The sequence of events leading to the 1st Weekend in Singapore
Singapore was the first Asian country that the seeds were planted. In 1980, Fr Adrian Anthony returned from a stint in Brooklyn, and was posted to Risen Christ church. He brought back with him a copy of the Choice Program.
Risen Christ had a new youth group who were seeking to grow, to form themselves to better know, love and serve their Lord. Fr Anthony gave them the booklet, and asked them to approach a leading ME couple Victor and Vivienne and Fr Benit also of ME. In the first meeting with the young adults, they were so happy that the “push” came from the youth, and were very glad to study and then run such a weekend.
The first weekend was in Feb 27 to Mar 1st, 1981, held at Shalom House, Holland Road. The presenters were mainly an ME team – couples Victor & Vivienne Wee and Tony & Ros D’Cruz, Fr Arro, Sr Martina Kang and Bro Vincent (Boys Town). They prepared for the Weekend by studying the material, applying it to their own lives and first sharing on it within the team. These first weekends were very well received, and soon, they had to organize weekends on a monthly basis in response to the demand.
Songs at Choice Weekend
At the first weekend, many participants loved music (many were involved to do a musical, The Witness, together led by Bro George) Among them was Daniel Hee, one of the first presenters. Thus, in the first Weekends that were organised, many songs were sung before and after the sessions and at mass again. The two favourite ones were Thank You Lord, from the musical, The Apostles and The Greatest Thing. This is the simple origin of our Choice theme song.
Choice in Other Asian Countries
At about the same time as Singapore, in 1981, Malaysia also started Choice through the support of ME couples.
In 1982 and 1983, priests from South Korea and Indonesia who were involved in ME, participated in a Choice Weekend in Singapore, brought it back to their countries and started Choice with the help of ME couples from their own communities.
And in 1985, Terentius & Rose Loh and Mary Koh went to Taiwan to help conduct a Weekend to kick start Choice there as well.
The Conception of Choice Asia
In 1984, when Choice Singapore was three years old, then National Coordinating Couple, Terentius & Rose Loh, were deeply touched and challenged by the Choice programme – it embodied the fundamentals of our faith, so profound yet made so down-to-earth, personal and intimate. It inspired them to want to work ceaselessly on belonging and be true witnesses of God’s unconditional love.
This sparked a yearning to belong to the Choice families outside Singapore and to bring the Good News through the Choice programme to the rest of the world. Hence, they worked to create Choice Asia so as to reach out and meet Choice family members from far and near, to share and learn from each other.
Terentius & Rose shared this yearning and vision with Fr Frans De Ridder, the then National Coordinating priest. He was fully supportive and was as excited as they were about the possibility of a meeting of the “extended” Choice family. After some research work to ascertain the countries that conduct the Choice programme and the contact details of the Coordinating teams. From what they knew, the countries which conducted the Choice programme regularly were in Asia, therefore, the Choice Asian Conference.
The entire Choice family in Singapore worked passionately to realize this hope for Asia in the following year.
The inaugural Choice Asian Conference was held in Singapore from 25th to 27th January 1985. Fr Frans and Terentius & Rose chaired the conference which was attended by delegates from India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and was elected to become the first Choice Asian Coordinating Team. Since then there have been 14 Conferences, with each member country taking turns to organise it for the Choice extended family in Asia to come together every 3 years.
It has been conducted in eleven Asian countries. It is conducted every three years, with member countries taking turns to host. The conference is both a meeting of Coordinators and Spiritual directors from member countries as well as a community gathering of Choicers from Asia to share experiences and new learnings. Singapore has been past host in 1985, 1992, 2004 and 2010.
Today, Choice is active in 29 cities spread over 8 countries in Asia and in 9 countries in the American continent, mostly Latin America where the Spanish speaking communities call it Moviviento Escoge, literally “Movement Choice”.
Choice and Marriage Encounter
In Singapore as in Asia, Choice was like a feeder program of ME. It also focuses on belonging and relationships. Hence, most times it was started with much support from ME couples and Priests. This close relationship was also why the logos were similar – using the heart motif, and even the tradition of singing grace at mealtimes during Weekends was the same – we sang a version of Grace before meals, adapting to the tune of Edelweiss.
In the early years, ME would “send” some of their trained couples, those who attended Deeper Weekends, to serve Choice. But this stopped when Choice was strong enough to stand on their own. Over time, it was sweet to see that some “Choice Couples” who met through the Choice program would return to serve the community as presenting couples.
Over the years, because Singapore is an air hub, a busy crossroad, and because we use English, we have had the privilege to welcome as Weekend participants, priests and lay catholics from other countries who want to introduce Choice to their community. The most recent example being Sri Lanka in 2010. Two years later, David and Gillian went to Sri Lanka, to help conduct the first Weekend with undoing from Choice Asia; and it now has 5 weekends a year, a community also passionately nurtured by ME priest n ME couples with much love.
Through the Internet, we have discovered and keep in touch with active Choice communities beyond Asia, from English speaking Trinidad n Tobago, Fiji, Canada and Los Angeles, to Spanish speaking Mexico, Dominican Republic etc.
Choice Singapore has been conducting Weekends continuously since 1981. Today, each year there are 4 to 5 Weekends, with one a year conducted in Bahasa Indonesia to serve our brothers and sisters in the migrant catholic community. We conducted the 286thWeekend in June ’17.
There are many grateful people in Singapore who have to a Weekend seeking to grow in faith or seeking for answers, for something more in their lives. For Kenneth Goh, who came for that first Weekend in 1981, described what the weekend meant to him as below:
“That weekend meant the world to me, it changed my life. Affected my family and the way I lived since then. Made me aware of so much of the love around, created so many new and long lasting relationships. That is the key word I guess – relationships and belonging.”Kenneth Goh, participant of the first Choice Weekend in 1981.