The presence of COVID-19 has made manifest the undercurrent fissures and cracks that the Catholic Church has been facing for a very long time, but which we forgot about, swept under the carpet, ignored, or were so busy doing a million and one things except the things that we were supposed to do that we were distracted from sitting down to come up with a serious and sustainable solution. In our complacency, in our focus on trying to maintain the attendance of the regular pool of parishioners at Weekend Masses, we have spent 98%percent of our energies on maintenance, when the Church should be focused on growth. COVID-19 has highlighted what we have known for a very long time, but were afraid to admit or to confront. The Church was not ready for a pandemic, and few churches and parishes are doing anything to get themselves ready. In the areas of safeguarding, community building, finances, long-term planning and vision, leadership, pastoral care, evangelisation, outreach to the poor and needy, technology-competencies, accountability – too many areas to count, the Church has fallen short. As the notion of Church has been tied in so closely to the physical structure of the Church, when COVID-19 came, and we loss access to the physical structure, we entered a rut and became lost.

Take for example the use of electronic payment systems. While for a very long time, the Protestant churches had been tapping on electronic systems such as GIRO and even having credit card machines and Automated-Teller-Machines (ATMs) on their premises to facilitate the process of tithing, the Catholic Church in Singapore seemed reluctant to explore this foreign and scary frontier. In fact, some workers of the Church had already seen on their sabbaticals and studies in other countries three to four years ago, the prevalence of the use of the QR Code, and other electronic payment methodologies in these countries, and their use was raised in quiet meetings. Yet there was inertia to take up these modes of payment in Singapore. When COVID-19 struck unexpectedly, parishes were compelled in a mad scramble to set up online modes of payment and channels of evangelisation on social media, when these things should have been considered and implemented many years ago.

COVID-19 has also brought to the light the many dysfunctions and toxicities that defined the running of the Catholic Church: The same old people doing same old things, the emphasis on status quo, rather than growth and transformation, because we have always done it this way, a lack of clarity in direction and vision, a lack of support for its workers who were understaffed, underpaid, overworked and burnt out, a lack of shepherds actually listening to what the ground had to say, gossip, and slander, power mongering. (LeJeune, 2020)

According to Pope Francis (2018),

Hope, to be nourished, necessarily needs a ‘body‘, in which the various members support and revive each other. This means then, if we hope, it is because many of our brothers and sisters have taught us to hope and have kept our hope alive. Distinguishable among these are the little ones, the poor, the simple and the marginalised. (p.96)

Perhaps, the presence of COVID-19 has caused the form of this “body” has changed. Beyond the maintenance of the physical structure of the buildings of the Church, there is an invitation to clean out the mess, rebuild the community – enter the homes of the parishioners, and truly outreach and minster to them, relook pastoral care, catechesis, and formation, and re-examine priorities –  to push for fundraising and insist on building a building annex, or to spend that money providing rations for the poor who are most affected by this pandemic?

Some room for improvement:

  1. The leaders of the Church, both lay and seminary, have to be equipped with the skillsets to embrace the new technologies, so as to minister to a new generation of parishioners who grew up immersed in these newer technologies.
  2. Does the way we have taught dogma, doctrine, and catechesis need to change? How do we connect the head knowledge to the heart space?
  3. There needs to be a push towards a missionary Church that is not confined by infrastructure, or physical borders – evangelisation from within the home and via satellite networks across the globe.
  4. The question needs to be answered: Are we spending too much time and energy on the hundred who faithfully return to the Eucharist day after day, while neglecting the rest of the congregation? Jesus himself, spoke of how the shepherd leaves the flock of 99 to search out that 1 lost sheep (Matthew 18:12; Luke 15:4).
  5. Are we looking to mentor and journey with someone so as to form missionary disciples? Is our outlook myopic and insular?
  6. What happens after “graduation” from Catechism classes and the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults/Youth? Does the formation stop? After the Conversion process, what next?
  7. Is the Parish opened to new and creative ideas of outreach and formation? Or is it comfortable to maintain what was always done so far.
  8. Does the Church have humility to change the way we have been operating? Change takes effort, change is difficult, change means admitting that something went wrong along the way we were executing things.
  9. Are the leaders in Ministry, the Church looking at self-interests rather than walking the talk?
  10. Has the individual person encountered Christ personally through our example, witness, our living out the Gospel Values? Are we living in the way Christ meant us to live, or are we mired in greed and scandal, causing people to be turned off by our attitudes, words, and behaviours? Does the person who has interacted with us want to know more about the faith, about Jesus?

COVID-19 has brought about a new lens so as to view the world around us. It has shaken the Church at its very foundation, and has brought new opportunities to rebuild the software of the Church. Would this time be a series of regrets and missed opportunities? We are hopeful to see the amazing plans of God come into fruition.

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan



LeJeune, M. (2020). The Long-Term Impact of Coronavirus on the Catholic Church. Catholic Missionary Disciples.

Retrieved October 9, 2020, from


Pope Francis. (2018). Happiness in this Life. (S. Whiteside, Trans.). Bluebird Books for life.

(Original work published 2017).