The Joy of Catholic Education
Over a hundred students and teachers from Catholic schools were involved in special performances at the recent SG50 Thanksgiving Mass. They share how in their participation, they have discovered the beauty of being a Catholic School.
The recent SG50 Thanksgiving Mass that took place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium has certainly helped put Catholic education in Singapore back in the limelight, leaving many with a deep sense of pride and hope. Not only was the Church’s history and contributions to the nation’s education sector commemorated, but special performances were also prepared by more than a hundred students and teachers from Catholic schools here.
CHIJ Kellock Primary School’s choir sang uplifting hymns and harmonised with the 60-member full orchestra, while both St Anthony’s Canossian Primary and Secondary Schools’ percussion groups worked together to drum up an energetic performance with a diverse number of instruments.
In the challenging process of putting everything together within just a couple months of practice, teachers and students of the participating schools share that they have come to truly see the beauty of being a Catholic school.
School, Church, Nation
Though the relationship between Church and School can admittedly be blurred at times, it is events like the SG50 Mass that helps students come to a deeper appreciation of their schools’ connection with the Catholic Church. They had not only learnt about the Church’s role in building up the education sector of Singapore, but were also given the chance to actively participate in celebrating the hopeful future of both Church and nation.
“The school and the choir were thrilled to be part of the JoySG50 performance team. Our principal reminded us that when the Church calls, we respond in faith and love. As part of the Catholic school community, we look forward to opportunities where we can share the good news of God’s love with those around us,” explained Mary Soh, Teacher Liaison for the CHIJ Kellock Primary Choir.
Because the choir consisted of non-Catholic students as well, the teachers of CHIJ Kellock Primary also paid special attention to help students understand and appreciate the hymns they sung. It was not simply a performance, but truly a thanksgiving occasion.
To the students who had lovingly volunteered their time, whether Catholic or not, their participation was important because of one common trait that unites themselves, the school, and the Church – being Singaporean.
Students echoed one another’s sentiments as Deborah Ann Lim, a choir member from CHIJ Kellock Primary expressed, “I am grateful to be given this once in a lifetime opportunity to perform at Singapore’s 50th birthday.” Jacynthe Liew and Steffi Chua, also choir members, chimed in, “Especially since PM Lee was also present to grace the occasion!”
The bigger picture
For the percussion groups of St Anthony’s Canossian Primary and Secondary Schools, performing at the SG50 Mass together as sister schools had also been a valuable lesson to see the bigger picture of their Catholic education.
Veron Yap, Teacher Liaison for St Anthony’s Canossian Schools, shared, “It was an opportunity for the students to come together as sister-schools in close partnership to work for a common goal. It was a platform for students to challenge themselves and overcome what they perceive as their limitations, and they have proved themselves resilient and optimistic.”
The schools’ willingness to participate in the occassion reflected the value of Catholic education, which is not only concerned about grades, but the development of the whole human person. Veron describes, “We believe that each student has an innate, God-given talent, and we just need to take the chance to help them discover it. These platforms are opportunities for students to be developed holistically.”
Because of the limited preparation time, which had been further hampered by the June Holidays, the St Anthony’s Canossian Primary and Secondary School percussion groups had to practice separately first, then subsequently combine their rhythms.
This proved challenging because the schools had different musical styles, and it was the first time they were collaborating with one another. However it was through these difficulties that teachers could help students see that they were in this together, and that God was in control.
“We committed everything to God and put in time to practice. Both schools were given time to interact so as to team-build and form warmer ties before the performance,” Veron illustrates.
For the choir from CHIJ Kellock Primary School, teachers had also created learning tracks for the different voice parts and uploaded them onto the school’s online learning wall. This way, the disadvantage of the June holidays taking away practice time was minimised.
“Students were tasked to learn their melodic parts via this social medium, which has helped our choir to be more confident with their voice parts and to sing in beautiful harmony,” Mary expressed.
Organising chairman of the Church’s SG50 celebrations, Fr Derrick Yap OFM, highlights that it is important for the younger generation to feel proud of the Church, to understand that, “God has called us to be His children, and to belong to this beautiful Church.” Thus, he explains, “I tried to involve as many young as possible so that in days when they’re feeling down, hopefully something that was said, something that was sung, or someone that they met here, they remember it and they hold it in their hearts that God is real, for them at this moment.”