippines, who came to Singapore to continue his formation in theology at St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary. The three of them rented a house at Sian Tuan Avenue and while searching for a permanent place.
In January 2001, they decided to purchase a house. The quest to find a suitable house that could fulfill the requirements for a formation community was not easy but in January 2001, they purchased a house at Kensington Park Road in Serangoon Gardens. San Francisco de Capillas’ House has since become the permanent location of the Dominicans in Singapore.
The house was named after the first martyr of China, St. Francis de Capillas, a Spanish Dominican who became a missionary in China and eventually was martyred for his faith.
In December of 2001, Fr. David García was assigned to the community as the formator of the brothers in formation, namely Cristino Quipit who was studying theology and Rofandi, from Indonesia, who started his ecclesiastical studies at the Major Seminary in Singapore.
The Dominican house quickly settled into its established routines with the brothers in formation attending classes and the rest of the brothers helping in various apostolates. Soon there were two Bible Study groups, one in English and the other conducted in Chinese by Fr. Fernando. A prayer group was also formed and a community of Lay Dominicans started to gather twice a month.
The friars also helped in the Parishes of the vicinity with RCIA, masses, confessions and talks and lectures. Fr. David was lecturing at the Major seminary and at the then Singapore Pastoral Institute.
Being a house of formation, there have been numerous brothers from all over Asia who have lived in the Dominican House at different stages of their formation. There were postulants from Myanmar, Korea, Indonesia, China and East Timor, aside from a few professed brothers from the Philippines.
In 2006, Fr. Jesús María Hernández was called to substitute for Fr. Fermando as the new formator in the house. Fr. Fernando was then assigned to Hong Kong in 2007 and in 2008, Fr. Jesús María left to continue further studies.
Since then new houses of formation have been open in the region and the brothers have moved on to continue their formation in other countries.
In the short span of time of the Dominican presence in Singapore, numerous notable people have visited the house, including both provincials, Fr. Bonifacio Solis and Fr. Javier Gonzalez. Likewise two master generals, Fr. Carlos Aspiroz and Fr. Bruno Cadoré, paid their official visits as required by their office. Another distinguished visitor was Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, ex-master of the Order, who lodged at the Dominican house when he led the spiritual exercises for the clergy of Singapore.
Contributor: Fr. David García OP