By Errol Chang
When Jesus sent out the twelve apostles, he authorised them to be his voice to the world. That is the significance of commissioning ceremony held on 21 January, when 11 principals were commissioned during the Principals’ Commissioning Mass 2017 at the newly restored Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.
The 11 principals, sent to the various Catholic schools, ranging from kindergarten to junior college level, are: Ms Christina Michael [Canossian School], Mrs Jennnifer Teo [Marymount Kindergarten], Mrs Trace Teo [Good Shepherd Kindergarten], Mrs Juliana Conceicao [Magdalene’s Kindergarten], Mrs Allison Lim [Marymount Convent School], Mrs Judina Cheong [CHIJ (Katong) Primary School], Ms Cecilia Lim [St Anthony Primary School], Mrs Christina Teo [ CHIJ Our Lady of the Nativity], Mrs Fiona Tan [CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School], Mr Daniel Ang [Hai Sing Catholic School] and Ms Phyllis Chua [Catholic Junior College].
During the commissioning, Archbishop William Goh reminded the principals and all other educators, including priests and parents, to be “fishers of men…” (Matthew 4:19) and can do so by empowering people through proclaiming the kingdom of God, thereby transforming their lives. He encouraged educators not to be too focused on the development of particular aspects of the students but to attend holistically to them because through their moral development, the students who are the future of our families, country and world will become motivated to do well. Their motivation to do well would not merely be for their own benefits, but would go beyond themselves and be of service to others.
In turn, these principals have responded in their own way to be fishers of men. Ms Cecilia Lim reflected, “Just as Jesus is the Good Shepherd, I hope to be a good shepherd to my pupils and colleagues, to get to know each one well, as well as lead and care for all in the way Jesus led and cared for those in his flock.”
Mrs Allison Lim expressed a similar sentiment, that “When we seek God’s will daily, Jesus our Good Shepherd will work in and through us and bless our colleagues and students, pointing them to the love of Christ and give them peace.”
For Mrs Julie Conceicao, a kindergarten which reaches out to all, including the low income families and providing them with an environment that has vast outdoor spaces and a holistic curriculum, to be a fisher of men would be to “acknowledge and embrace Christ daily. Jesus says ‘Let the little children come…’ and that to me is a constant reminder to reach out to all the little ones who come and to allow them to BE little children and tend to their needs.”
With regard to how they feel about the call to be principals in the Catholic schools, there is a mix of gratitude and pride. Others feel humbled, blessed and honoured. There is also a sense of excitement in terms of what they can do to bring out the best in the staff and children entrusted to their care.
At the end of his homily, Archbishop William Goh encouraged all formators to look at their own continual formation for all formators need formation, like how the apostles and disciples were formed by Jesus before they could form the early Church. For formators of any kind to be effective, each of them must have a personal conviction in what they do and if they are leaders, they are prompted to be the last of servants and serve society first.
One part of the commissioning ceremony reminded principals that they are the light of Christ in their schools, with each principal and vice-principal receiving a specially crafted candle. On the point of working in unity with each other, each principal does not work alone as shown by the fraternity of current principals and vice-principals who attended the ceremony in support of the newly appointed principals. There is also a move to tap on retired principals to mentor newly appointed Catholic principals.
The Principals’ Commissioning Mass was organised by The Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools (ACCS) and its Council of Catholic Schools’ Principals. They work with Catholic schools in Singapore to strengthen the Catholic ethos in their communities. Students from four schools – St. Patrick’s School, Montfort Secondary School, CHIJ Secondary and CHIJ St. Theresa’s Convent – helped in providing altar servers, ushers and choir.
A major upcoming event being organised by ACCS is the Catholic Education Conference 2017. All are welcome. Find out more here.