Encountering God in School: Angelina Tiong, Lucas Alcantra, Mangila Trisha Boquiren

“Catholic education is more than helping our students to get good grades or to compete for entry to the best schools.  Catholic education seeks to give them a holistic education for life and love; not just for a career, not just for tomorrow, not even for this life on earth only but for eternal life.” –  Archbishop William Goh

In Singapore, our Catholic schools were founded by different religious orders. Yet all are united in nurturing our children to be responsible people who contribute to society.

In this feature, one student each from Holy Innocents’ High School,  St Patrick’s School, St Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School share their experiences of their Catholic education and how it has shaped them.

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Angelina Tiong

Holy Innocents High School

When I was in Secondary 1, I joined the Young Christians’ Society (YCS), a Catholic co-curricular activity. Ironically, this was also when I completely shut myself out from everyone because I was bullied by someone in my committee in YCS.  I was afraid of him and hesitated to attend the sessions.

Rising above sufferings

Eventually, I spoke to God about my sufferings as I had I learnt how in Jesus, our suffering can be made redemptive. I reminded myself that God is a friend who is with me, and that I am not alone should I need someone to talk to.  Over time, I built up enough confidence to talk about my situation with my siblings. They gave me advice to ignore him because what he says is not true. They also encouraged me to say a short prayer if I felt bad about myself.

Subsequently, the YCS camp played a big part in helping me overcome this struggle of being bullied. During one of the camp sessions, we reflected on what it means to be a child of God — precious, priceless, and greatly loved. That helped me to ignore the lies and claim God’s truth and love for me.

 

Respect and Love

Two of the school values I uphold most are respect and love. Being in a Catholic school, the morning prayers and weekday masses are integral to our faith formation. There are also non-Catholics who are interested in attending Mass with us. For example, they will be curious and ask me questions like, “Oh, what is that wafer thing?” This then allows me to share with them more about my faith.

The sacrifice of Jesus in the Eucharist reminds us that Jesus will do anything for us. In response, I can forgive my friends, even though it can be difficult. Through forgiveness and love, I am able to do more charitable things, like help them in their studies or encourage them if they are feeling down.

Once, my friend broke down on the day of her exams because she was stressed out. Honestly, I did not really know what to do except to say, “It’s going to be ok. I am here for you. We’re here for you.” I hugged her and I guessed by my presence she felt the assurance and comfort.

As we celebrate 200 years of Catholicism in Singapore, I pray that we can continue to evangelise and be stronger in our faith and help guide those who are new to the faith.

 

 

Lucas Aaron Alcantra

St Patrick’s School

9 years of Catholic education in St. Stephen’s Primary and St. Patrick’s Secondary has reinforced in me a stronger sense of brotherhood and belonging. My peers and I help each other in our work and character development, regardless of whether we are of the same religion. I love such inclusivity in a Catholic school.

Brotherhood and belonging

To be a disciple of Christ means to exemplify his actions, just as how he has helped the lepers, the blind, and the ones in poverty. Our founder St John Baptist De La Salle did the same for the last, the lost and the least.

This is a virtue that I hold close to my heart. It inspires me to help the poor and the needy, because I want them to feel loved and appreciated in society. If we know of someone who is struggling in some ways, even though it may not be obvious, we should try to lend a helping hand, or perhaps simply be present to let them know they are valued.

On my own part, I try to help my friends with their studies and encourage them to persevere. When helping strangers at times, they would question my reasons for doing so; That is when I would share with them how Jesus and St John Baptist De La Salle had never forsaken those who needed help, and lending a hand is but only a small act of kindness compared to Jesus’ greatest act of love for us on the cross.

 

Service beyond school

I am also a parishioner at the Church of the Holy Family, serving in the Altar Servers Ministry. Whenever I am at the sanctuary, I feel most connected with Jesus. If I am early, I like to go to the Adoration Room to pray before getting ready for Mass in the sacristy. The part of the Mass that connects with me most is the Eucharistic Prayer when the priest turns ordinary bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. That miracle, which happens every day, always reminds me of how much Jesus loves us.

I went on a mission trip with the Legion of Mary community, along with Fr. Damien and Fr. Stanislaus, in 2018 and 2019, respectively. We went to an orphanage in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, to spend some time with the kids. Seeing their smiles and appreciation was priceless, and it was so heartwarming for me that I hope to revisit someday.

While we were in Sabah, we also went around to the villages to give out daily supplies and rosaries. Although it was very hot and humid, and we were very tired, we persevered. We told ourselves that this was nothing in comparison to how Jesus sacrificed his life and died on the cross for us. Humbling experiences like these made me witness God’s love and presence the most.

 

My Prayer for the Catholic Church’s 200th Anniversary

I pray for our Church, that we may have enough resources to reach out to the world and show them the love of Jesus. I also pray that our faith will grow as we continue to evangelise. Amen.

 

 

Mangila Trisha Bernice Boquiren

St Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School

During my secondary 1 retreat, I was intrigued to join the Legion of Mary (LOM), because my senior then was very enthusiastic and excited about presenting information about LOM to us. For the first time in my life, I felt drawn and wanted to go on this journey experiencing God’s presence.

When I first started attending, I was quite shy and indifferent to others. But as I attended more sessions, I was inspired by their stories and learned to have empathy for those around me. Instead of being focused on my daily life, I was struck by how everyone could share so openly with one another without fear of being judged. In building each other up, I was able to hone my leadership skills as well.

 

Enlightening Minds

The biggest takeaway I have through the LOM is that Jesus will always give us peace. I remember the gospel passage when Jesus was on the boat and there was a storm. The disciples were very scared, and Jesus woke up, and asked, “Why are you afraid?”

I felt that the disciples were afraid because they had not anticipated a storm as Jesus was with them. Hence, the lesson is that just because God is with us, it does not mean there will be no challenges. Rather, Jesus will calm the storm we have to walk through and give us peace.

In fact, when I was younger, my faith was not that strong. I would attend church just because my parents sent me, and we attended together. Honestly, I did not really understand the need to attend mass.

Throughout primary school, I was not taught much about God or Jesus. In fact, I reached a low point in primary school. I remember asking God every day, “Why is this happening to me?” Yet I held on to my faith, as tiny as the size of a mustard seed, that God will never abandon me.

He did eventually send me an angel. She was my best friend who helped me out from my darkest moments. This became a turning point for my faith knowing that God is always present.

 

Empowering Spirits

During the pandemic, I also learnt to be more loving towards myself and practise self-care. Especially during the circuit breaker, I reflected on my likes, dislikes and how I can improve my relationships.

I began to express my feelings more honestly with my family, telling them when they have hurt me. At first, it was not well received. Overtime, my parents began to express themselves as well. Such open communication helps us understand each other better and forge stronger ties as a family.

I believe that being in the LOM in a Catholic school has increased my empathy and empowered me to live the Way, the Truth and the Life, just as what our school mission advocates. I look forward to meeting my fellow legionaries and embracing them when we resume in-person LOM meetings.

Lastly, I would like to pray that God’s Spirit fills the Church so that believers can go out and do His will, and in turn, they will also inspire non-believers to do good.

 

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