Archbishop William Goh (centre) with newly-commissioned Principals (from L to R)  Mr Timothy Goh, Mr Eric Leong,
Ms Catherine Nicol, Ms Nirmala Sumathy, Ms Sandhya Veerasenan and Ms Linda Wah. Photos: VITA Images

Keep their founders’ legacy alive

Michelle Tan

To lead with authority in a Catholic school requires more than just juridical authority, which comes with the office or the position, or professional authority, which stems from academic qualifications or experience – to be an effective Catholic leader, juridical and professional authority must be supplemented with personal authority, which is born of a personal conviction in God and a passion for the faith, and lived out by “walking the talk” every day.

During his homily at the annual Commencement of School Year (COSY) Mass held on Jan 31 at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Archbishop William Goh gave the example of Jesus who taught with a personal authority that the scribes and Pharisees did not have despite their position and their knowledge of the law. More than 100 Catholic educators and other invited guests were present.

He said that, if educators are truly Catholic, they would be teaching all subjects, and not just religious education, from the perspective of their faith, drawing out Gospel values and applying them to life in the exercise of their personal authority: “If you live and breathe this vocation that God has given you, then you will give life and hope to your students and your staff.” His Grace continued with a confident smile,
“I know you will live up to your calling!”

His Grace then commissioned the 11 newly-appointed Principals of Catholic schools with the words, “Be the Light of truth, justice, freedom and love to all.” Each of the Principals received a lighted candle with the words “Called to Serve” on it, symbolising their being sent forth to serve their staff and students as the Light of Christ. He also acknowledged eight newly-appointed Vice-Principals in the congregation as playing an important role in supporting their Principals in maintaining the Catholic ethos in school. All Catholic educators present then joined the Principals and Vice-Principals in praying a Prayer of Commitment to bring Gospel values to their schools so that they would become “places of justice and integrity, gentleness and compassion”.

Concluding the hour-long Mass organised by the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools (ACCS) and the Council of Catholic Schools’ Principals, Archbishop William thanked the two recently-retired Principals of Catholic schools, Ms Magdalene Chin and Mrs Liu Seok Noi, for their dedicated service through the years, and urged everyone, especially during this Catholic200SG year, to remember the pivotal role played by mission schools in making Singapore what it is today, and to continue the legacy of their founders.

All three newly-commissioned Principals of Catholic preschools were all struck by the Archbishop’s teaching on personal authority.

Ms Nirmala Sumathy of Marymount Preschool said she would certainly try to use personal authority to teach Gospel values and morals to the children and to collaborate with their parents to bring out their fullest potential, as well as to show care to her staff, giving them all encouragement and hope.

Ms Linda Wah of Little Shepherd’s Schoolhouse at the Church of the Holy Family shared, “Life is like a boomerang – what we give is what we shall receive. When we are true to our beliefs, we are able to touch lives. I look forward to embrace the virtues which are part of the school curriculum and to walk the talk with families, children and teachers.”

And Ms Sandhya Veerasenan of Little Shepherd’s Schoolhouse at the Church of St Anthony aspires to build a school imbued with a culture of virtues. Identifying with the challenges faced by Moses and Jesus as a new leader, she was determined to be a thoughtful and intentional model for her students, sharing, “As we continue working on the ground, proving our personal authority through our actions and not just merely by words, we will slowly gain everyone’s trust by building relationship, inspiring each other and eventually working together closely to achieve our desired outcomes.”