AS a follow on from my previous column, The Lucky Country, I want to contrast it with one of the greatest things I have come to appreciate about our neighbours in Asia.
Yes the food is great, the public transport is efficient, it is cheap to catch a cab and eat a meal out, but these things, though they have added to my experience, are not what I have come to appreciate most.
When it is time for me to return home next year, I will be doing so with bitter sweetness, for it is the Church in Singapore that I will be leaving behind.
Other than Christmas and Easter as a child, I have never felt so claustrophobic in Church as I have in Singapore.
I mean this in the best possible way, of course, for the pews are always full here.
They have volunteers designated as wardens to help parishioners find their seating as we squeeze six or seven people into a pew that Australians would comfortably sit with just four.
The Church has so many parishioners that there are always people standing at the back – every Sunday of the year.
The choirs are so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes and takes me to Heaven’s gate – in every church I go to.
And it is hard not to believe that it is Jesus in the bread and wine when you see the ten altar servers, the pristine sanctuary, the gold lanterns, the swinging incense, and utter silence during the Liturgy of the Eucharist as the congregation kneels in unison.
The Church in Australia could learn a thing or two from our devout Singaporean brothers and sisters.
I know I have.
In Australia, when I worked for Ignite Youth, marketing Ignite Conference, I would often encounter parishioners, church secretaries, and youth workers lamenting on the lack of attendance.
I got the impression that they rather believed that the Church was dying, that their legacy would not continue on.
Now I’ve been to enough youth events to know this is not the case, and being in Singapore has solidified that.
I’m here to tell you that the Church is not dying – it is alive and well.
The reason for the diminishing congregation sizes in many Australian parishes is something for us all to ponder – and something that I’ve done a lot of thinking about over the past few years.
Did it have anything to do with the Second Vatican Council?
Is it because of the increasing number of broken families?
Is it because of the secularisation of our Australian society?
Are people wrongfully looking to be entertained at church?
All I know is that there are people who used to go to Mass who don’t go anymore – I remember their faces from when I was a child at St Patrick’s, Beenleigh.
For one reason or another, they left the church, but it is our responsibility to reconnect them, to call them up and invite them back in.
Is there anyone you used to know who doesn’t practice the faith anymore?
I challenge you to get into contact with them today and begin the journey of welcoming them back into the loving arms of the Catholic Church.
Can you imagine if our Australian churches were so full that people had to stand at the back – every Sunday of the year?
By Michaela Hillam
Michaela Hillam is a Catholic blogger living in Singapore.