BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF ST TERESA

Our church was officially opened on 7 April 1929 and is gazetted as a national monument by the Singapore Government.

In the mid-1920s, there was a need for a new church to be built near the port, in the southwestern part of Singapore, which was still very rural.

(An archived photo of the early days of the church in rural Singapore, from the book Monument of Love, 2004)

The area had a growing population, with port workers and a number of Chinese Catholics who spoke the Hokkien dialect and were living on Havelock Road, Cantonment Road, Trafalgar Street, Outram Road, Alexandra Road and Pasir Panjang.

The land was bought in November 1925 by a French missionary, Father Emile Mariette, who was parish priest of Church of Saints Peter & Paul on Queen Street.

(Fr Emile Mariette, from the book Monument of Love, 2004)

During construction, Fr Mariette was killed by a fallen scaffolding in a freak accident when he was doing an inspection.

Father Stephen Lee from Malaya eventually completed the building of the church and had it blessed on opening day.

The building is a reflection of the French missionaries’ contributions in Singapore, as the Parish Foreign Missions (MEP) sold its coconut estate in Changi to raise what is equivalent to S$26,000 for the building fund. The MEP is responsible for building many of the churches now in Singapore today.

This building features the design of the neo-Byzantine-style churches and the look was inspired by the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Montmartre, Paris. The designer Emile Brizay worked on plans introduced by another French missionary priest.

Father Lee was parish priest here from 1935 to 1956, and he also built the Carmelite Monastery near the parish. Eight Carmelite nuns from Bangkok, Thailand arrived in May 1938 to start the Convent of Christ the King. Today, close to 20 nuns are leading a life of prayer and poverty at the monastery.

A small school that was in the area grew slowly into St Theresa’s Convent, while a Chinese school was built next to the church that was St Teresa Sino English School (now St Teresa’s High School).

Outside of the parish vicinity, Fr Lee also helped build Catholic High School. He acquired land in Mandai in northern Singapore and built a settlement for refugees there. The site is now where Church of St Anthony is.

(Fr Stephen Lee, from the book Monument of Love, 2004)

In 1959, it was time to build a new church to serve more people in the fast-expanding housing estates in the city area. Church of St Bernadette became the “first daughter parish” of Church of St Teresa, soon followed by the parishes of Blessed Sacrament Church at Tanglin Halt and Church of the Holy Cross in Clementi.

In 2006, the Church of St Teresa was tastefully upgraded and welcomed CHIJ Kellock Convent, a primary school of 1,200 girls, as part of our neighbourhood community.

Today, the parish has a Catholic congregation of around 3,000. With fairly new housing developments at the Tanjong Pagar and Harbourfront areas, such as the Pinnacle, Cantonment Towers, The Caribbean, Reflections at Keppel Bay, Sentosa Cove and others, more people are and will be coming to our parish.

May we welcome them warmly and may the Church of St Teresa be a monument of love for generations to come.