Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Archbishop Emeritus Gregory Yong Sooi Nghean - My Dedication

Former head of the Catholic community in Singapore passed away on Saturday, 28 June 2008 at about 2.45 pm at St. Joseph's Home in Jurong West.

The 83-year-old died of heart failure.

The well-loved Archbishop led the 200,000-strong community in Singapore from 1977 to 2000 (when he reached the compulsory retirement age at 75).

At least 7 church leaders from around the region and 120 priests took part in a 2-hour mass at 1.30pm, led by his successor (and former student at the minor seminary), Archbishop Nicholas Chia. About 200 mourners followed his hearse to Mandai Crematorium for cremation at about 4.30pm.

I first saw him in person when Pope John Paul II visited Singapore in 1986. I remembered vividly on how he went round the altar with the incense in preparation for mass at the National Stadium. I was a staunch Buddhist then, but I was determined to witness the memorable visit by the Pope to Singapore.

A great man worthy of our respect. They called him the people's archbishop. Thousands of people had poured into the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in Queen Street to bid their final farewell on the day of his funeral. Many more had paid their respect when his body was placed at the St. Joseph's Home on Saturday and Sunday. By the time the church bells pealed to announce the start of the funeral mass, the catheral was packed to capacity. Hundreds of people spilled out onto the church grounds, and others huddled on the pavement surrounding the church. Several messages of condolence were read out during the mass. They touched on the man's generosity and love of the simple life. And while he was frugal, he spent freely on friends and family. A rich man, not in money - he had not a penny to his name - but in all of the people who chose to be there to bid their final farewell.

His Life And Times

  • 1925: Born in Taiping, Malacca, on May 20

  • 1930s: Educated at St George's Institution and St Michael's Institution in Ipoh

  • 1941: Entered seminary

  • 1951: Ordained as a priest and posted to the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hougang

  • 1953: Further studies in Rome

  • 1956: Earned a doctorate in Canon Law, the first priest in Malaya to do so. Posted to Singapore as assistant parish priest of the Sacred Heart Church in Tank Road

  • 1968: Appointed bishop of Penang

  • 1977: Succeeded Michael Olcomendy* as archbishop

  • 2000: Stepped down as archbishop

  • 2008: Died of heart failure

*The Archdiocese of Singapore was formed in 1972 when the Archdiocese of Malacca-Singapore split up.

"Those who have taught many people
to do what is right will shine like the stars forever"

Daniel 12:3

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