Building communion as friends and fishers of men

This story was originally published by Catholic News Singapore on 8 September 2020. Republished with permission.

The fledgling Friends at a CLG young lawyers’ retreat. Photo: CLG

“We are young Catholic legal professionals united in our faith, weathering every storm with Jesus at the helm, and journeying together to cast our nets as fishers of men.”

Contributed by Fisherman Friends

Such is the vision of Fisherman Friends, a community of young legal professionals and law students under the umbrella of the Catholic Lawyers Guild (CLG, a member organisation of Caritas), now navigating the choppy seas of a Covid-19 pandemic.

Before Covid-19

Fisherman Friends began around three years ago when a small group of (then) young legal professionals from the CLG came together to break the Word on a monthly basis.

Over time, numbers increased steadily as members found a safe space to speak their minds and hearts, and companions on their faith journey. Even non-Catholic Christians joined the fortnightly gatherings, attended by around 10 to 20 young lawyers each time: in “Lighthouse” sessions, Friends were inspired to be beacons of faith through spiritual inputs and sharings illuminating the Word of God or Church teachings, while in “Sinai” sessions, Friends gathered in the Adoration Room of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd where, like Moses on Mount Sinai, they sat face-to-face before the Lord simply to be still and know Him.

Their faith showed in their good works: Friends did not neglect to serve the poor and disadvantaged. Peggy Yee, the President of the CLG said proudly, “This precious group of young lawyers who first met at the CLG, and now work and pray together, continues to contribute towards CLG’s pro bono outreach to provide legal assistance to those most in need. How blessed we are!”

During Circuit Breaker

However, when Covid-19 struck in early 2020, the Friends found themselves in dry dock. As online communication became de rigeur, the sense of loss of regular communion was keen. As Joanna Chew, one of the founding Friends, says: “I miss our pre-Covid-19 evening sessions and Wednesday lunchtime Masses in town! Zoom meetings and online Masses are not the same.”

Undaunted, the core team seized the opportunity to conduct an online survey of the needs and hearts’ desire of the Friends (now over 70 strong); after much prayer and spiritual direction, they discerned their true identity. The name Fisherman Friends (and not mere lawyer friends or Catholic friends) captured the vision of their community simply but clearly, as did their new mission statement: they were called to sanctify the world in living out the Christian vocation through their legal work by loving mercy, doing justice, and walking humbly with the Lord (Micah 6:8) and in so doing, to be salt of the earth and light for the world.

Today in Phase 2

The community resumed Lighthouse sessions over Zoom a week ago.  Sinai sessions will return the following week.

Joanna is delighted. “I am so happy this community is finding creative ways to adapt to our situation and continue journeying together. Thanks to technology, we can still share and pray and encourage one another, albeit in a virtual space, and in a non-ideal way. It’s still uplifting for me to see how we are striving to stay true to our Christian vocation of discipleship despite these unprecedented circumstances.”

Geraldine Yeong said, “Legal work is challenging; what better way to meet these challenges than to simply pray and ask the source of all reason and justice Himself for strength and assistance? God responds in many ways; from miraculously adjusting work timelines or simply giving the peace of mind needed to push through.”

Frances Wu agreed. “Litigation especially is adversarial in nature, yet Christ calls us to be peacemakers and to turn the other cheek. With increasingly demanding clients and tight deadlines, stress can be very high and patience super low. It was even harder working from home during circuit breaker, but it’s better now that Masses have resumed. Thank God I can meet Him again – He reminds me that even the toughest client must be treated with human dignity because we are all made in the image and likeness of God. And that I must maintain my own human dignity too. Sacraments, prayer and community are indispensable – we all need these spiritual checks and balances!”

The Fisherman Friends are waiting for the old normal to be back again before they sally forth to continue casting their nets wide and deep in serving Christ and the CLG. In the meantime, they are working hard to get their nets ready for the catch to come. Let us all do the same.


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