The funeral Mass for Bishop Ganesh Benedict Singh—the diocese’s first Guyanese bishop took place Monday, September 17 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Brickdam followed by burial in the crypt below the Cathedral.
Bishop Singh, who headed the Catholic Church in Guyana from August 1971 until his retirement in 2003, died Wednesday, September 12 at the Balwant Singh Hospital after a short illness. He was 90 years old.
Commenting on his death, Bishop Francis Alleyne OSB said that 15 years ago he was appointed to succeed Bishop Singh as Bishop of Georgetown and to put on the mantle that he carried for 32 years.
He told Catholic Standard that during his time in office, as he has come to better understand and gain insight into the events and circumstances in the Church and Guyana over the period of his tenure, he has come to very much appreciate and admire the “quiet and formidable strength” and resolve of Bishop Singh.
Several priests, sisters, other members of the diocese and His Excellency David Granger have also expressed their sympathy to the relatives and friends of Bishop Singh.
Bishop Benedict Singh was born December 2, 1927 in Demerara, Guyana to Joseph Alexander and Matilda Amanda (Fredericks) Singh. His ordination to the priesthood took place in Rome December 7, 1954. He obtained his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Propaganda College in Rome in 1957.
According to the Catholic Standard, Bishop Singh returned to serve the Church in Guyana in December 1957 when his first appointment was to Meadow Bank Church.
“From 1958, for ten years he was in charge of the long coastal strip from Malgretout to the Essequibo islands. In 1968, he was named the first Guyana-born Chancellor of the diocese. In that capacity, he acted as Vicar General and administered the diocese on several occasions during the absence of Bishop [Richard Lester] Guilly from the country.”
Pope Paul VI appointed Fr Singh as Auxiliary Bishop of Georgetown February 18, 1971. He held the position of Bishop until his retirement in 2003 at the age of 75.
Catholic Standard said Bishop Singh inherited the leadership of the Church in Guyana at a time when everything in it seemed to revolve around the clergy. He however recognised the important role not only of Guyanese clergy but also of laypeople in the work of spreading the good news of salvation.
His tenure, the diocesan weekly noted, will also be most remembered for the courage and zeal he showed in the struggle for democracy, justice and peace in Guyana during the country’s more turbulent years.
“Soft-spoken, compassionate but always firm, he often gained national attention when he spoke publicly through numerous letters to the faithful or simple public statements. In these he expressed his views on a wide variety of issues including workers’ rights, abortion, the death penalty, national elections and a host of others.”
Bishop Singh was the recipient of the Cacique Crown of Honour from the Government of Guyana in 1993. During his retirement, he completed a fifth book Footsteps in the Sand which is currently awaiting publication. This is the fifth book in a series written by the bishop which are all on faith and morals.
The other books are Falling into love; Issues of Life and Light; Paths to Glory; and Gospel Insights. The books were said to represent a response to the appeal of the Holy Father for Catholics to be better informed about the truths they profess in the Catholic Church.