Outgoing CHIJ Katong Convent Principal: God Has a Plan for Everything

With the commencement of the new school year, various school leaders have been reassigned to new posts. After eight years of service as principal of CHIJ Katong Convent, Ms Patricia Chan has taken on a new posting, moving to the Ministry of Education (MOE) as Director of English Language and Literature in the Curriculum Planning and Development Division (CPDD).


Sweet Memories

Reflecting on her time in the CHIJ family, Ms Chan shares that her favourite memory is of Book and Music Week (BMW), a well-loved school tradition dating back more than fifty years. She explains: “It is a time where the formal confines of the classroom make way for spontaneous and experiential learning through the love of music, the written word and the arts.”

The spunky principal has aimed to do something memorable for her students in commencing the festivities each year. “In my first year, I dressed up as William Shakespeare and delivered my opening in iambic pentameter, while for the SG50 celebration in 2015 I performed a soliloquy as a Samsui Woman to celebrate the pioneers of Singapore,” Ms Chan reminisces. “Last year, I donned the IJ uniform to mark my coming of a full circle as a student and a principal, to drive home the message of time and space.”

(Photo: CHIJ Katong Convent Facebook)


Recalling a more challenging task, Ms Chan says: “Moving the school to a holding site for two years, overseeing the re-building of the school and moving the school back to Marine Terrace to its newly renovated and refurbished campus was also quite an experience. Embracing all the technicalities of construction, engineering and design was not without its difficulties – I was a fish out of water – but keeping sight of the core focus that we are building a conducive environment for work, play and study made the process exciting.”


Trust in God

Ms Chan ponders how her Catholic faith has guided her through her career: “As a person of faith, I know that God has a plan for everything. His ways are not our ways, and He always makes things good in His time.”

Recognising the hand of Divine Providence throughout her life, Ms Chan states: “I have learnt not to seek answers or solutions readily when things don’t turn out right; over time, I know the Lord will provide, I just need to have the faith and trust in Him.”

“More often than not,” she adds, “The answers or a way out is frequently through words and actions of others, or a change in the course of events, or sometimes, an inspiration of a brainwave which comes during unexpected periods.”

Turning to Scripture, Ms Chan reveals how the Word of God has sustained her: “My favourite quote from Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, has given me the strength to embrace the unknowns or the seemingly dire situations.”


Hope for the Future

Ms Chan expresses her hopes for the future of CHIJ Katong Convent, that it may “grow from strength to strength as a Catholic IJ school.”

“Specifically,” she adds, “For the staff – that they continue to grow in spirit, mind and skills for themselves and the charges they care for, and for the girls – that the school develops in them the strength of character to lead with care, to learn with passion, and to live with purpose as contributing members of society.”

Ms Patricia Chan donned the IJ uniform at the opening of her final Book and Music Week as the principal of CHIJ Katong Convent and reflected on how an IJ school inspired by the spirituality of Nicolas Barré set them up for life. (Photo: CHIJ Katong Convent Instagram)


A New Leader

Considering her successor, Mdm Hilda Tan Hwee Tsian – who has been rotated from Meridian Secondary School – Ms Chan says: “CHIJ Katong Convent is blessed to receive another IJ alumnus as her new principal. As IJ alumnus, Mrs Hilda Tan already has a shared experience and a common identity she can tap in charting the next directions of the school.”

Ms Chan continues: “The appreciation (Mdm Tan) has of the school’s history and heritage enables her to write the present in order to chart the growth of the school for future generations. She will have a good starting point.”


A Great Responsibility

Contemplating how her time as a Catholic school principal has formed her as a person, Ms Chan shares: “The oft-said statement that with authority comes responsibility, couldn’t have resonated more.  As a Catholic leading a Catholic school, I take it as a personal accountability to uphold the Catholic ethos and identity of the school.”

Drawing upon a Biblical theme, Ms Chan continues: “I pretty much likened it to the parable of the talents, where I am privileged to be leading a Catholic school and therefore much is to be expected of me.  Leadership has forced me out of my comfort zone in making my own faith journey more visible.”

Referring to the founder of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus schools, she affirms: “Understanding the charism of Blessed Nicolas Barré has also led me to grow in faith and spirituality in the way I lead the school and interact with my students and staff. This mindfulness has helped me calibrate how I need to think and act, especially with others.”

She concludes, “Being Principal of a Catholic school has given me the lens to consider how I might create an encounter with Christ for the people with whom I interact. This is a gift which I will continue to treasure and take to wherever I am.”