Verbum Dei Missionaries celebrate 20th Anniversary
By Sr. Sandra Seow (Written for Catholic News Issue)
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Verbum Dei Missionaries in Singapore. To commemorate this milestone celebration, an Anniversary Mass and lunch reception were held on 9th September in Holy Cross parish. The theme for the year-long celebration is “For the love of Christ impels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14)
Celebrated by Friar John Paul Tan, with 7 other religious priests concelebrating, the mass was attended by about 300 guests consisting of Verbum Dei lay disciples, friends and religious from the various communities. Before the mass began, the congregation was treated to a commemorative video recounting the origin as well as the blessings received by the community.
Noting the 8 local Verbum Dei vocations and 3 local postulants in the community, Friar John Paul remarked that the church cannot say that there is lack of vocation among young people. He highlighted the need to have vision and trust instead. Speaking about the history of Vatican II as the context in which Verbum Dei was born, Friar John Paul emphasized that the charism centered on the Word of God is essential and needed in the church today.
“These 20 years are a reminder for me of God’s faithfulness as well as the need to continue to trust in Him” said Sr. Maria Jose M. Egido, the Verbum Dei Missionary who first established the community in 1997. She recounted in her sharing at the end of the mass about the initial challenges when she first came. She was told by many people that it was difficult to have local vocations, rent a flat and get a visa to stay.
“These 20 years, I have seen so many miracles that God has worked in our community because I trusted in Him,” said Sr. Maria Jose. Not only in the numbers of local vocations, she also recognised the miracle of owning a permanent house after renting various houses during these years. She added, “We also now have a beautiful Verbum Dei Family and many friends with us.”
Maureen Tan, 26 years old postulant, who also shared during mass, said, “Why Verbum Dei? Why Yes? Because I am impelled, urged by the love of Christ. Jesus, who loves perfectly, has become very attractive for me through the charism of Verbum Dei.”
She added, “Jesus has become a close friend whom I want to continue to walk with. It is on this basis that I have taken this decision to move in and start this experience; to learn how to stay in love through the way of life as a consecrated person.”
A special 20th Anniversary CD, featuring 3 songs composed by Sr. Monika, a local Verbum Dei sister based here, was given to the guests as a memento.
On 12th September 1997, Sr. Maria Jose M. Egido set foot in Singapore and established the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity upon receiving approval from then Archbishop Gregory Yong. She came with very little in her luggage but a heart full of trust in God. Another sister, Sr. Yolanda De La Fuente, eventually joined her. They stayed in a rented 3-room flat in Clementi and the rest, as they say, was history.
After 4 years of fundraising, the Verbum Dei sisters managed to pay off their loan for their permanent house which is located at 4 Sommerville Road. Presently, Sisters Maria Jose M. Egido (from Spain), Leticia Candelario Lopez (from Mexico), Sandra Seow (from Singapore), Monika Punan (from Singapore) as well as the 3 local postulants reside there. In the premises, they conduct prayer sessions, retreats and faith formation based on the Word of God as well as spiritual direction. The Verbum Dei missionaries count on the help of their core lay people, called the Verbum Dei Disciples, in their mission of prayer, witness of life and the Ministry of the Word.
Since November 2014, the Verbum Dei Missionaries have been tasked by the Archbishop with running the Archdiocesan Biblical Apostolate where they conducted Scripture-based sessions, retreats and seminars. Sr. Leticia was a pastoral associate at the previous Singapore Pastoral Institute from 2008 to 2011 and currently teaching Theology at the Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore since 2014. Sr. Sandra Seow authored and published 4 reflection books, entitled Prayer for Living: The Word of God for Daily Prayer. The Verbum Dei community conduct retreats and talks for parish groups.
In his congratulatory letter to the Verbum Dei Missionaries for their 20th Anniversary, Archbishop William Goh wrote, “These twenty years have been fruitful years. You have been a great collaborator of the archdiocese, helping to form our Catholics in the Word and witnessing to what you preach, and the archdiocese of Singapore is deeply appreciative of your contribution to the deepening of the faith of our Catholics here through a love for the Word of God.”