A wooden structure built on borrowed land!
The story began when Father Pierre Bouttaz MEP started to visit the people living in the Macpherson Estate during his attachment to the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace from 1958 to 1966. Upon his urging, plans were put into action to set up a parish that would serve the area.
At first, masses were said in the chapel, and later on, in the school hall of the Canossa Convent. Later an outhouse on stilts, originally a dormitory for orphan boys under the Canossian Sisters’ charge, was converted for Sunday worship.
From the rickety wooden church, the community grew.
While it was Father Rene Challet MEP who started the efforts to raise funds for a proper church building, it was Father Joachim Teng who completed the endeavour in spite of all the challenges that the early church had to overcome with the Building Control Department of the National Development.
Undeterred, the church forged on, and on 15th August 1976, piling works for the church began.
It was finally with much excitement that the church was eventually completed on 22nd April 1978 when it was blessed and opened by Archbishop Gregory Yong.
However as time went by, with only one small meeting room available, catechism classes and ministry meetings had to be done either in the church hall, in the dining room and even in the space in front of the priests’ residence.
Elderly parishioners were also finding it tough to climb up to the second floor where the church was located. Coupled to this was the fact that the nearby construction of the Paya Lebar Expressway had caused the ground to sink and cracks to appear within the church and priests’ residence.
So it was, that the task to go for a total overhaul fell on the shoulders of Father John Khoo to build a brand new church building. Not only were lifts added, a new belfry was also erected, together with a new annexe building for administration and priests’ residence.
The newly renovated church was blessed and dedicated on 21st October 2007 by Archbishop Nicholas Chia much to the delight of Catholics in the Macpherson Estate.
Today, it is under Father Gerard Weerakoon’s charge as parish priest.
This was extracted and edited for brevity from the publication ‘A beacon of God’s light for the community: Dedication of Church of St Stephen’ 21 Oct 2007.