A Mass and seminar were held on Sept 27 to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the Canossian Sisters in Singapore.
The action began as early as 8.30am. Children from the combined choir of the Canossian School, Canossa Convent and St Anthony’s Canossian Primary began streaming into St Joseph’s Church at Victoria Street, ready to sing at the Mass celebrated by Archbishop William Goh. Guests were also treated to a choir performance after the Mass.
The attendees at the Mass, about 1,000, came from the various branches of the Canossian family – alumni members, former teachers, lay Canossian volunteers, benefactors and family members of the Sisters. Special guests included the Apostolic Nucio to Singapore, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli and a few key members of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO).
In his homily, Archbishop Goh acknowledged that the foundress, St Magdalene from Verona, Italy, had the gift of foresight.
“The Canossian Sisters here today serve in every area of human life – in schools, the sick and the elderly, children with special needs,” Archbishop Goh said.
“Look at the things you have achieved, your foundress will be amazed!” he added.
He then stressed that “love is the key to all successes in life” and that “if you have no capacity to love and give, you are the poorest of all human beings”.
Ex-pupil Chiou See Anderson said that “Saturday’s celebrations crystallised for me the amazing and positive impact of the 10 years spent under the Sisters’ care and guidance. Regardless of where we are in the world, we never lose that Canossian spirit of goodness and resilience.”
In the afternoon, a seminar called One Love, One Mission, One Canossian, was held in the auditorium at the nearby National Design Centre, which was where the former Chapel of the St Anthony’s Convent was located at. The 120 people invited to attend included Sisters, Alumni exco-members, educators, representatives of the lay Canossian groups and some student leaders of the St Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School.
A 10-minute video was played showing the history of the Sisters and their work from 1894 to the present day.
Sr Anne Tan, Canossian vicar general, highlighted the need for lay Canossians to always reflect on “why we do, what we do, and if the things we do are helping us to be a better person.”
A panel of four lay Canossians also shared how the Canossian spirit has impacted their lives.
Ms Melanie Martens, former principal of St Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School (SACSS), spoke about how her experience in a Canossian school moulded her to look and focus on her students with love and compassion.
Ms Martens, who is currently principal of the Physical Education and Sports Teacher Academy, said she advocates the Canossian concept to the many physical education teachers she trains at the academy.
Mr Tony Tay, founder of Soup Kitchen, shared a story of how he was made to learn values of integrity and resilience during his boyhood as a resident of the Canossa Children’s Home.
He said that the love he received gave him the strength to keep going. Later in life, Mr Tay started feeding the poor because he remembered he was poor once, and that the Canossian Sisters were there for him and his family.
Ms Selvathi, a Hindu, an ex-pupil at St Anthony’s who now serves as a lay Canossian in the Myanmar Mission, feels that in the work she does with the Canossians she has never felt that she, nor anyone else was different regardless of race, language or creed.
Ms Veronica Tan, vice president of the Canossian Alumni stressed that more laypeople should come forward to continue to love, serve and keep the Canossian flag flying.
A song was sung at the end of the seminar called One Love, One Mission.
About the Canossian Sisters and their work
It has been 12 decades since four pioneer Canossian sisters set foot in Singapore from Macau in 1894. They were Mother Teresa Rossi, Mother Giustina Sequeira, Mother Marietta Porroni and Mother Matilda Rodrigues.
Three days later, they opened St Anthony’s Convent (SAC) with Mother Teresa Rossi as the first superior.
The Canossian mission pioneered a few original initiatives in Singapore such as setting up of mobile clinics in the post-war years, starting a home for the care of the aged sick, as well as the integration of hearing impaired students into mainstream schools.