As a young boy, he was attracted to Redemptorists. Following the desires of his heart, he went for a vocation retreat in the 1980s. That being his first attempt in discerning God’s call for him. He was not accepted because he did not have the adequate qualifications or ‘A’ levels at that point. Though upset, and a little disappointed, he firmly believed that “there was still something within me that God was calling me to.
“God calls the unqualified,” Brian quipped.
Eight years passed. Life went on. He found himself in a family catering business. Admittedly, it wasn’t what his heart desired.
An Electric Shock of Grace
One fine day, he bought a book on Mother Teresa. Something moved deeply within him after reading the book. He cried. At that point, he began to frequent the Missionaries of Charity (MC) Brothers in Punggol – helping to look after the elderly, the handicapped. At that point, the MC Brothers and Sisters worked together. It was an unusual set-up. “We were just ordinary people wanting to serve the Lord and we were struggling as well.” One thing led to another, and he found himself cycling from Tampines to Punggol daily. As a volunteer, he helps out in simple chores to bathe, dress and look after the beneficiaries in the home.
In the same month, then Mother Teresa (now St Teresa of Calcutta) came to Singapore. Upon his first encounter with the Saint, he recalled, “Mother blessed me. An electric shock ran down my spine and I joined the brothers at the end of that month.” Since that first meeting in 1993, he was blessed with two other encounters with the Calcutta saint in 1995 and 1996.
His superior gave him a choice of two countries for his novitiate. The self-professed nature lover chose Africa over Manchester because it was less “urbanised”. Prior to that, he started his initial formation in Punggol for a year, followed by two years in Philippines as a pre-novice, then he went to Africa for five years as a novice. He took temporary vows and renewed it thrice. Pausing, he shared, “Then something happened. I was not allowed to renew my vows and I was sent back.”
When I stand before God, He is going to ask me, how much I loved the people in my charge, not what I did and am doing.
A Twist of Events in Life
When asked if he had any regrets for this journey, Brian tilts his head. “No regrets. Normally it would take you a decade to go to India and do your perpetual vows.” He admits that his journey has been rather unusual. “When I stand before Him, at the end of my life, He is going to ask me, how much I loved the people in my charge, not what I did and am doing.”
Brian came back to Singapore and served the poor at St Theresa’s Home for seven years. He spent the initial one and a half years doing laundry and another five and a half years in welfare. He further worked in a secular organisation which was pretty much focused on meeting KPI standards. The experience was not satisfying.
The timing was right this time round. “Catholic Centre had just been renovated. Catholic Welfare Services had an opening. They wanted to set up an area for the homeless and I was employed to assist in this area.”
During our afternoon chat, Brian always alluded back to God’s providence. He says that God has always paved the way by preparing him adequately for his mission and sending the right people in his life.
He Prepares us for the Mission
“You know sometimes God places situations as such for me to grow and steer me in the right path. God calls us out of our comfort zones, to where He wants us to grow. I always believe that all the trials that God has placed me in allows me to grow as a person, in faith, in virtue, to build me up to the person he wants me to be, preparing me ahead.”
The Night Mission aims to give new life and hope, and to help homeless individuals to integrate into society and beyond.
Image: Catholic Welfare Services
A Persevering Heart
In his own journey of faith, the encounters close to his heart include meeting Mother Teresa three times in a span of ten years. “I think that it is truly God’s grace.”
What’s his advice to those who are discerning?
“Focus on God. Sometimes when you are doing God’s work, not everyone will support you, especially those closest to you. For me, it is those who I am working with in particular. At the end of the day, we are all humans, we are weak and we will want to be the one in charge… As such, I have learnt to let go of it and to keep my focus on God and his promises for me… These are the things that keeps me going.”
“Sometimes we are so afraid that we dare not take the first step, and that prevents us from receiving His grace and mercy.” Do not think that you are a nobody. God has a special place for all in his kingdom, we have to trust and have faith.
“To do what God has called me to, for his purpose and for his glory. In doing God’s work, there are times when we have to start doing, we can’t wait for others, we have to take the first step, only then can God help us. We have to trust that God provides, and if he does, it means that we are doing his will.”