The family is a little church with the same mission as the universal Church, and is the primary place where the faith is passed on from one generation to the next. Many of the 603 laws in the Old Testament focus on the family to ensure its survival and wellbeing, including laws around marriage, diet in the home, sexual activity, purity of the husband and wife, and education of the faith in the home.
Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia quoted the poet Jorge Luis Borges: “Every home is a lamp stand.” Love begins at home, spreading from family to family, from house to house. Indeed, this is how the early Church began and grew. In the New Testament we see how the early Church centered on family homes. Christians met, prayed and served the community from within their homes. With no church buildings as we have today, Christianity flourished in a domestic setting.
In Singapore, some of our parishes set up Family Life Ministries (FLMs) helping their parish priests in supporting the family of families within the Church. While most events and activities celebrate family milestones and promote family bonding, there is also the need to help our couples and families have a basic understanding of the ‘higher whys’ and of God’s master plan for marriage and family; as it was from the very beginning.
As a lot of these truths have been drowned out by the noise of the world seeking to redefine gender, marriage and family, this FamFare issue discusses the challenges faced and the successes achieved by two FLMs. We hope that it serves as inspiration for other parishes to set up their own FLM to evangelise families and to have families evangelising other families, building up a vibrant, missionary and evangelistic Church.
FLM – QOP
When parishioners Galvin and Margarita Loh got married in 1983, there was no one to guide them through what was required nor to help them plan their wedding mass. They were lost, and ended up collecting mass booklets to see what others were doing. Recognising the need, they approached Lawrence and Bertilla Chea to consider forming a team to work together. In 1986, the working team was formed to assist couples for their wedding in Queen of Peace Church (QoP).
It takes a village …
But the Lohs were not able to carry on as their family grew to include five children. Lawrence and Bertilla then continued the project to assist couples preparing for their wedding.
Then in Aug 2015, they accepted an offer from the Parish Engagement Team (PET) from the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family to help set up a Family Life Ministry (FLM). The QoP FLM was officially formed in Oct 2015. One of the main area undertaken by the FLM was to provide assistance to couples prepare for their wedding and during Infant Baptism. Over the years, the Lohs have seen the improved benefits that FLM has brought to Catholic families through the experiences of their own childrens’ wedding and grandchildren’s infant baptism.
Having provided assistance to couples for the past thirty-two years, Bertilla, who chairs FLM explains that everyone in the ministry has their particular roles, but that they all pull together to pitch in to ensure that the families are always supported.
Helping families live their faith
“It’s not without its challenges, that’s for sure,” explains Bertilla. “And that’s not just sacrificing our personal time, but in meeting the needs of the families in living their faith.”
Over the years we have learnt from experience and provided a comprehensive checklist that couples go through to ensure the smooth running of their celebration. The liturgy takes precedence over the ceremony itself, to ensure priorities within their faith are clearly understood.
Of course we are prepared to help in any way we can because of the strong team spirit within FLM. Every wedding and baptism is a beautiful and memorable experience for us as we the see the joy of families rejoicing in a new beginning. We also realise that when people come into the ministry, they usually end up getting more and more involved. “The busier you are, the more God will call you.” It’s a blessing and a privilege for us.
The work of the ministry is greatly supported by the priests of our parish. Says Father Timothy Yeo: “I’ve witnessed the growth and enthusiasm of the group, which has promoted vibrant evangelical parishioners committed to enhancing family life. God has called them to be active and they do what they do with love and passion, promoting friendly relationships and growth in spirituality. As priests of the parish, we usually don’t have much time to get into the details of the wedding celebration and infant Baptism, so it is great to have the support of our FLM.”
A team working together stays together
The wonderful camaraderie of the team is seen through the many activities that FLM has undertaken over the years, including the organising of our Parish Priest’s 20th Ordination Celebration, the annual Milestone Wedding Anniversary, amongst others. This is further extended to regular social activities, such as shopping trips to Johor Bahru, aimed at bringing our families closer through bonding activities.
A model to learn from
Social media has greatly enhanced our communication within the group without the need for so many meetings. We are now able feedback to each other and get things done faster.
Many parishioners have commented on just how well organised the ceremonies and events are, be it weddings, infant baptism, Milestone Wedding Anniversary as well as the outdoor Stations of the Cross.
There is no hierarchy in our roles that’s why everyone is happy to pitch in and serve when needed. We do what we can for the glory of God. We forge great friendship and fellowship with our members over the past 3 years and have built a very closely knitted ministry.
What sort of support will PET (ACF) provide?
The Parish Engagement Team (PET), a sub-committee of the ACF will be with the Parish Representative in setting up a Family Life Ministry from its conception, to its infancy, to its growth into a life-giving Ministry by:
- Identifying the needs and challenges of the family to live out their faith.
- Initiating, planning and reassessing the plan to improve and adapt in order to respond fruitfully to meet these challenges.
- Formation of members. PET recently included a plan to organise formation sessions for its FLM members with a programme called ‘The Theology of the Family’ which is based on the biblical vision of the family authored by Dr Joseph Atkinson.
- Encouraging a Praying Community within the FLM. Prayer being an integral part of any Church Ministry.
- Providing the FLM with a directory of existing Enrichment Resources that can be provided by the Family Partners of ACF.
- Share and have discussion on the ‘Catholic Life Journey’ (From womb to tomb) with the FLM members. This is to help understand and close the gaps that may exist in the family in the parish.