|Shipwrecked! That was the theme of the Nanyang Technological University
Catholic Students' Apostolate (NTUCSA) 10th Anniversary Celebrations, but it wasn't certainly the case in its work.
Formed 10 years ago when the Nanyang Technological Institute (NTI) changed its name to Nanyang Technological University, NTUCSA has been
the focal point for many Catholics who passed through its annals. In its earlier days, very few Catholics attended the weekly Mass, so the
atmosphere intimate and cosy. Anand Jude Anthony, now construction manager for MERO Asia Pacific, speaks fondly of his days in NTUCSA
from 1987 to 1992. "I remember that there were only 3 of us back then, and that included the priest (Fr Philip
Miscamble)!" Anand also told those present that although the numbers were small, Catholic campus life
was fulfilling and challenging, and they enjoyed coming together as a Catholic community.
He even recalls Frs John Paul Tan and Clifford Augustine as seminarians who often accompanied Fr Philip Miscamble to the Masses at
NTU. Anand, 46, was also an active legionary one of the two praesidiums of
the Legion of Mary, and remained so throughout his life in NTU.
The celebrations opened with Mass at 6pm with Fr John Paul Tan, OFM, at the scenic and breezy Changi Sailing Club. Fr JP Tan, in his homily at Mass went down memory lane on his life as chaplain 1992 to 1996, before leaving to study for a Masters degree in Canon Law in Ottawa. He said, "If u look at the whole history of NTU, coming from NTI, and also Nantah University before that, it has evolved over the years. The Franciscan Friars had been involved with that (Yunan) campus from the 1950s, when it was called Nantah University, where there were Friars teaching philosophy in the philosophy department."
"I think one of the beauties of a reunion like this is that we feel a sense of history, because some of our friends here were students once, and now they are (here) with their kids... I think this sense of history is important for us to celebrate, because I think our Catholic faith that we live on campus is not just for the 3 or 4 years on campus, because the experience that you have now, the celebrations and the fellowship, hopefully that will carry beyond campus life, into your careers and into your families."
Beach wear was the dress code for that night, and the casual atmosphere allowed diners to mingle freely amongst themselves while enjoying their buffet meal. An award ceremony was also carried out to acknowledge the outstanding contributions of Catholics to NTUCSA. The Lifetime sumptuous Achievement Award went to Associate Professor Dr Stephen Lee, who unfailingly guided NTUCSA as Teacher Advisor for more than 15 years. Dr Stephen Lee, who is also the vice-dean (academic) of the NTU School of Mechanical Engineering, was a bulwark of strength and enlightenment for many Catholic undergraduates on campus. His 'open-door' policy, sponsorship for RCIA (in cash and kind) and the many Christmas dinners that he had hosted for the Apostolate made him the runaway favourite for this category, where many NTU undergraduates and graduates showed their appreciation for him by voting for him.
The national make-up of NTUCSA also has seen a drastic change over the past few years. NTU had seen a great influx of Indonesian students in the recent years, and this brought an increase in the attendance and activity of CSA, where Indonesians now forming more than 90% of active Catholics on campus.
In a written interview with Fr JP Tan, he recalled his most memorable experiences with CSA: "Throughout my years as chaplain, it has always been enjoyable interacting with the students. They keep me on my toes and constantly challenge me to translate religion to daily practical decisions facing them at campus. The enthusiasm shown by the students are a very positive sign that the church has a future when they in turn become adults in the working world, raising families and in turn contributing their talents to their parishes. I see campus ministry as some sort of a training ground so that the students faith can mature and prepare them ultimately for service in the bigger church in Singapore."
When asked about the kind of events that he organised during his stay on campus, he said, "During my time, I spent a bit of effort on Faith Formation as I see that this is the most important factor facing our students. The faith formation must be commensurate with their intellectual and technical formation at universities. Otherwise, we have catholic students who are highly competent in their fields of expertise yet unable to be cogent in their faith. If we are able to provide a systematic and proper faith formation for the time when they are in universities, then we would have achieved our purpose of journeying with the students in their academic world. If we do our part in formation of our students, then the whole Archdiocese in a way benefits when they are able to contribute to their parishes or organisations when they graduate."
Fr JP Tan also had this to say for the future of CSA: "As the two campuses of NTU Jurong and NIE are now merged on one site, the potential should be exploited for greater Catholic life on campus. Fr. Clifford is the current chaplain and he is doing a fine job with providing Masses and RCIA."
Gerard Chua, who graduated from NTU in 1998, had this wish for its future: "More support and commitment from everyone, more participation and outreach!"
Please visit the NTUCSA web site at http://www.ntu.edu.sg/studorgn/catholic for more information.
This article appeared edited in the April 1 2001 edition of The Catholic News.