The Blessed Sacrament Church
The Blessed Sacrament Church (also known as Church of the Blessed Sacrament) is a Catholic church located along Queensway, facing Commonwealth Drive.1 Officially opened in 1965, it was built to serve the Catholic community in the Queenstown area.2 The church building was awarded conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 2005.3
Building the church
In 1954, the Archbishop of the Malacca Diocese, Father Michael Olcomendy, who had been attending to the needs of Catholics in Singapore since 1937, became concerned about Catholics living in the Alexandra and Redhill areas, as there was no church within the vicinities to serve them.4
At the time, the government was planning to develop the nation’s first satellite town, Queenstown, with the aim of building a balanced locale that would constitute all the necessary amenities such as schools, parks, places of worship, cinemas and offices.5 As a result, invitations were extended to religious organisations to take up residence in the new town.6
Olcomendy responded to the invitation by proposing to build a church and establishing a parish in Queenstown. As he could not spare any priests to manage the project, he appealed to the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (SS.CC.), a worldwide Catholic order whose priests were already active in Indonesia, for two more priests.7
In 1958, Fathers William van Soest and Odo Tiggeloven, two priests from the SS.CC. of Holland, arrived in Singapore. The former was assigned to build the church, and be its parish priest with the assistance of the latter.8
It was anticipated that the church would cost up to S$200,000 to build.9 However, the two priests had difficulty in raising funds, as there were only a few hundred Catholics in Queenstown by 1960, and there was no central fund to draw upon.10 Efforts to raise funds for the new church included the staging of a variety show at the National Theatre, a movie screening at the Globe Theatre, and a food and fun fair.11 Circus Malaya and the Tai Thean Kew Circus also donated proceeds from their performances to the church building fund.12
Due to limited funds, the church was built in stages. In October 1963, the first building, Damien Hall, was completed. It was named after Saint Damien of Molokai, a priest from the SS.CC. who had dedicated his life to caring for those afflicted with leprosy in Molokai, Hawaii and who had succumbed to the disease.13
After a simple ceremony by Monsignor Noel Goh on 17 November 1963, Damien Hall was opened to the public as a place of worship. It also provided lodging to Fathers van Soest and Tiggeloven, who, up till then, had been staying at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd and St Patrick’s School. The church was finally completed and officially opened, and blessed by Archbishop Olcomendy on 8 May 1965.14
Architecture of church building
Designed by Y. Gordon Dowsett of Van Sitteren and Partners, the most outstanding feature of the church building is its slate roof, which is constructed in folds to resemble the shape of a tent.15 The roof is said to symbolise the “tent of meeting” mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, and covers the main sanctuary, built in a cruciform shape. The roof is also designed with integrated glass panels, where the four points of the cruciform meet to allow natural light into the sanctuary. The worship hall is made of fair-faced brick walls with timber ceiling panels, while a Celtic cross, (a cross with a ring at its centre) adorns the exterior brick face wall of the main altar. The distinctive design of the church, coupled with its prominent location along Commonwealth Drive, makes it a significant landmark, with the Urban Redevelopment Authority granting it conservation status on 25 November 2005.16
Developments at the church
From the 1970s, the number of parishioners the church served grew rapidly reaching 7000 by the 1980s.17 As a result, there was a demand for additional spaces for catechism classes as well as meeting rooms for church members to gather and hold activities.18 In response, the church decided to Damien Centre which opened on 30 May 1982.19
In 2005, the Centre was rebuilt to cater to the needs of the growing number of organisations within the church. It was also to meet the Ministry of Education’s request for smaller kindergarten classes. The new Centre was opened on 22 September 2007 by Monsignor Eugene Vaz and renamed Father Damien Centre.20
Due to the changing demographics of Queenstown neighbourhood, where older apartment blocks were vacated for redevelopment, and young families are moving to newer residential towns, the number of parishioners the church served has been declining.21 However, the church continues to be a vibrant community. It regularly organises activities such as novenas, intercessory prayers and bible lessons through Catholic groups such as the Catholic Neighbourhood Groups, Outreach Ministry, Liturgical Ministry, Faith Formation and Prayer-Devotion Ministry.22
1. “About Us,” Blessed Sacrament Church, accessed 11 April 2016.
2. Blessed Sacrament Church, “About Us.”
3. “Church of the Blessed Sacrament,” Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore, accessed 11 April 2016.
4. Eugene Wijeysingha and Rene Nicolas, Going Forth…The Catholic Church in Singapore, 1819–2004 (Singapore: Nicholas Chia, 2006), 164. (Call no. RSING 282.5957 WIJ); Blessed Sacrament Church, Official Opening of Damien Centre, Blessed Sacrament Church: 30th May 1982 (Singapore: The Church, 1982), 9. (Call no. RCLOS 282.5957 OFF)
5. “Singapore Is Going to Be Beautiful,” Singapore Free Press, 8 October 1955, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Wijeysingha and Nicolas, Going Forth…The Catholic Church in Singapore, 164.
7. Wijeysingha and Nicolas, Going Forth…The Catholic Church in Singapore, 164.
8. Blessed Sacrament Church, Official Opening of Damien Centre, 9.
9. “$200,000 Church,” Straits Times, 9 May 1965, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Wijeysingha and Nicolas, Going Forth…The Catholic Church in Singapore, 165.
11. “Variety Show,” Straits Times, 9 October 1964, 22; “Fund Aid Show,” Straits Times, 21 March 1964, 4; “Church Fair,” Straits Times, 16 December 1965, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
12. “Circus Malaya,” Straits Times, 27 April 1963, 4; “Circus Gift to Church Fund,” Straits Times, 13 January 1965, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Wijeysingha and Nicolas, Going Forth…The Catholic Church in Singapore, 165–66.
14. Blessed Sacrament Church, Official Opening of Damien Centre, 9.
15. Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore, “Church of the Blessed Sacrament.” 16. Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore, “Church of the Blessed Sacrament.”
17. Wijeysingha and Nicolas, Going Forth…The Catholic Church in Singapore, 165; Blessed Sacrament Church, Official Opening of Damien Centre, 3, 11.
18. Blessed Sacrament Church, Official Opening of Damien Centre, 3.
19. “Church Makes Apeal for Funds,” (1980, November 10). Straits Times, 10 November 1980, 10 (From NewspaperSG); Blessed Sacrament Church, Official Opening of Damien Centre, 11.
20. “New Damien Hall,” Blessed Sacrament Church, accessed 11 April 2016.
21. Joyce Gan, “Selfless Fathers Who Built Blessed Sacrament Church,” Catholic News, 58, no. 123 (22 June 2008).
22. Gan, “Selfless Fathers Who Built Blessed Sacrament Church”; “Organisations,” Blessed Sacrament Church, accessed 1 December 2016.
Anthony Hutjes, The Catholic Church: A Deeper Perspective (Singapore: Author, 2005). (Call no. RSING 282 HUT)
Calvin Low, 10–Stories: Queenstown Tthrough The Years (Singapore: National Heritage Board, 2007), 42. (Call no. RSING 959.5705 LOW-[HIS])
“Catholic Church for Queenstown,” Singapore Free Press, 22 December 1961, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
“Circus Gift to Church Fund,” Straits Times, 13 January 1965, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
David Tambyah, “New Catholic Church to Be Built By 1962 for 80,000 Queenstown Residents,” Singapore Free Press, 9 November 1960, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
National Heritage Board, Queenstown: A Heritage Trail (Singapore: Author, 2008). (Call no. RSING 959.57 QUE-[HIS])
New Towns Working Party Singapore, Queenstown Singapore: Final Report of the New Towns Working Party on the Plan for Queenstown (Singapore: Author, 1958). (Call no. RCLOS 711.4095951 SIN-[RFL])
The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.