05/30/2016, 15.35
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Singapore’s St Francis of Assisi parish is home to thousands of economic migrants

Immigration from Asian countries has boosted the congregation of 4,500 with half of its members now hailing from the Philippines, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, China and Vietnam. Scores of volunteers help provide free meals to the needy. The church houses a relic of Saint Alphonsa, the first Indian nun to be canonised.

Singapore (AsiaNews) – In recent years, the congregation of St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Singapore has grown a lot thanks to economic migrants, so that in order to take part in the Mass, “we have special Masses that are celebrated on different weeks of the month,” said the local pastor, Rev Fr John Lau. 

A large number of migrants come from Asian countries, more than half of all parishioners who now call the parish “home,” Fr Lau explained. The parish itself is located on the western side of the city, a growth area.

Every week, about 4,500 parishioners attend Mass, including a large contingent of Burmese, Indians, Filipinos, Tamils, Chinese and Vietnamese.

About 400 people from the Tamil community attend Mass every week, mostly blue-collar and migrant workers who live around the Jurong and Tuas area.

From the Malayalee community, about 300 people attend Mass weekly. Most of the community members come from Kerala, India. For them, the church is especially important because it houses a relic of Saint Alphonsa (1910-1946), the first native saint of India from Kerala. She was canonised by Benedict XVI on 12 October 2008.

At 700, Filipinos constitute the largest migrant group in the parish, from the Legion of Mary and San Lorenzo Rui Choir.

Half of the congregation is made up of economic migrants. Although they tend to be poor, they are not stingy when it comes to works or mercy.

Every Monday to Saturday, including public holidays, a team of volunteers from the parish gets together to distribute meals to the elderly and less privileged who live near the church. Beneficiaries gather every morning at the church to collect their meals which consist of rice, vegetables and meat.

The meals are provided by Willing Hearts, a charity founded in 2003 by a group of parishioners from the Church of St Michael with the support of the Canossian Sisters.

The Church of St Francis of Assisi initially started out as a chapel built at Tuas Village in 1958. At present, it is very much involved in pastoral outreach to young people.

The parish’s Catholic Youth community teaches music and singing for the good of the Church. Scores of kids meet each weak for practice.

Recently, they organised a Mother’s Day lunch and sang songs dedicated to the mothers who were present.

Fr Lau says that about 40 teens get confirmed every year.

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