Catholics urged to donate as Church hopes to raise $238m

Catholics receiving communion from Archbishop Goh during mass at the newly restored Cathedral of the Good Shepherd last Sunday.
Catholics receiving communion from Archbishop Goh during mass at the newly restored Cathedral of the Good Shepherd last Sunday.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Catholics have been asked to start making regular, and if possible, monthly contributions, to help the Roman Catholic Church raise $238.1 million for its operations and to construct new facilities over the next seven years.

Congregants are encouraged to make these payments via Giro, Internet banking, debit or 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 in Singapore.

The programme, called Giving in Faith and Thankfulness, is being launched over this weekend.

Unlike Protestants, the Roman Catholic Church does not practise 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 Church said the money will go towards funding the work of the majority of its religious and social organisations, of which there are about 100.

The money will also be used in the construction of its $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 at a mass at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd last Sunday. 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 was a result of the establishment of new archdiocesan organisations such as 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 this newspaper after taking on the role of head of the Catholic Church in 2013.

The Church has so far been funded by the offerings collected during weekend masses across its 31 parishes. The Church has been getting 15 per cent of these contributions for most of its history.

The Sunday Times understands the money contributed per person each month is usually less than 1 per cent of his income. Also, while there are about 373,000 Catholics in Singapore, only about a third (36 per cent) attend mass on weekends.

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.

Ms Josephine Lau, a 28-year-old 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," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 27, 2016, with the headline 'Catholics urged to donate as Church hopes to raise $238m'. Print Edition | Subscribe