Redemptorists of Australia and New Zealand

Australia, New Zealand and Samoa

Province of Oceania

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singaporeIn 1935, Bishop Adrien Devals of Singapore asked for a permanent Redemptorist foundation. He provided a house in Thomson Road and towards the end of 1935, Frs John Brennan, James Green, John Moran and Thomas Borthistle, together with Brothers Denis and Felix, took up residence.

Singapore provided a base to extensive mission fields. The missioners in the first few years travelled as far afield as Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan, as well as through Burma, Malaya and Borneo. Everywhere they found English speaking communities to keep them occupied, preaching missions and giving retreats.
In order to extend the scope of their work, Frs Moran and Borthistle set themselves to learn Tamil, while Fr Green applied himself to the Mandarin. World War II cut across the accepted mission activity as it had in the Philippines.

During the anxious weeks of the Japanese advance down the Malay Peninsula, three of the priests from the Singapore community were away from home. Fr Green, who was in India, was instructed to go on to the Irish Fathers who had a house in Bangalore. Fr Carroll was in northern Burma and seemed to be trapped, but eventually he joined a large group of refugees escaping on foot from the Japanese. They crossed the mountains between Burma and Bengal.

Fr Cosgrave, the new superior of the Singapore community, was also in Burma and felt his duty was to return to Singapore. He eventually secured passage on a small trading boat, and on his arrival, found Singapore preparing for the final siege. He was interned in the Changi prisoner of war camp with Fr Moran and Br Cosmas. Fr John Kennedy worked as a prisoner for years on the Burma railroad. He and other Redemptorists captured by the Japanese continued their mission among the prisoners, giving them hope and encouragement and receiving the same from the prisoners in return. Br Denis claimed the privileges of his Irish nationality and remained free throughout the occupation.

The three internees were released after the Japanese surrender, only to find themselves without a home. Reunited with Br Denis, they stayed with the bishop. The community house on Thomson Road had been extensively damaged. After a few weeks, a large vacant house was found a short distance away and they established themselves in a new house of St Alphonsus, Thomson Road.

After the war there was much expansion in Singapore. In 1960, a new house was opened at Ipoh in Malaysia. A steady stream of local Singapore vocations ensued. It became necessary to make provision for the newcomers. A second house was founded in Singapore to accommodate young men wishing to prepare themselves for their novitiate, and a further community of seminarians was established in Penang, Malaysia, where the students attended the major seminary.

Similar to the Philippines, the Perpetual Novena has been prominent in Singapore. The weekly devotions are built around a number of sessions to cater for the crowds who attend each Saturday. In Singapore, the address of the Thomson Road (Novena Church) is well known to all, so much so, that the local underground metro station is named Novena.

For many years, too, regular classes of religious instruction have been necessary for those drawn to the Catholic faith, particularly through the Novena.