“We Bring the Gospel of Christ to the School community”: Fr. Henry Siew on What Lies at the Heart of Catholic Education

At the heart of Catholic Education is the culture of the gospel of Christ in which students experience the presence of God, pursue truth, and desire to love and serve others.

We bring the Gospel of Christ to the school community through various spiritual and pastoral programmes. At the Catholic High School, we hold regular devotional talks and eucharistic celebrations, and periodic programmes, such as the Holy Thursday Washing of the Feet, to nourish them with spiritual food.

“Catholic education has a lasting influence on our students”

All key school events, such as the initiation of the new cohort, prefects’ investiture, Lunar New Year Celebration, National Day Celebration, Prize Giving, and Year-end Thanksgiving Day, would incorporate a prayer service to heighten the community’s awareness of the presence of God in all activities.

Catholic education, with its strong foundation of Gospel values, certainly has a lasting influence on our students. We have an alumnus, the 2010 President’s Scholar, Joshua Goh, who valued his Catholic education.

After his GCE O-Level, Joshua chose Catholic Junior College though it is not among the top schools for academic performance. But he chose to continue pursuing Catholic education for its emphasis on spiritual and moral excellence.

 

Bringing Forth A Holistic and Integrated Education

The objective of Catholic education remains the same through the years. The approach is holistic and integrated, with a balanced emphasis on the moral, intellectual, physical, aesthetical and communal development of the students.

The evolution over time is the role exercised by priests and religious then and now. We used to have the physical presence of many consecrated men and women in the schools who were signs and instruments of the Kingdom of God.

Today, we still need that presence. However, we also need inspired lay principals, teachers and pastoral workers to share the vision and mission of our founding fathers.

Presently, there are 19 Catholic Primary Schools, 15 Catholic Secondary Schools, 1 Catholic Junior College, 1 Catholic International School and 1 Catholic Specialised School.

They cater to students with different learning aptitudes, including a specialised school with vocational programmes, an international school, a few academic-elite schools and a good number of schools with distinctive programmes.

To strengthen the Catholic ethos in these schools, the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools works with these respective school communities to support the religious, civic and moral education provided. In 2009, the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools produced The Core Values, Common Purpose & Goals Paper to facilitate Catholic schools in achieving their educational objectives.

“At the heart of Catholic Education is the culture of the gospel of Christ in which students experience the presence of God, pursue truth, and desire to love and serve others”

 

Sustaining the Catholic Ethos

At the Catholic High, we have a pastoral team consisting of Fr. Joe Lopez, myself, the priests of nearby parishes, our full-time pastoral facilitators, Catholic teachers and parents to serve the school community.

My role as a Catholic leader lies in promoting and sustaining the Catholic ethos of the School, and in binding the Management Committee members to work as a cohesive team.

I am aware of the limitations of my knowledge and skills in technology, financial management, and secular influence. It is necessary to develop mutual trust and support among the committee members so that each and every one contributes his or her talents in the area of competency for the realisation of the school objectives.

Moving forward, I believe the connection between Catholic parishes and the Catholic schools within their boundaries could be further strengthened.

Parishes may also examine their roles in supporting Catholic students studying in non-Catholic schools. Parishioners can certainly support Catholic schools by volunteering as catechists and offering financial contributions.

 

** Some pictures in this feature were taken before the Covid-19 pandemic.

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