Catholic Church hopes to raise $238 million for next 7 years, to ask Catholics to make monthly contributions

First mass at the newly restored Cathedral of Good Shepherd that was closed for three years of restoration works, on Nov 20 2016.
First mass at the newly restored Cathedral of Good Shepherd that was closed for three years of restoration works, on Nov 20 2016. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Catholics have been asked to start making regular, and if possible, monthly contributions, to help the Roman Catholic Church raise $238.1 million.

The money is needed to run its operations and to construct new facilities over the next seven years.

Congregants have been encouraged to make these payments via Giro, Internet banking, debit cards, credit cards, cheque or cash. This is the first major and long-term fund-raising programme of its kind in the Church's 200-year history here.

The programme, called Giving in Faith and Thankfulness (Gift), is being launched over this weekend (Nov 26 and 27).

Unlike Protestants, the Roman Catholic Church does not practice tithing - where about 10 per cent of a believer's income is given to the church they attend each month.

However, one of the five precepts of the Catholic Church states that believers should assist with its material needs according to the ability of each individual.

The Catholic Church here said the money will go towards funding the work of its various religious and social organisations.

There are about 100 organisations within the Catholic Church here.

The money will also be used for the construction of its upcoming $150 million centre for archdiocese-wide activities and priest retirement residence in Upper Thomson Road; a new $19 million "seminary and formation centre"; and a separate $3.1 million residence for retired priests in Changi.

The Church is targeting for these building projects to be completed within the next seven years.

Archbishop William Goh first announced the programme briefly to devotees at a mass at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd last Sunday (Nov 20).

He said: "The Church does not only serve Catholics, we serve everyone. So if this Church, if it were to be a vibrant, relevant Church, and truly a Church of service, then there are many things we need to do."

Last year, the Church which had an operating expenditure of $6.9 million, initially registered a deficit of $2 million - but it managed to raise enough through donations and appeals without having to dip into its $24.7 million cash reserves.

The deficit occurred as a result of the establishment of new archdiocesan organisations such as the Office for Young People (OYP), Office for the New Evangelisation (One), and the Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore. It was also due to the increased cost of medical insurance, medical costs and care of ageing priests.

The new organisations were set up as part of the Archbishop's 10-year pastoral plan which he had outlined to The Straits Times after taking on the role of head of the Catholic Church in 2013.

The plan includes drawing local Catholics back to the Church, and strengthening its young people.

While there are about 373,000 Catholics in Singapore, only 36 per cent attend mass on weekends.

The Catholic Church has so far been funded by the offerings collected during weekend masses across its 31 parishes. Various organisations, such as OYP and One, have been operating in a barebones manner - running on community donations.

To address the issue, the Catholic Foundation, which was established in 2012, expanded last year to take on the role of the archdiocese's main fund-raising arm.

The $238.1 million that the Church needs to raise was calculated based on projected needs and the expenditure requirements of its various organisations. This sum also includes $53.6 million in sinking funds for the renewal of leases and renovation of existing properties.

Catholic, Ms Josephine Lau, 28, a florist, is supportive of the move. "We go to church, listen, and participate at different levels. But even at our most passive and least committed, we are still using church facilities.

"If we want the Church to continue to exist, continue its work, reach out to the less fortunate and be a space where all can worship, then the money has to come from the community."