The Teochew Catholics of Aukang – The Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Teochew matriarchs attending Mass at Nativity Church

Seated at bottom left is “Lao Bibik”, mother of Agnes Chan whose story is featured in this series

Grant No.2 dated 26 Aug 1857 for land purchased from the East India Company by Rev Ambrose Maistre to build the Nativity Church

Grant No.2 dated 26 Aug 1857 for land purchased from the East India Company by Rev Ambrose Maistre to build the Nativity Church

The Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (or fondly known as Nativity Church) has been home to a Teochew-Catholic community which preceded the establishment of the church. In 1857, Fr. Ambroise Maistre purchased land from the British East India company to set up a church ministering to the handful of Teochew-Catholics who had put down roots in ‘Aukang’, Teochew for ‘the back harbour’. These farmers and fishermen hailed from Shantou, the Guangdong province of China, and were already converted to Catholicism there by the missionaries of the Société des Missions étrangères de Paris (MEP). After the church, known as ‘St. Mary’s Church’ was built, the number of Teochew-Catholics arrivals from Shantou grew tremendously. The attap church was renamed and replaced with a Neo-Gothic church in 1901 and expanded again in 1933 to make room for the increasing number of Teochew-Catholics whose lives centred around the church and its activities. To this day, Nativity Church in Hougang still celebrates well-attended Masses in the Teochew dialect, a legacy of its rich Teochew heritage. The following stories attest to the rich faith and Catholic identity of the community, witnessing God’s love through the ages.