A visitor to the Church of St. Michael today would find us tucked in a maze of roads but you can’t miss us as we are literally on St. Michael’s Road and we are also in good company with neighbours like St. Francis, St Wilfred and St. George (roads). A visitor to our church in yesteryears would have had to make their way through mud or lallang (long grass where snakes hide) or walk along a wooden plank across a drain and pace past clucking chickens in true kampong style.
In the beginning, our church was a two-storey bungalow. The Archdiocese acquired it in the 1950s in view of the growing Catholic community in the Toa Payoh area as well as catering to many Catholics living between town and Paya Lebar. Hence, St. Michael’s was the first church that served the parishioners of a particular area and not for a particular language or racial group. The diversity of races worshipping God under one roof was an eye-opener for many.
We had our very first Eucharistic Celebration on 1st October 1961, with Father John Lei as parish priest. We had no church bells then but assistant priest Fr Paul Tay would play a recording of the church bells of Sts Peter & Paul instead!
Our church underwent two major construction developments. The first milestone construction was completed in 1964. During the construction, parishioners would gather in a temporary attap shed for masses. The new single-storey church saw the opening of its first kindergarten with 10 children in 1966. We involved ourselves with the community and helped to distribute rations to the poor. Did you know that the Eucharistic Celebration was not in English or Mandarin but in Latin until 1968?
Unfortunately the church suffered from a host of construction flaws and soil settlement issues. The floors soon began to crack and even the steeple had to be taken down for fear it would topple. The community was also growing and with just two meeting rooms, it was clearly insufficient to meet the needs of the people.
In July 1991, the church was demolished and a new building development was underway. Meanwhile, the parishioners would have their Eucharistic Celebrations alfresco under a tent, dubbed by parishioners as the “Holy Tent”. Despite the on-going construction, we held Healing masses under the tent and the attendance was at times overwhelming. Some say it put the Church of St Michael on the taxi driver’s map.
In December 1993, the new construction was complete, including a basement columbarium which was somewhat ahead of its time then. The church continued to grow and new ministries, groups and initiatives were born like the Parish Renewal Experience and the Neighbourhood Christian Communities. In 2011 we hosted several activities in preparation for our 50th anniversary celebration where we adopted the theme “Fidelity to Christ, Passionate in Response”.
Today, the Church of St. Michael retains the kampong spirit which helps unite the community under one God. Together we are stronger as a community; we help one another grow in our spiritual development, participate in ministries and groups, and support the parish community.