New Catholic church being built to ease parish crunch

Artist's impression of the church. Construction of the five-storey building, which is slated to open in March next year
Artist's impression of the church. Construction of the five-storey building, which is slated to open in March next year, is under way, but $60 million is needed to cover its land and construction costs. PHOTO: CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION

Church of The Transfiguration in Punggol to serve worshippers in crowded north-east churches

A new Catholic church is being built in the north-east and $60 million is needed to cover the costs of land and construction.

Church of The Transfiguration in Punggol was awarded the 3,000 sq m piece of land in 2013 for 30 years at $24 million.

Construction for the five-storey building is under way, with its two basement floors built since work started late last year. It is slated to open in March next year.

It still needs to raise $50 million, on top of $10 million in building funds pledged so far by the Catholic community since fund raising started in September last year.

The church aims to meet the needs of the burgeoning Catholic congregation of 360,000 in Singapore. This includes a growing pool of migrant worshippers from countries such as the Philippines and India.

Located in front of Punggol Waterway Park and next to Punggol Interchange, it will serve, in particular, Catholics in estates such as Punggol and Pasir Ris.

The new parish will help ease the squeeze at Sengkang's St Anne's Church and Pasir Ris' Church of Divine Mercy, where worshippers often have to stand outside the church doors during busy services.

It will be led by Father Joachim Chang, 52, and will hold between five and eight weekend services for about 15,000 worshippers in total.

He said: "With this new Punggol township, we see a need to have a church, especially when our neighbouring churches are so full that they cannot accommodate any more."

The Church of Transfiguration will be the 32nd Catholic church in the Archdiocese's stable.

It will be organising a fund-raising gala dinner and auction featuring, among other things, religious and contemporary art pieces at Fairmont Hotel on Jan 17.

Father Chang said the building committee reviewed the designs and materials used to build the church, so as to optimise the budget "without compromising on the essential elements".

He said: "We are very careful about expenditure. Aesthetics were not the main priority - the function of the space is more important."

Catholic visual elements will be woven into the design, said Father Chang. For instance, the building's facade will be emblazoned with an image of Jesus Christ, while its 1,100-seat chapel will have stained glass windows by an Italian craftsman. An authentic stone from Mount Tabor, in Israel, has also been incorporated into the foundation of the church.

Mount Tabor, in Lower Galilee, is the site of the Transfiguration recounted in the Bible - where Jesus spoke to Moses and Elijah and became radiant.

The building will also have rooms for Catechism classes, communal areas such as a rooftop garden, and 140 basement parking lots.

The church also plans to roll out programmes for the community. For instance, there will be seminars and talks on relationships, marriage and parenting for married couples. Father Chang said it will also offer students a safe environment to study after school and might even offer tuition.

Father Chang, a trained counsellor, plans to organise walks and tea sessions for senior citizens as well.

"A real concern for the Government is the ageing population. We are aiming to help the Government take care of some of this load by developing programmes to care for the senior citizens in the day," he said.

Encouraging people to contribute to the church's building fund, Father Chang said: "The church will be a sanctuary of solace and will be open to all who seek help."

Sengkang resident Juliana Low, a sports venue tour guide, 53, who has been attending St Anne's for the past decade, said she welcomes the addition of a new parish.

"It will ease the congestion and crowds. The team running the Church of Transfiguration is very cheerful. I'm looking forward to the same spirit in the new church, which I believe will be a beacon of light in the estate."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2016, with the headline 'New Catholic church being built to ease parish crunch'. Print Edition | Subscribe