Certain religious observances in Singapore as well as the frenetic pace of life here are things French priest Fr Emmanuel Danjoux is still getting used to.
One ritual the Paris Foreign Missions (MEP) priest found himself performing since coming here four months ago was the blessing of parishioners’ homes and cars.
This practice is now uncommon in France, he said.
Fr Emmanuel, 41, assistant priest at Church of the Christ the King, also noted that life in southeastern France, where he comes from, is more relaxed and people tend to take things easy.
One way for him to unwind here, he shared, is to take part in outdoor activities as he finds “nature inspiring”.
Fr Emmanuel said he likes sporting activities such as swimming and cycling (see other story) and has even participated in caving trips. Sometimes he would take a novel, which he finds helpful in preparing homilies.
“I think it’s important to have time” for yourself, he said. “If you really want time to reflect on the Word of God, to reflect on Jesus, or life as a priest, you need to make time.”
Fr Emmanuel says one challenge he faces here is mastering English. He had previously studied English in school and had two months of intensive lessons in Scotland. He had also spent six months in a parish in the US.
“I guess … after a few months or one year or two years, I hope I would be more fluent,” he said.
Fr Emmanuel added that he enjoys his weekly meetings with fellow French MEP priests here. He said he finds their sharing beneficial and that the meetings give him the opportunity to speak his native language.
Nevertheless, he said he has no problems adapting to Singapore and its culture although he is not used to “durian and chilli”.
Fr Emmanuel said he finds the Church here “dynamic and enthusiastic”. Admitting that he tends to be shy and reserved, he said he finds it a nice surprise that parishioners are willing to come forward to speak with priests and to share their lives.
The support of the priests in the parish, Frs Peter Koh and Kenny Tan, has also helped him settle down in his new posting.
Some of the ministries Fr Emmanuel oversees in the parish are the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Legion of Mary, various prayer groups and youth groups.
On July 2, he took part in an overnight cycling trip with parishioners.
He said he feels a sense of freedom when on a bike, which is why he would rather cycle to visit parishioners than drive a car. It is also simpler, he added.
Fr Emmanuel (second from left) with participants of the Church of Christ the King cycling trip.
Cycling with parishioners
Twelve Church of Christ the King parishioners took part in an overnight cycling activity with Fr Emmanuel Danjoux on July 2.
Most participants were aged between 18 and 30, with one cyclist in her 50s.
It was organised for the youths of the parish to strengthen their bonds with Fr Emmanuel, their new spiritual director.
The cyclists started their journey from the church and headed towards Seletar and Jalan Kayu before turning to Punggol, Sengkang and Hougang, and finishing back in the church.
“Fr Emanuel was very enthusiastic about the activity as he loves the outdoors,” said Sean Chew, 19, from the Maranatha Prayer Ministry which organised the event.
“And throughout the ride, he was always looking out for the rest of us and supported us with words of encouragement. His involvement in this ... allowed us to know [him] on a more personal level, not only as our spiritual director but as a friend as well.”
This was also the first time that Joel Er, 20 went cycling with a priest. During the event, he got to know more about Fr Emmanuel who shared his experience and life with the group, said Er.
The activity also allowed Er to get to know some of the other parishioners better. He described Fr Emmanuel as “receptive to ideas”.
For Fr Emmanuel, the activity allowed participants to “discover the importance of being united to do something” as one “cannot act in the Church alone”.
By Darren Boon