Sunday, January 15, 2012

The friars of Hillview.

Friars are men who live spiritual lives in a religious community. You may be more familiar with the term 'monks'. The difference between a monk and a friar is that a monk is normally cloistered within a monastery, whereas a friar does his missionary work outside amongst the people.

St Francis of Assisi started the Franciscan Friars order in Italy more than 800 years ago.
Perhaps the only friars you may have heard of are Friar Tuck associated with Robin Hood, or Friar Lawrence from Shakespeares' Romeo and Juliet?

Friars, besides evangelizing by example,  do work amongst the community in whichever field they may be needed. There are friars who are medically trained, educators, administrators, lawyers and some running church parishes.

There is a group of Franciscan friars living in the Hillview area at a community house called a friary.
They have friaries located both at Bukit Batok East as well as Chestnut Drive .

Their presence in Singapore started in 1958.
It came about when the Vatican realized that communism was a serious threat to society in Asia with the rise of Communist China. The Vatican decided to  establish a Studium Sociologicum, or social center, with the purpose of writing and propagating anti-communist literature to counter this threat. The task was given to the Franciscan friars to set up this center in Singapore. And so a small group of international chinese scholars, amongst them Irish, Italians, American and Taiwanese were sent here to begin their work of countering communism.  They set up their Social Center called St Anthony Friary at 8-3/4ms Old Jurong Road. When the threat of communism diminished somewhat in later years, the Social Center was moved to Taiwan.

The Archbishop of Singapore wanted to keep the Franciscan presence in Singapore and offered the Franciscans a new task of running a parish community instead. And so in 1970, the Franciscan Order sent friars from Australia to Singapore to establish a new parish church community at Bukit Batok. This was named the Parish of St Mary of the Angels and was based at the original St Anthony Friary. In time, the parish grew from a few rural Catholic families to today's congregation of around 7,000. They are still served by the Franciscan Friars today.

The Church of St Mary of the Angels at Bukit Batok East.

In a forthcoming blog, I will highlight the work of some friars and you may be surprised that a saint may have walked amongst you !

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