This parish began as a small hilltop chapel for the friars. Adjoining the Franciscan Sociological Centre, it was dedicated by Archbishop Olçomendy in 1958. In those days, the hill was surrounded by orchards, plantations and isolated villages, and neighbours would make their way up the hill to join the friars for mass.
In 1970, the Archbishop offered the friars a 25-year parish agreement and so, the friars’ chapel became a parish church. A year later, it was named after St Mary of the Angels in Assisi, St Francis’ favourite chapel and the place where God’s graces and mercies were made known to many.
FRANCISCANS IN SINGAPORE
St Mary’s of the Angels was one of the first parishes established by Franciscans in Singapore since their official arrival in 1957. The first friars stayed at what was then known as the Bishops’ Palace on Victoria Street. Later, they moved to Bukit Timah, where they stayed at Boys’ Town before obtaining their own property on this present hill in Bukit Batok. On August 26, 1958, Archbishop Michael Olçomendy of Malacca-Singapore officially declared the presence and ministry of the Franciscan Friars (Order of Friars Minor). Nine days earlier, he had blessed the foundation stone for the new building complex for the friars. Within two months, Rome would issue a formal decree on the canonical establishment of this new community.
THE CHURCH ON THE HILL
Over the years, a steady congregation would build up at the small public chapel next to St Anthony Friary. By 1970, the friars’ chapel had been turned into a parish church in a contract with Archbishop Olçomendy. A year later, the parish was formally given the name, the Church of St Mary of the Angels. Plans were announced that it would be extended by 29 feet to accommodate the growing number of parishioners.
In 1985, the Church of St Mary of the Angels was extended a second time due to the increase of parishioners resulting from the new blocks of HDB flats in the new township of Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak area.
The existing parish hall and canteen, built in 1974, was greatly renovated, and in 1991, the new St Clare Centre would also include a Parish Office, library, Sunday school classrooms and a kindergarten.
REALISING A NEW VISION
By 1998, with the building of high-rise housing estates all around the church, the number of parishioners had tripled. It became clear once again that the church was woefully inadequate to meet the needs of parishioners. Apart from overcrowding and parking problems, there was also an urgent need for major structural repairs in both the church building and the 40-year-old friary. A decision was taken to redevelop the site.
The new church was completed in September 2003 and on 2nd February 2004, Archbishop Nicholas Chia led parishioners in dedicating it to the Lord’s service. As a result of the massive building project, the Franciscan Friars, parishioners of St Mary of the Angels and our visitors enjoy the prayerful surroundings, excellent facilities and award-winning architecture of this new complex we have today. The friars’ presence and ministry from their base in Bukit Batok has continued to grow in strength and in diversity.