In 2004, Archbishop Nicholas Chia appointed Father William Goh to be the Spiritual Director for the Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC), which serves as the archdiocese’s centre for the evangelisation of Catholics.
Father Goh is actively engaged in its various iconic programmes instituted to help re-ignite the people’s faith through a deep personal encounter with God which heals and empowers them to live out their Christian mission in the world.
This complements the work of parishes in helping the faithful live out their Christian mission.
As CSC celebrates its fifth anniversary, CatholicNews’ Joyce Gan catches up with Father Goh
CatholicNews: What is your role at CSC?
Father Goh: Principally, I help articulate CSC’s mission and vision, and steer its programmes and activities to ensure that we remain constantly dynamic, focused and relevant to the Church in Singapore and its target communities.
I also develop the spiritual maturity of CSC’s sizeable corps of members and volunteers, empowering them, and instilling in them a Kenosis (self-emptying) spirituality, and a service culture grounded in love, compassion and responsibility, that emphasises team ministry.
Prayer and commitment to holiness through reflection of the Word, regular receipt of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist must form part of their growth in holiness. Without a deep prayer life, there can be no genuine service.
I also ensure that all these works are carried out through proper discernment of the movement of the Holy Spirit, since nothing gets built without the will of the Father.
CatholicNews: How has CSC grown?
Father Goh: The turnout at Friday Growth and Fourth Saturday sessions used to be low and lacking in fire. Once we discerned that people needed a personal experience of God’s love, a conversion experience, the pieces fell into place.
We used to actively encourage people to attend our Conversion Experience Retreats (CER). Now, the testimonies of past retreatants fill the available places very quickly, with many on waiting list, even though we have doubled the number of retreats.
Many CER retreatants now attend Friday Growth and Fourth Saturday sessions to nurture their newfound, awakened spirituality. This sustains their growth and continues to provide inner healing.
Our newer programmes and activities aim at deepening discipleship, prayer life and understanding of the Word. Many have found these resources invaluable for their spiritual growth and as useful evangelisation tools.
CatholicNews: Why is it helpful to attend CSC programmes?
Father Goh: The programmes fill a gap in parishes where opportunities for ongoing formation are limited or unavailable. Currently, catechumens have few options for formation after baptism. Available courses tend to be intellectual, rather than helpful in living out their faith in a secular world.
Consequently, neophytes’ faith is not sustained despite them joining ministries. CSC aims to help neophytes grow in their spiritual life through talks and programmes on practical day-to-day living of their faith, in prayer and action.
CSC programmes are also designed to re-evangelise Catholics which include those active in parish ministries but with little or no faith and spiritual formation. CSC ultimately serves the diocese’s interests by being the centre of spirituality for Catholics to increase in their love of God and serve more wholeheartedly, be it in the local parish or at diocesan level.
CatholicNews: How do you decide on the topics?
Father Goh: The Friday Growth and Fourth Saturday sessions aim to strengthen the faith of the community, which then translates into an improvement of their prayer life, and a life of Christian charity. The talks range from Church doctrines, morality and spirituality, but with a pastoral and spiritual slant. The Fourth Saturday services are always about the healing touch of God in our lives.
Most of my talks are inspired by interactions I have with people I personally minister to, and from the requests and feedback of the community. Hence, the talks respond to their thirst for God and help them resolve faith issues and personal life struggles.
CatholicNews: How do you manage all these ongoing sessions?
Father Goh: My life is given to the service of my sheep. Seeing their woundedness, their spiritual hunger, their despair and desperation for meaning and focus in life, pushes me to carry on and give all that I can for them. I have also been edified by the many testimonies of lives that have been radically transformed through our intervention.
I have a very supportive team at CSC that constantly lifts me up in prayer, which is essential. I also spend time praying daily for strength and wisdom to lead the people that God has brought to me.
CatholicNews: This being CSC’s fifth year of service, what reflections do you have of the CSC mission?
Father Goh: Other than growing our range of services to serve CSC’s expanding crowd, we also need to reach out to those who need, but do not yet know how or where to reach, God’s touch.
We need to expand both the physical infrastructure to cater to more visitors, and organisation and manpower needs. We need to be more specialised, to maximise our gifts and optimise the use of our membership resources.
We need to strengthen the community bond and make everyone feel ownership and desire for collaboration and team ministry. We need to groom new leaders, to empower our Catholics for the work of evangelisation, building up their missionary and evangelical zeal.
The past five years have laid the foundation. In time to come, with God’s grace, I pray that CSC will indeed become a cradle for vibrant Catholic spirituality in Singapore.