Singapore (Agenzia Fides) - In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Biblical Apostolate of the Archdiocese of Singapore invites and accompanies the faithful to cultivate a personal encounter with Christ. "Even though the Covid-19 situation has put an end or changed many daily activities, parishes have equipped themselves to use online platforms for their biblical programs. There has been a notable increase in attendance; for those with reduced mobility or limited time due to family and work commitments, study and deepening online was more convenient", explains to Agenzia Fides Camerlitano father Ferdinand Purnomo, OCD, spiritual director of the Biblical Apostolate of the Archdiocese (ABA).
"On the other hand, online meetings are lacking in forming human relationships within the community. However, online programs are destined to continue", quoting St. Jerome, the priest says: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ".
With the number and variety of Bible programs now available for Catholics in Singapore, there are many opportunities to discover and learn more about the treasures of the Bible. ABA is encouraging Catholics to start Bible study and study groups in families. ABA aims to animate the faithful so that they can pray, share and live the Word of God, bearing witness to the Gospel, especially during these difficult times.
Many priests in Singapore, scholars of the Sacred Scripture, give lectures, open to all, throughout the year. "Now the ABA is helping to coordinate these sessions so that Catholics can participate, on the web, several times a week", notes James Nichols, Director of the ABA.
About 60% of parishes in Singapore promote Biblical Apostolate groups. "All of these faith-building efforts have led to an increasing number of small communities that study and pray with Holy Scripture in Singapore, Nichols reports. The number of lay people who have obtained formal academic qualifications in Bible studies is also increasing, both at foreign institutions as well as at the Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore. Many biblical programs are now led by lay people under the spiritual direction of their parish priests and, as a result of this effort, many Catholic faithful have enriched their pastoral and spiritual life thanks to the ABA programs.
Ronnie Chia is a leader of the parish biblical apostolate who shares his experience on the biblical apostolate at the parish church of San Vincenzo de 'Paoli: "We are not an anonymous group, but a family. We help each other discover the treasure of the Bible in an experiential way. We prepare for each weekly session, we share the Word of God by telling how the Word speaks to our life, in the personal circumstances of existence. We gradually build communities and relationships, and form strong bonds of respect and trust as a parish family", he says. Ehrlich Phua, who coordinates the group with Chia adds:" Our biblical apostolate is not just about knowing with the head but, above all, with the heart. "According to Chia, the most immediate fruits of this journey are a greater sense of belonging to the parish and a deeper appreciation of the Mass.
Andrew Chua, a participant, reveals: "The Mass has become much more meaningful to me. It is no longer a ritual or an obligation. I learned to recognize how the New Testament is linked to the Old Testament and I can understand the homilies much better".
Now, continuing the sessions on the online platform "Zoom", Ronnie says he is optimistic: "We must use the new media for the Gospel. Our group chats are alive and active with quotes and spiritual videos and, above all, when our family members see us taking time to study the Bible and listen to us share our testimonies, we sow the Word of God in their hearts: we are evangelizing without not even realizing it".
Singapore's population is 5.7 million, of whom about 383,000 are Catholics, about 9% of the population. (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 4/9/2020)