Church of St. Vincent de Paul, Singapore
 
To nurture a vibrant,
progressive and spirit-filled parish family,
committed to the call of the Gospel.
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As of 2011, we have Fr. Michael Sitaram as our parish priest and Fr. John van Dich as his assistant. Fr. Michael was assigned charge in 2002 and Fr. John joined us in October 2010.


Fr. Michael Sitaram

Fr. Michael
Fr. Michael’s family
Fr. Michael Sitaram was a very normal person who went about his early life just like any other person. He completed his formal education and sought out employment, as if that was the natural path to pursue. Rather, his upbringing, his adolescent experiences, his encounters with people and his exposure to a life of prayer pointed him in a different direction. They all led him to an indirect encounter with God.

Fr. Michael Sitaram hails from an inter-religious home. His father was Hindu and his mother, Catholic. The youngest in a family of five children, the variation in the religious background of his parents, never was any problem. Parents shared a common approach in the nurturing of their children. It was a strict upbringing that they were subjected to. Father would pray before an altar dedicated to a Hindu deity, while mother at her own altar of Catholic images, and at different times. The altars were positioned alongside each other in the same room. Young Michael was never disillusioned because his father never made things uncomfortable for the siblings. In fact, he encouraged them to honour what was demanded of the Catholic faith, especially the honouring of the Sabbath. When he announced his intention to join the priesthood, his father silently registered misgivings but this lasted for no longer than a week after which it was wholehearted endorsement.

His primary education was in St. Anthony’s School and secondary education in St. Joseph’s Institution. While in school, his interests revolved around sports and reading. In secondary school, he was attracted to scouting, but for a different kind of adventure in that it opened the way for contact with the girl guides of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, a far cry from one who was to seek out the seminary in later years. Besides his adolescent interest in the opposite sex, he set aside time to visit those confined to special homes, which he believes was the breeding ground from which sprang his initial interest in the priesthood. In the faces of those he encountered in the special homes he visited and in his interaction with them, he read the command, “come follow me”.

On completion of his formal education, he spent five years on a job in the Port of Singapore Authority. Meanwhile, he sustained his involvement in the Parish of St. Michael and, perhaps, with the pressure growing within to pursue his ultimate calling, approached the Parish Priest, the late Fr. Claude Barreteau, and asked how he could go about seeking admission to the seminary. The good priest was taken aback but he quietly nurtured the passion. In 1978, he joined the seminary and spent a year in the major seminary in Penang, which he reminisces as the most enjoyable and meaningful period of his life, interacting with fellow-seminarians and caring for each other. He remembers the retreats he attended as being very well organized and insightful, which added fuel to his thirst for the priesthood. In the midst of pursuing his seminary formation, this time in Singapore, he was sent to India for a year and attached to a parish in a slum area.

Fr. Michael with his fellow priests, Frs. Augustine Joseph, J.J. Fenelon and Clifford Augustine
Fr. Michael with his fellow priests, Frs. Augustine Joseph, J.J. Fenelon and Clifford Augustine
On successful completion of his seminary studies, he was ordained in 1990 by Archbishop Gregory Yong in St. Michael’s Church on 7 January and then posted to the Parish of Christ the King for two years, followed by the same length of time in the parish of St. Francis of Assisi. Being young and exhibiting a sense of commitment and an interest in nurturing youth, he was appointed Youth Chaplain in 1993 and was then sent to the University of Loyola in Chicago, where he obtained a Masters degree in Religious Education and the Youth Ministry. Returning in 1995, he resumed his role as Youth Chaplain.

His personality and interests jelled well with youth in leading and guiding them towards a purposeful life. Well into the interests of youth, accompanied by a capacity to discern and satisfy the hunger in them, and characterized by a sense of humour that resonated well with the young, he readily endeared himself to them. Notwithstanding these qualities, he has a sharp tongue when performance falls short of his expectations. Those who work alongside him acknowledge the freedom he accords them but also the high standards he demands. A succession of six consecutive heart attacks may have forced him to slow down his sporting escapades but not his stamina to labour in the growth of his parish, spiritually and physically. He typifies a man in a hurry with time running out. There is evidence of a burning pride in him for his parish.

Categorized as a cautious person, unlikely to rock the boat, it was assumed that he would merely maintain the status quo as head of the Parish of St. Vincent de Paul, as it was felt that all that had to be done to convert the parish into a vibrant and progressive community had already been accomplished. But, obviously, this was at variance with his personality. Rather that preserve the status quo, he upset it by way of the material and spiritual changes he brought to bear, the mark of a manager as opposed to that of just an administrator. The shape, content and substance of the parish underwent a metamorphic evolution.

Schools found that he projected an alluring attraction for young people. Hence, while serving in the different parishes, he had to find time to meet the invitations of schools to conduct programmes and activities and celebrate mass. It was tough going, balancing parish duties with the demands of schools but it was challenging and rewarding interacting with youth and he managed to juggle both.

Fr. Michael Sitaram’s interests, as evidenced by the initiatives undertaken in his present role, as leader of the Parish of St. Vincent de Paul, are varied and broad. Even as he upgrades and renovates the church building and its surroundings, with equal vigour, he sees to the spiritual consolidation and enlightenment of his congregation. To remain relevant to his flock, he does not just confine his reading and interests to religious literature and liturgical issues alone but keeps abreast of happenings in the larger global environment. Hence, he can be found glued to Bloomberg and attuned to the Green Effect embracing the world. He is particularly concerned about the impact the Sunday and weekday mass must make on people. When the congregation disperses after mass, they must feel inspired, as if they were taking Christ with them, he explains. He plans to work towards the realization of this objective. He has a broad and focused vision of the future and his plans to evangelize and inform, he realizes, are best met through the electronic media.


Fr. John van Dich

Fr. John van Dich comes from a large Catholic family of five boys and four girls. He stands in the middle among his siblings. Born in North Vietnam, he fled with his family to the south of the country when the communists occupied the north in 1954. The strong spiritual environment of his home and especially his parents’ devotion, made a strong impact on his spiritual inclination.

His father has passed away. His mother, 91 years of age, is the centre of his life. Love for her makes him visit and spend time with her every so often. His childhood was a happy one, filled with happy memories and all the creature comforts of life. In his youth, he was involved in a wide array of sports. Soccer was his passion, but included martial arts, (kung-fu), gymnastics, basketball and volleyball. His sporting life was affected, in later years, by health problems, especially osteoporosis, the result of hard times in labour camps. His life of luxury and leisure was to come to an abrupt halt when South Vietnam fell to the communists in 1975.

In 1964, at the age of 12, through the intervention of a French priest of the MEP or the Missions Etrangères de Paris (Paris Foreign Missions Society).working in Vietnam among the people of the hill tribes, he enrolled in the Minor Seminary of Kon Tum, a missionary diocese, run by the MEP priests, where he received all of his formal education. This diocese was dedicated to serving the aborigines and people of the hill tribes, who were the poorest among the poor. His association with the MEP fathers was the beginning of the road that was to take him to the priesthood and later on to be a MEP missionary.

With the fall of Vietnam to the communists in 1975, all the MEP priests were expatriated and the seminary where young John was staying was closed down. He returned home, several miles away. Scores of priests were arrested and imprisoned, including his parish priest. John was then a seminarian helping the congregation; he was arrested a few months later “as leader of a Catholic gang, so claimed the police. As a result, he was to spend three years in three different hard labour camps. Life was miserable. He was forced to work in the fields and stone quarries, and periodically subjected to brain-washing. Realizing that it was leading nowhere, he made twelve attempts in all to escape from the country.

With God’s blessings, he arrived in Malaysia among other “boat people”. After a few months in a refugee camp on the island of Pulau Bidong near Terengganu, he found freedom in France on the beautiful day of the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March 1980. After a period of time, working for his living, the young John decided to return to the seminary for his studies. After seven years of studying philosophy in Paray-Le-Monial and theology in Paris, he decided to join the MEP to be an advocate of the Good News. John was ordained on 25 June 1988 in the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger.

He then spent one more year in London for studies, after which he was sent to mission in Singapore. After seven years at the Holy Family Parish in Katong, he was sent to St. Joseph’s Parish in Bukit Timah for 3 ½ years. This hard time was followed by a one-year stint at the Parish of St. Stephen. He then spent more than seven years experiencing life among the poor in the Parish of St. Francis of Assisi, followed by 3 ½ years at the Parish of the Holy Spirit and finally in November 2010 was sent to the Parish of St. Vincent de Paul.

His mission in Singapore, he says, is to announce the Good News of Jesus, to serve the people and to be a sign of God’s love and care in the world today. As a result of all the personal experiences of suffering and hardship, Fr. John remains close to the poor, sick and elderly people. For him, to pray for vocation, to discern God’s call, especially for a priestly life, here in Singapore, one must look up to Jesus and listen wholeheartedly to the voice of those voiceless people. He believes that “If you want to hear God’s voice, if you want to pray for vocation, just listen to them, serve them! They are the voice of God. They are God’s presence among us today, Don’t look up to anyone else, whoever they are.”, advises Fr. John.

Parish Priests

 
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News

PARKING NOTIFICATION
LTA has given SVDP parishioners permit to park along the following roads for weekend Masses at the given times stated;
Yio Chu Kang Road - Lamppost No. 156 to 166,
Jalan Kelulut - Lamppost No. 4 to 9 (Saturdays and Sundays from 7am to 9pm).

NO PARKING ZONE
There is a NO PARKING Zone along Jalan Jarak from house no.1-19.

ALTERNATIVE PARKING
HDB car parks at Block 988 Buangkok Green (opposite Mobil petrol station).

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Participate in a solemn procession through the Holy Door and spend time with God at the next Holy Hour on Tue, 13 Sep 2016 at 8pm.

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