“Flames”, a dance item performed by CHIJ Katong Primary. Photo by WIDEvision

SINGAPORE – Snazzy costumes, harmonious choruses, melodious notes, nifty footwork and a festive atmosphere filled The Republic Cultural Centre on Friday Sep 25 as pupils from the 11 Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) Schools and the IJ Homes and Children’s Centres celebrated 155 years of IJ presence in Singapore with a concert “One Voice, One People, One in God’s Love.”

About 1,000 people attended the evening’s concert where the students showcased their talents in the arts and aesthetics through drama, dance, gymnastics, traditional instruments and choral music.

The occasion provided a valuable exercise in bonding while celebrating diversity in the family of 11 CHIJ schools and the IJ Homes and Children’s Centres, says IJ Provincial Sister Maria Lau.

IJ Sisters, Elizabeth Browne, from Ireland, former Principal of CHIJ Victoria Street and Thérèse Barra from France, graced the event and were honoured for their contribution to the CHIJ schools in Singapore and Malaysia respectively.

Both Sister Elizabeth and Sister Thérèse were impressed with the students’ standard of performance and talent, and expressed joy that the schools have nurtured their students and given such opportunity for the cultivation of a diversity of talents.

Sister Thérèse said that these students are the hope of our society’s future because of the strong IJ formation they received from their school and teachers.

“The teachers and the whole family of schools have reflected the IJ spirit in every aspect of the performance,” Sister Elizabeth said.

Gabrielite Brother Dominic Yeo Koh was struck that an IJ education incorporates cultural aspects such as the Chinese orchestra that goes beyond the standard classroom skills of writing and reading. He noted that the quality and range of performance was a clear indication of the type of education offered to an IJ girl.

Ex-IJ girl and CHIJ Queen of Peace teacher, Daphne Koh said that watching the girls’ performance was like connecting to her past and reliving her school days.

That evening, to Ms Koh, was a testament to the unchanging vision and mission of the IJ schools. “For us, the IJ spirit is the bonding and knowing that we are one family with individual talents and strengths.”

According to Sister Maria, the focus of an IJ education is to equip every child with a balanced education, and holistic and integrated development. The nurturing community helps each child to find her worth, and supports her development spiritually and morally.

IJ Sisters and teachers face a challenge in their education efforts to keep up with societal changes, said Sister Maria, adding that they find approaches and methodologies to capture the idealism of youth and engage their interest in learning and helping society’s less fortunate.

“We need to harness the media to become the servant of education, rather than to allow youth to be overwhelmed by it,” she said.

In pacing themselves with societal changes, the IJ Sisters have diversified beyond their roles in education. Sister Maria herself has taken a keen interest in promoting interreligious dialogue and promoting understanding of other faiths.

Other Sisters work in pastoral counselling and in care for children, youth and the elderly, the formation in community and pastoral based programmes in spiritual formation, and offering pastoral support to the elderly and infirm in homes for the aged under Catholic Welfare Services. n

Darren Boon
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