A view of the renovated 110-year-old St. Joseph’s Catholic Church at Victoria Street in Singapore. (Photo: St. Joseph’s Church)

By UCA News reporter

July 25 2022

St. Joseph’s Church was established in 1912 to serve Portuguese and Malaccan Catholics in its early days.

A century-old Catholic Church in Singapore, a national monument, attracts hundreds of Catholics and visitors since it was reopened last month after a five-year-long renovation.

Since the reopening of the 110-year-old St. Joseph’s Church “we have discovered, so to speak, the history of faith of this community,” Archbishop William Goh of Singapore during the reopening Mass on June 30.

“And that is why we are rejoicing – because to know our history is to know our faith and appreciate what we have,” said the prelate who was named a cardinal by Pope Francis last month.

The number of visitors to the church has increased after regular week-day Masses began on July 4, shows social media postings and blogs.

“Went to weekday mass!!!! Finally, I can attend St. Joseph’s Church, very fond memories from my childhood,” Jude de Cruz, wrote on Facebook.

“Would love to visit the church when I am back in Singapore. Many years of childhood at the church, including handing church flyers during programs at the gate,” posted Margaret Jones, who studies in Australia.

The parish community plans to make it an inclusive hub for everyone “who wishes to seek rest from the harsh realities of life,” said Father Joe Lopez, the parish rector.

“We will focus on building the spirit of the church, a place which is inclusive, not only of Catholics but of anyone seeking solace and comfort from the harshness and difficulties of life,” said Father Lopez.

During the reopening ceremony, Archbishop Goh thanked those who supported the renovation.

The work, which includes restoration of the church, its parsonage, and a conserved building, cost about US$25.2 million. The National Heritage Board of Singapore funded only US$ 1.9 million and the rest came from donations.

The National Heritage Board of Singapore designated the church as a National Monument on January 14, 2005.

The Portuguese missionaries built the San Jose Church in 1853 and it came to be known as the “Eurasian Church” as it served Portuguese and Malaccan Eurasian Catholics in Singapore in its early days.

As the Catholic community grew, the old building was demolished in 1905 and the current structure replaced it in 1912.

Portuguese historian, Father Manuel Teixeira, described the church as one of the “handsomest in the whole of Malaya” in his collection of writings titled The Portuguese Missions In Malacca And Singapore (1511-1958), the Straits Times reported.

The Gothic Revival Style church can accommodate 1,500 people at one time.

The history of the church is closely linked to the Portuguese Mission in Singapore, which first arrived on the island in 1826 from Goa in India.

In 1886 the Portuguese Archbishop of Goa transferred the jurisdiction over the Portuguese Missions in Singapore and Malacca to the Portuguese Bishop of Macau, according to the website of St. Joseph’s Church.

The dual ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the parish ended after 95 years on July 1, 1981, through an agreement signed between the Archbishop Gregory Yong of Singapore, and Bishop Arquimínio Rodrigues da Costa of Macau.

To maintain the Portuguese character of the church, the Bishop of Macau continued to post priests to the church until 31 December 1999.

In 2012, the church celebrated its centenary amidst a 1,000-strong crowd with the mass concelebrated by Archbishop Nicholas Chia of Singapore, apostolic nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli and Father Michael Teo, rector of the church.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the current Secretary of the State of the Holy See, celebrated Holy Mass at St. Joseph’s Church on Aug. 16, 2015, on the occasion of the golden jubilee of Modern Singapore.

UCA News