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Priests & Religious

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Fr Andrew Wong   

Ordination:21 June 1992

Parish priest of Church of Holy Spirit.
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Fr Brian De Souza   

Ordination: 7 July 2002

Parish Priest at Church of St Francis Xavier
School Chaplain of St Gabriel’s Primary School

Vocation Story: “The Priesthood Would Still Be My Choice” – Fr Brian D’Souza

Family Recites Rosary Daily: I am the seventh child of eight children (four boys and four girls)that God had blessed my parents, Anselm Patrick D’Souza (deceased) and Rosemary Joan De Silva with.

My family practised the daily recital of the rosary together an occasionally, my father would introduce charismatic prayers to us. After the death of my father when I was 15 years old, my family still remained strongly bonded – a testimony to the saying, “A family that prays together stays together.”

From young, I learnt to serve my parents, my elders and visitors at home. When I was old enough, I joined the Altar Boys’ and went on to teach Catechism. After my confirmation at 15, I realized that being a nominal Sunday Catholic was not sufficient to develop a strong relationship with the Lord. Upon reflection and prayer, I decided to get more active in church and subsequently decided to join the seminary after National Service. A great influence on my being drawn to the priesthood at that time was my parents’ holiness and some lay people who gave of their time to serve the church.
      

I Pondered the Options in Life: Yet, I wasn’t completely sure. During my National Service days, I thought about the options open to me – the single life, married life or the priesthood. Using my parents as a gauge for married life, I felt that I could be a good father one day but gave God the option of being His priest first. So, I continued to ponder about becoming a priest.
      
After completing my National Service, I continued with my studies and left the door open for the priesthood. After a while, I decided to be open and submit my application to the seminary because I felt that if I did not take that positive step to discern further, I would never know if God were indeed calling me to be a priest. My mother was surprised when I asked for a copy of her marriage certificate to accompany an application I was planning to send but didn’t tell her it was to apply to join the seminary. However, when she found out, she was very encouraging and was even excited for me.
      
I Asked God for a Sign: Though I joined the seminary, I was still unsure if I could make it as a priest. I was still unsure if the Calling were really from God. I wanted to be sure. Hence, one day I asked God for a sign and that was for my sister­in­law to conceive as she yearned for a child having been childless for seven years of her marriage. Meanwhile, I carried on in the seminary. In my first year at the seminary, my sister­in­law actually conceived! But sadly, she had a miscarriage a few months later. Nevertheless, I was sure that God had indeed given me a sign and an affirmation of my Calling.
      
As I journeyed on in my seminary formation, at another point, I was assailed by doubts about my Calling. Hence, I told the Lord that if it were not His Will for me to become a priest, then let the seminary formators tell me so. After that, I went for a retreat and it was at the retreat that I felt the peace and assurance of God. Hence I stopped asking God for signs and I made a decision to persevere with my studies at the seminary.
      
Seminary Life Was God’s Way of “Pruning” Me: Seminary life was not at all smooth sailing. I had my fair share of peer problems and being a more sports and technical oriented person, I struggled with the theory aspect of studies. I guess it was a period of “pruning” by God and I took it in my stride. During one of the years, while my classmates advanced to the next year, I had to do an extra year of studies. I was devastated and demoralised.
      
Prayers were the only thing that kept me going in the seminary. I surrendered everything to God and depended on His grace to get me through. My Spiritual Director also played a role, as he was very encouraging. My classmates in the seminary were my pillars of strength too – Fathers Frederick Quek, Luke Fong and Christopher Lee.
      
On 7 July 2002, I was ordained a priest at the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea.
      
Greatest Joy as a Priest : It has been a short few years since my ordination and I can say that the greatest joy of being a priest is being with the people of God and seeing how I can help them. Many of them are looking for meaning in their lives and lack a sense satisfaction even though they may be holding high positions in the secular world. The other joy of being a priest is the close fellowship with my brother priests. We have this sense of being in this vocation together and as such, we understand one another as no one else can – the challenges and even the joys that we encounter.
      
Greatest Challenge as a Priest: The greatest challenge of being a priest is trying to please people, bringing them to God and bringing God to them. It’s tough. We have all sorts of people, they come from different backgrounds and as you know, Singaporeans have become a very demanding people. There is often a clash of ideas. They find it hard to accept the Ways of God and would rather go with the flow of the world as that is so much easier. However, as a priest, it is my duty to uphold God’s Ways and the Teachings of Christ despite the difficulties.
      
Only the Priesthood is for Me : Having said that, if someone were to ask me if I would still choose the priesthood again if I were given the chance to relive my life. My answer would be an unequivocal yes and this time I will also be more prepared for it.
      
Hence, my advice to young people who might be interested to join the priesthood or religious life is to start by leading a holy life; to have a regular prayer life, at least going for confessions on a quarterly basis and getting involved in church activities. Don’t be afraid to approach a priest or a nun to help you in your discernment process as they can be the Voice of God. Many will steer towards what their parents want them to be in life rather than what God wants for them. Hence, be open to God and have a good prayer life so as to be better able to discern God’s Will for your life.
      
First published by © The Serra Club of Singapore in 2006.
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Fr Johnson Fernandez

Ordination: 13th Feb 1971

As the Parish Priest, he has been working tirelessly overseeing the construction of the Church of the Divine Mercy (CDM) since the idea for a new church in the East was conceived. He has also served at the Church of the Holy Trinity, the Church of the Holy Family and the Church of Christ the King­ where he had overseen the church rebuilding as parish priest.

Reflections through email:

You know its such a long time ago. I need to check whatever documents I have. All I remember was that we were transfered from SJI to St Michaels when it first opened.Currently, I am in Berkeley, California on a study sabbaticsl. I shall only be back in Singspore in mid­JuneBlessed Easter
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Fr Terence Pereira   

1974 to 1979

Parish Priest of Church of St Anthony

Episcopal Vicar for New Evangelisation

Archbishop's delegate Archdiocese Professional Standards Office (PSO) ­ Advises and liaises with Church bodies on implementing professional standards for ensuring a safe environment in all Catholic communities. Additionally, the office oversees procedures dealing with specific allegations of misconduct against Clergy, Religious, Employees and Lay volunteers of the Catholic Church.Judge to Tribunal of the Second Instance.
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Fr Gerard Weerakoon   

Ordination: 04th Nov 1996   

Parish Priest of Church of St Stephen

Born 12th March 1952, Gerard Weerakoon was the only child of Christopher & Constance Weerakoon. Early childhood was spent in Norfolk Rd, within walking distance from St. Michael's School where he attended primary school from 1959 to 1964. There, he was inspired to the brotherhood by the La Salle brothers. The proximity to Novena Church was also helped to influence his religious life.

Gerard moved on to St. Joseph's Institution for his secondary education from 1965 to 1968. While at SJI, Gerard wanted to join the La Salle brothers but was dissuaded by his parents.I remember Gerard as a classmate who was always immaculately dressed in starched and ironed school uniform. The creases on his uniform were still intact at the end of the school day when ours were soiled and sweaty from our day's activities.

After pre­university, Gerard went on to do National Service. He chose to serve as a medic in 6 SIR. Upon ROD in 1973, he joined DBS Bank as a clerk until 1979 when his religious calling got him to leave for the Redemptorist Seminary in Singapore. Six months later, he left the Redemptorists on his own accord to return to the world of banking.

He joined Banca Commerciale Italiana. A year later, left to join NMB Bank, later renamed ING Barrings, remaining there for 7 years and achieved his aim of becoming a bank officer.

The turning point in his life came with the Papal visit of Pope John Paul II to Singapore in November 1986. While at work, Gerard had met and joined some lay people in the Opus Dei ­ "Work of God". The Opus Dei is a lay organization which aims to achieve individual holiness and apostolic commitment through work. He was greatly inspired by his involvement there.

But the calling was still strong and he rejoined the St. Francis Xavier Seminary in Ponggol in 1989. On 4th November 1996, Gerard was ordained Fr. Gerard Weerakoon at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, his parish church, as the family had already moved to Lim Tua Tow Rd. His mother still lives there. He was posted to the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour until the re­posting.

Fr. Gerard Weerakoon joins the Church of St. Francis Xavier on 23rd June 2003, his second posting since priesthood. The posting is for three years with effect from 15th June.

Asked about his vision for SFX, Fr. Weerakoon says this, "The laity is called to holiness. The priest is to serve them and inculcate the values of virtue, charity, etc." He wants to help to laity to be saints; to achieve peace and happiness and to accept pain and suffering cheerfully.

Fr. Weerakoon hopes to visit ALL the families in the parish (population 4,500), some one thousand homes, within the three years of his posting.

And what about Fr. Weerakoon's favourite interest? Home cooked food! He prefers this to restaurant food. Most of the farewell dinners given by his OLPS parishioners were home cooked meals. And I am sure that the cuisine in Serangoon is a lot better than Siglap!

One last note ­ Fr. Weerakoon seems to have a mystical number 7. He was with DBS for 7 years. He was with ING Barrings for 7 years. He was in the seminary for 7 years. He was with OLPS for 7 years.

7 is the Perfect Number in Christianity. Coincidence?

Robert Yeo
Webmaster
SFX
21/6/2003

Reflections through email: I can't recall much except that the school was near my house and I enjoyed walking to school.
The Principal was Brother Basil who was very strict.He came to our class every week to check our report cards.
He carried a cane but I did not get any caning.
From Primary 1 to 5 I took Mandarin and was quite proficient, learning to write in the long from.