“Catholic education seeks to give our students a holistic education for life and love; it is the best investment for life here on earth and for eternity. Such a kind of education will determine their well-being and happiness.” – Archbishop William Goh
In Singapore, our CHIJ Schools seek to create a Christ-centred school community where all students and teachers work together for the promotion of truth, justice, freedom and love.
In this feature, three students from CHIJ Secondary and CHIJ Katong Convent share their experiences of their Catholic education and how it has shaped them.
From Marymount kindergarten, CHIJ Our Lady of Good Council to CHIJ Secondary Toa Payoh presently, I have spent almost 14 years in Catholic schools. I love the environment and feel very comfortable growing up with fellow Catholics, while having friends from various religious backgrounds helps me to better interact and respect other faiths.
14 years in a Catholic environment
Central to our faith are Catholic values like humility and integrity. Our teachers have inculcated these values in us to be the guiding forces in our Life. Prior to our exams, they also pray with us and help us to calm down by focusing on God.
Perseverance is important as well. Some days can be tough, but I have learned to keep going, by taking a step back and letting God lead the way. I would certainly not deny the significance of compassion and humility, the latter of which I am still working on daily.
Being humbled in His Spirit
Sharing Christian values is what I do to evangelise and keep my faith going. A few of my friends went through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Youths (RCIY) some time ago and I was so happy. I supported and encouraged them by sharing readings and prayers, especially when I was preparing for Confirmation myself. I had a friend who was a non-Catholic and I invited her to a church’s event – “10,000 reasons” – which she enjoyed.
As challenging as it may seem in my own journey and in outreach to others, I am encouraged by Isiah 41:10 – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteousness”. This assures me of God’s presence and to continue to do good, reach out, and amplify His works.
In a similar vein, the parable of the mustard seed never fails to impress me. A seed, so small and tiny, can grow into an impressive living thing. This sets the tone for what I want to be – to give hope and faith to the people around.
In my daily encounters, I try to listen and advise friends who may need a listening ear. I also have a soft spot for children, especially those who are less privileged, which explains why I have gone on mission trips to Cambodia to be with these children.
I see God in the people around me, particularly in my closed ones who advise me. In acknowledging Christ in them, I also try to be present, and speak to them about their issues and how I can be of help.
Moving forward, my prayer for the Church, especially for the youths who are the future of the world, is that despite the challenges and distractions, they will continue to stay close to God and trust in His ways. May they never lose sight of Our Catholic faith. This I ask through Jesus’ name, Amen.
I have been growing up well in CHIJ Toa Payoh (Primary and Secondary) for over 10 years because my grandmother and mum were from CHIJ too, I have always enjoyed being in a Catholic school because it is a nurturing and kind environment. We have mass every Friday, and I can take part in faith-centred extra-curriculum activities (CCA) like Legion of Mary (LOM), to strengthen my trust in God.
Having been part of the choir and LOM since secondary 1, these have helped me to remain calm and focused on God’s teachings. It has also been a time to reconnect with God and share my faith journey with others to help me become a better person.
Being Real and Authentic
At one point in time, I remember feeling stretched and I even cried for a long time. My mum and godmother said they would pray for me; this lifted my spirits because I am reminded of the Holy Spirit being present and working through me.
In school, I have a non-Catholic friend who wants to convert to the Catholic faith. She often felt sad and put herself down. I reminded her that God created us in His image and likeness, and thus, we are all unique and loved. This exchange managed to lift her up and made a difference for her.
Some of the key values that have stuck with me deeply and guided me are compassion, perseverance and faith. Compassion means choosing to do good even when no one is watching.
Perseverance is important because when we face challenges, it is easy to give up. Hence, it is when we persevere in our faith in God that He will see us through. Lastly, faith tells me that we should offer up to God our transgressions, instead of being stuck in sadness or worry.
The Prodigal Son
Looking ahead, I hope to become a psychologist so that I can help people, especially those who are disabled or depressed. Friends have thanked me for being able to lift their burden through conversations. I do have a gift, perhaps, that God wants me to help others through listening and offering solutions that could alleviate their problems.
My parents have always reminded me to thank God for everything – good or bad – and to fix our gaze upon Jesus instead of being blinded by our own self-centeredness and selfishness. In a spirit of gratitude, I pray that all of us will learn to act like saints – be good, do good and spread the good news to everyone – so that others may also trust and believe in God in generations to come.
To my fellow students who may think everything about the Church is boring, I would simply like to reaffirm them with the story of the Prodigal Son: so long as we choose to turn back to Him, He is with us all, always.
CHIJ Katong convent
During my primary school, I was enrolled in a secular neighbourhood school by choice. But I curious to know what it was like to meet God outside of the church environment.
Simple in Virtue, Steadfast in Duty
Moving on to Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) Katong for my secondary education has made it possible for me to connect with God daily and strengthen my identity as a Catholic. Besides the morning and midday prayers and occasional masses, the Catholic environment has helped me learn new things about my faith.
The school’s value system has also fostered an academic culture aimed at the pursuit of truth and in the growth in virtue. When Christ is at the centre of all we do, we are then able to direct our focus in life towards an understanding of the world in which we live, work for the common good and strive towards the promotion of human dignity.
To do so, we need to pray fervently for a life that is deeply rooted in Christ, combined with the desire to pursue the truth and look beyond paper qualifications and achievements.
Love One Another, as I have Loved You
Jesus has said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” In the hope of following his footsteps, I endeavour to love and care for my classmates around me. It may be a simple gesture of talking to them, or even telling them a joke to put a smile on their faces. Through such small but fulfilling acts, it builds them up, especially on days when things go wrong.
I feel that love could help people deal with sorrows and difficulties better. I once visited an orphanage for abandoned infants, and every toddler whom I carried clung on tightly to me. This incident was truly an eye opener for me. By dedicating a few hours of my time, I was able to make a big impact on these little children who craved for love and attention. Like how Jesus has taught us, the power of love is indeed life-giving.
Giving it to God
Faith and trust in God have always been the guiding principles in my life, which help me make the right decisions. Growing up, I had to adapt to many challenges. I used to get bad grades when I was younger and get into quarrels with my friends and families. This made me feel very lonely, coupled with the academic stress of taking eight subjects which left me exhausted.
To be honest, these were the times where I felt detached from God, when I was overwhelmed with my difficulties and sorrows. However, I continued to keep my faith and love in God, and always reminded myself that pain in life is temporary. I chose to surrender all to Him and took the initiative to pray in the Chapel in the mornings; as a result, I was better able to focus and have a positive and light-hearted disposition during my day.
I recognise that God is present in the people and encounters around us: the joyous laughter amongst people and the love they show towards one another is where God truly is. One example was when my non-Catholic friend’s father was hospitalised due to a heart attack. My friend was in distress when she heard the tragic news. I comforted her and pleaded with her to have faith and trust in God, even though she was a non-Catholic. She prayed together with me for the next few days, and shortly after, her father made a complete recovery.
My friend was filled with gratitude. Seeing how Jesus had never failed her, I was pleased that I had planted seeds of faith in her heart. From that day onwards, my friend started to make the sign of cross and join the other Catholics during prayers, thus deepening her trust and faith in God.
Moving forward, as we celebrate our 200th anniversary and beyond, my prayer for all will be:
“Father, you will never forsake us. Be by our side always and give us the courage to face whatever that will come our way. Help us to keep our faith in you despite our circumstances, because you are with us, yes, until the end of Time. Amen.”