6 August 2021

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Tags: Students

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Categories: Homilies / Messages, Reflections

Today is the Solemnity of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, when Jesus gave His three closest disciples a peek at His divinity, a confirmation of His identity as the Messiah (Mark 9:2-10). Universalis notes: “The true miracle of the Transfiguration is not the shining face or the white garments, but the fact that for the rest of the time Jesus hid His glory so well.”

In his book The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis reflects:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

“All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

In the stress and hurry of everyday life, absorbed with studies and other activities, it is easy to forget  that the people around us, and indeed we ourselves, are destined for, as Loki likes to say, a “glorious purpose.” God created us in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26), and Jesus came to redeem us, restoring us to that original image of God, and enabling us to participate in the life-giving love of the Holy Trinity.

By practising little habits of respect and love for one another, we can maintain a sense of our ultimate destiny, allowing God to sanctify every action and moment in our days, no matter how mundane. The Franciscans of the Immaculate greet each other with the joyful words Ave Maria!, recognising the likeness of Mary – the beloved daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, and spouse and temple of the Holy Spirit – in one another. In this way, they also remind each other of their vocation, to become ever more like Mary, bearing Christ to the world.

Similarly, in Asian cultures we are expected to greet our elders; it is considered rude if we do not, which can be difficult for a shy child – but that simple act of greeting is an acknowledgement of the other person’s presence and their human dignity. We stand to greet our teachers as they enter the classroom, respecting their authority as our educators.

Greeting our parents, siblings and friends can be a simple act of love. I used to have an exuberant classmate, Vanessa, who bounded into class every morning with a loud, “Good morning everyone!” Her cheerful greeting set a positive tone for the start of each day, and became one of the rituals which cemented our classroom atmosphere of friendship and mutual encouragement.

What other small but important habits can you think of, which can foster an environment of love and respect in your classroom or at home? How can you help the people around you get closer to Heaven?

17 July 2020

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Tags: Educators, Students

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Categories: Reflections

By Seminarian Eugene Chan, former teacher in a non-Catholic mission school.

And Jesus came and said to them, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always to the close of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]

If you have ever caught the “Our Catholic Light” video, one can learn of the history of how Catholic Mission Schools first arrived in Singapore. Brother Nicolas Seet (FSC) shared how Father Jean-Marie Beurel (MEP), realising the need, went back to Europe and came back with six Lasallian brothers and four Infant Jesus sisters to setup the first Catholic Mission Schools in Singapore. This was a three-month journey by boat and during the trip, one of the sisters passed away just two weeks before they could arrive in Singapore. In 1852, St Joseph’s Institution was founded and two years later, in 1854, the first Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus began. For Father Beurel, these schools were especially for the poor for he saw the value of education and thus education was provided for free for children of any background.

A century and a half later, we acknowledge their sacrifices and rejoice at the fruits of the many Catholic schools with their rich traditions. What is more, we can empathise with some of the hardships that they faced as we all live through a pandemic that perhaps has changed so much of how we live. It might be timely thus to look back and examine just what brought us to our current school of choice.

For students, some might have chosen to come to your current school. For others, perhaps the school that you are in was the alma mater of your parent. For others still, perhaps this school was simply the closest within a one or two kilometre circumference of where you stay. Regardless of the reason, now that you are in a Catholic mission school, have you ever wondered just what difference does it make? What elements of your school’s tradition have you drawn closer to? What virtues or values has your school challenged you to grow in? Compassion? Humility? Integrity? Perseverance? Faith? Care? Honesty? Service? What difference has your time in your school made for you?

 

For as much as our world is changing, somethings will always keep us in good stead. The values and principles that your school champions, these will be the keys that will help you reach for the higher things in life. For what does it matter how many more zeros you can add to your bank account, if all you spend them on is yourself? What good would it do for you if all your achievements only resulted in you becoming universally despised, with not a single person you have ever worked with willing to ever work with you again? Would there be any lasting satisfaction for achievements gained through wicked means?

Reach higher, aspire for the things that last! Your founders built your school on their relationship with Christ, may you too discover just what adventures a relationship with Him may bring you to.

For teachers, perhaps this is your first posting or maybe you have become an institution or a “legend” in your time with your current school. Perhaps you are intending to apply at the next open posting or even at the next closed posting phase. Still, it is not easy being a teacher. It is probably even harder to be a good teacher in this day and age, whereby almost every word and action that you do and say are taken to task. And yet, this is the vocation which you have responded to. One that requires countless hours almost every day of the week. (Usually thankless, sleepless and without re-imbursement.) Not to mention having to navigate the twists and turns of your own struggles. Truly, few other jobs ask for this much and at such cost. Thank you, teachers.

As St Jean-Baptiste de La Salle would put it “the ministry of teaching is about helping the young cross the threshold, from ignorance into enlightenment”. In this Information Age, the Internet and technology have changed just what it means to be ignorant. To find out about the life of St de La Salle, one need not pour through a 200 page tome, but simply watch a one hour video. Yet, what then are they to do with that information? How will they make use of it? To paraphrase the Venerable Fulton Sheen, we need to ensure that the next generation knows more than just the “price of everything but the value of nothing”. How can we empower the next generation to resist the traps of social media, of cyber-bullying or of gaming addiction?

 

This ministry can only happen with a continuity of teachers. For to combat the evil of ignorance, teachers cannot just instruct but role model. The values of respect, responsibility and resilience are not just words and videos that are used for our class contact time but real mindset changes and actions that we need to live out. Our students know the difference. The de La Salle brothers would thus show the students how to pray, not just give them the prayers, explain the Mass, not just bring them to Mass. Religious instruction was simply to know and to love God and one’s neighbour and as we definitely familiar with; your life maybe the only Gospel that someone might ever read.

We cannot give what we do not have. If we are to give the gift of faith, we need to have a relationship with the One Whom it comes from. If we do not know how to pray, how then can we expect our students to stay silent when it is time for school prayers? Let us progress along the two rails of faith and reason as a mission school community, faithful to the vision and mission of our religious founders.

Ad Dei Gloriam.

1 December 2017

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Tags: Educators, Parents, Students

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Categories: Reflections

The Christmas light-up at Orchard Road signals the start of shopping frenzy for gifts, new clothes, decorations and the like. It is such an exciting period especially when you think of your loved ones and consider what gift they may want to receive this Christmas.

Hustle and bustle before Christmas
You pull your hair out as you get your Christmas shopping list ready. The excitement rises as you hunt for the perfect gift within your budget (a tremendous feat these days). Hour after hour spent in shopping malls. Aching feet from walking. Tired hands from checking potential gifts, carrying tons of items bought and wrapping them nicely. Decorating your home with fairy lights, Christmas trees and mistletoes. After going through these intense physical and mental exercises, you are a few hundred (sometimes thousand) dollars poorer. Sorry wallet.

On Christmas day, you sadly find yourselves exhausted. The “merry” in the typical greeting “Merry Christmas” seemed to have lost its meaning. Is there a better way to prepare for Christmas?

A meaningful way to prepare for Christmas
Our Church knows our struggles. That is why it designated the period before Christmas as the Advent season, a time to meaningfully prepare ourselves for Christmas. Although there are different ways to do this, one suggestion is to pick up a copy of the Advent reflection booklet from your parish or you can download a soft copy here.

Of course, doing your usual Christmas shopping and decorations will still be a part of your pre-Christmas celebration. But you will be surprised on how truly joyful your heart is on Christmas day. A little spiritual preparation works like magic.

4 May 2017

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Tags: Parents

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Categories: Events, Reflections

By Susan Ng-Thian, parent-volunteer

The School Chaplaincy Team Formation was held over three mornings from 19-21 April. As I am currently helping with the mass set-up in my youngest child’s school, St Joseph’s Institution Junior, I was quite interested to find out how the formation will help me in my vocation.

The formation course was divided into different modules, namely:-

  1. Understanding the Eucharist & Organising Mass in School
  2. Relating in a Multi-Religious Community
  3. Connecting with the Young and Mentoring Skills

Father Edward Seah led us in prayer each morning before introducing the respective speakers. Presentations by all three speakers (Father Ignatius Yeo, Gerald Kong and Brother Colin Wee) were not only informative but were very interesting as they also shared their experiences and answered many practical questions from the participants.

Father Ignatius, Chairperson of Archdiocesan Liturgy Commission, brought us through the history of salvation to show us the historical development of the Eucharist. He also explained the structure of the mass, all the way from the time of the Apostles, during the Persecution right up to the present day. He even explained in details the various parts of the Mass. These gave us a better understanding of the meaning behind the rituals and what is appropriate for the celebration.

In Module 2, Mr Kong, Executive Secretary of Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue, explained to us how important it is be in constant dialogue with our brothers and sisters of other faiths, given the multi-religious nature of our country. Something new I learnt was that there are 10 official religions recognized in Singapore!

Brother Collin’s segment covered how we can connect with the young. He shared many anecdotes, based on his wealth of experience as Counsellor and Director of Hope House, working with many youths and young adults. His highly animated sharing had us breaking into laughter throughout his session.

All in all, I enjoyed the whole course tremendously. The information gained can and will definitely help in my vocation as a parent volunteer involved in mass set-up and in the way I serve. I would strongly recommend that anyone, whether you are a teacher or a Parent Volunteer involved in catechism in a Catholic School to register for this course whenever it is offered.

16 April 2017

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Tags: Educators, Parents, Students

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Categories: Reflections

By Errol Chang

When ice melts and green shoots spring from the ground, a very visible sign of change in season and new life can prompt us to reflect on the changes in our lives. Spring therefore, lends itself nicely to indicate the change from Lenten to Easter season in our liturgical calendar, where the resurrection is the pivot of this change. However, living in Singapore where there is no autumn and winter, spring is non-existent. Can this mean that there is no change in our lives and there is no resurrection?

Like any other believers, we had journeyed through Lent by praying, almsgiving and fasting. As teachers, we might have additionally prayed for our students, been charitable to our students and fasted from angry words during our Lenten journey. At the end of the Lenten season, is there a resurrection for us teachers?

Empty tomb – A sign of resurrection
The Easter Sunday Gospel reveals to us an empty tomb rather than a greeting from Jesus or revelation from the angels. The emptiness speaks volume and can throw us into disbelief – in either the positive or the negative sense of the word.

If by faith, the empty tomb prompts us to greater belief and conviction, what’s next? With resurrection, dawns a new beginning and new world of opportunities. With the resurrection, we have somehow landed ourselves a golden opportunity for personal growth and burst of energy to do good things. So what do we do? Let’s look at the Gospel account to see if we can emulate Jesus in terms what he did after resurrection.

Folded cloths – Stay healthy
The Gospel informs us that the disciples saw that the cloth which covered Jesus’ head was rolled up. If the body was stolen as some would claim, a thief would not take time to fold this piece of cloth. I have wondered why Jesus would have done that upon his resurrection. Is it because the blessed Virgin had trained him so well as a child that he instinctively tidies up his bed upon waking from sleep or in this case, from death?

At the same time, I wonder if it is just a simple exercise to get his newly resurrected body going, like how we would warm up before doing heavier exercises, especially after three days of lying dead stiff. Maybe with this, comes our first learning point applicable to a teacher. As we begin each day before dawn, do we take time to check on our physical condition before we go about our day? To be of service to others, it is important for us to be at tip top physical condition in order that we can be the best condition when we teach our students. I invite all of us this Easter, to start having a healthy regime of sleeping on time and staying healthy with sufficient exercise so that our physical body can support our mission of teaching.

Unfolded linen – Reflect on priorities
Other than the cloth which covered his head, there was another set of linen which was lying on the ground. Jesus, why did you fold your head covering but not the other linen? Is it because of priorities? Given that Jesus was crowned with thorns, his head coverings would have been heavily soaked with his blood and this makes this piece of cloth very important under Jewish tradition.

Here could be our second learning point as a teacher, check on our priorities. As a teacher who has to plan lessons, put together learning resources, carry out administrative duties, look to the needs of the children entrusted to our care, run core-curriculum activities and many more, we must learn to prioritise. If we decide to fold everything, we might end up just going through the motion and doing tasks after tasks, thereby losing our vision of why we teach in the first place. Yes, everything we do is important for our children, but are there some things which we need to pay greater attention to first in order to benefit our students more? The invitation is there for us to reflect on the priorities of our many tasks as a teacher, given the limited hours we have in a day. If we can prioritise, maybe our tasks will become more meaningful and our work more purpose-filled, rather than just routine running through the day from task to task.

Moved stone – A whole new world
Now that Jesus has resurrected from the dead, warmed up his body by folding his head covering and prioritised but not folding everything at once, what next? He surely did not stay in the tomb and sulk in despair over being rejected by nearly everyone as the Messiah. Instead, he is ready to go at it… again!

Here’s our third invitation this Easter as a teacher. After some self-care in the first learning point and self-reflection of priorities in the second, it is time to move the stone and go out into the world to be of service to others. Armed with the first two, the third hopefully, is not just about going out to earn our keep by running from task to task. In the spirit of Easter, it is to go out into the world with the belief and zeal of the resurrection. It is in this spirit and eyes of faith that the ordinary can transform into the extraordinary, that sadness can turn to joy and that death can give birth to new life. Would our colleagues and students who meet us feel more empowered, enlivened or resurrected after meeting us?

No spring? It’s alright, resurrection springs forth!
So coming from a place where there is no spring and no change in the weather, is there a change from Lent to Easter? Is there a resurrection for us teachers in Singapore? The possibility is definitely there and the answer depends on each of our responses. So for this Easter, I wish you a Happy Selective Cloth Folding and Stone Moving Easter! May these Easter invitations help us become better teachers.

5 January 2017

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Tags: Educators

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Categories: Reflections

By Melissa Dragon

As the year 2016 comes to a close, many are seizing the best bargains at “post-Christmas” sales in the malls. Just this afternoon, as I was at the supermarket purchasing some drinks for tonight’s Christmas party, I noticed that the Christmas carols which had been filling the air since October have already been replaced by Chinese New Year music.

For many, 26 December is the end of the Christmas season. For faithful Catholics, it’s only the beginning. Yes, while others are winding down their Christmas celebrations and gearing up for Chinese New Year, we are just getting started.

Even though the Christmas season begins at the tail end of the calendar year, it is a fresh start in many ways – especially for teachers in Singapore.

The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ to us marks a new beginning for the human race as God has come to earth to bring salvation to all mankind. The Catholic Church officially observes the season of Christmas from midnight of 24 December right until the Baptism of the Lord, which is celebrated on 9 January 2017. This means we have 16 whole days to celebrate Christmas.

For teachers, it is wonderful that we are blessed with the opportunity to bring Christmas into the classroom with us at the start of the new academic year.

While Christmas reminds us of the Infant born to us to fulfil His mission of love and salvation for the human race, it is also a special reminder of the personal mission of love to those who have been called and chosen to fulfil their vocation as educators to the young.

After the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, our Lord Jesus as the Infant King revealed Himself first and foremost to the lowly shepherds in His humble birthplace in Bethlehem.

“He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly.” – Luke 1:52

Let us remember, then, as we step into the classroom at the start of the new academic year, to bring the incarnation of Jesus to the last, the lost and the loneliest among our students – those whom God Himself has entrusted to our care. These students may have already experienced poverty in their hearts, lost hope in finding joy, peace and friendship among their peers, are lagging behind in their studies and have lost hope in getting back on track to succeed academically, or come from broken homes and misbehave as a response to their brokenness and need for attention.

As we step into the classroom of familiar and often unfamiliar faces, let us, as teachers, be living signs of the true meaning of Christmas to the “lowly” ones, to whom the Lord has often chosen to offer His presence and friendship.

Therefore, “give a shepherd’s care to the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, as God wants; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. Do not lord it over the group which is in your charge, but be an example for the flock. When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:2-4).

May you and your students have an especially blessed Christmas and a meaningful journey in 2017!

23 November 2016

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Tags: Educators, Parents, Students

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Categories: Reflections, Saints

By Bro Nicholas Seet, FSC

Nicolas Leclerq was born in 1745 in the northern coast of France in Boulogne-sur-Mer Boulogne, a major port. His family was well-off and dealt in food and wines. He studied in the same school as his father which was managed by the La Salle Brothers. As a young boy, he was fascinated by the lives of “God’s heroes” which he preferred to adventure stories. He finished school at sixteen and began his work apprenticeship hoping to be in the family business. He had written “I want to be like my teachers, the Brothers, following them in their piety, their austerity and their service to young people.”

So, he joined the Brothers at the age of 21 and took the name Brother Solomon. He started teaching at the age of 23. He sometimes had classes of up to 130 pupils, to whom he taught “reading, writing and calculus” Some of his classes included difficult teenagers, sent to the school for re-education. By the age of 27, he made final vows and later became Director of Novices. At the age of 32, he was in charge of a big educational complex, with around 1,000 students, including 150 “difficult” boys committed by the courts. By then his main work was that of administration.

Later, he was sent to Melun to teach mathematics in the teacher training centre for the Brothers. His good sense, simplicity, discretion and great ability were evident to his students, who appreciated his intelligence and skill in synthesising things and admired his perfect handwriting. In 1787, he was appointed Secretary to the Superior General, Bro Agathon.

With the French Revolution, like many of the Brothers, he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new state. Religious congregations were abolished, and the Brothers’ schools were closed. They were driven from their houses and reduced to total poverty. In his last letter, dated 15 August 1792, Brother Solomon wrote “We bear with joy and gratitude the crosses and afflictions that come our way. As for me, I do not seem to be worthy to suffer for Him, since up to now nothing bad has happened to me, while there are so many confessors of the faith who are in difficulty.” A few hours later, he was arrested and imprisoned in the Carmelite Convent in Paris. Having been interrogated during the night, he spent his final days without any food.

On 2 September, he together with others refused to take the oath to the Civil Constitution. After that, they were taken out into the garden and were met by their killers who killed them with swords and guns. He was beatified in October 1926 by Pope Pius XI and by Pope Francis on 16 October 2016.

For more, check out the Catholic News’ coverage of the celebration of Brother Solomon’s canonization in Singapore here.

1 September 2016

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Tags: Educators

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Categories: Reflections, Saints

In our valiant efforts to impart knowledge to our students, have we been faithful in reflecting Christ’s love and compassion to them? As we celebrate Teacher’s Day in the Year of Mercy, let us ponder on the ways in which we can become merciful and life-giving educators.

The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which began on 8 December last year, will end on 20 November, on the Feast of Christ the King. In an attempt to reawaken the spirit of benevolence in the Church, Pope Francis has repeatedly called for Catholics to openly practise compassion, forgiveness and patience in their lives, emphasising the paramount importance of showing kindness to one another.

What does this call mean for Catholic educators? As teachers, we hold the future of young people in our hands. Year after year, we work towards helping them grow in knowledge, character and spirit. In our bid to push our students to greater heights, have we forgotten that mercy ultimately lies at the heart of the education mission? How then, can we exhibit mercy in our daily work? Here are some ways to make full use of the remaining time in the Year of Mercy.

Be renewed in spirit
We cannot give what we don’t have. To spread God’s love to our students, we must first experience it in our lives. Amidst the busy-ness of our day-to-day schedules, we may fail to notice God knocking on our hearts. Although He is persistent in His desire for us to mend our broken ways and return to Him, we cannot hear Him unless we first quieten ourselves, and set our lives in order.

Take some time to participate in the Archdiocese-wide or parish-based activities specially organised for the year. Go on a pilgrimage to one of the five Holy Doors in Singapore (at the Churches of the Sacred Heart, St Vincent de Paul, Risen Christ, Divine Mercy, and Holy Cross) and spend some time in prayer. Go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Participate in charity outreach activities organised by your parish. It is also a good practice to go for Mass daily, so that you can be spiritually prepared for the day ahead.

Get to know fellow Catholic teachers in your school and form a network of mutual support. Colleagues you can trust and confide in serve as a source of courage during trying times, sparing you the agony of facing the pressure alone. Just as Jesus sent out His disciples two-by-two to preach God’s message (Mk 6:7), we too, need somebody to lean on when the going gets tough.

Be understanding mentors
In the Gospel, Jesus reiterates the prevailing role of compassion in God’s plan: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Mt 9:13) Indeed, God’s divine will prioritises the emotional growth and spiritual well-being of His children over their academic accomplishments. We are not drill instructors who blindly pummel formulae and technical knowledge into our students. Rather, we are mentors and role models to them, as they discover more about themselves and mature as adults. The call to nurture them as intelligent, responsible and confident persons requires us to journey with them.

Start by examining the social context they live in, the values they grew up with and the information they engage with on a daily basis. What are the latest trends that influence them? What are their career aspirations? Where do they hope to further their studies? Reflecting on these questions will make it easier for us to relate to them. Only by coming to understand their worries, dreams and beliefs can we be better confidants to our young people.

During lessons, we may notice one or two students who seem to be troubled, or are more prone to emotional outbursts than their peers. There are also students who tend to be more rowdy in class, and who periodically disrupt lessons with their mischief. Instead of labelling these students as ‘problems’, make a special effort to reach out to them. Seize opportunities for conversation, and you might learn more about their lives. Establishing rapport with students will go a long way in making lessons more efficient and effective.

Pray for your students
Most importantly, we must not forget that the greatest gift we can bring to our students is the Kingdom of Heaven. Though our profession is to educate them about the wonders of the world, our divine task is to lead them towards the embrace of God. And what better way to begin this calling than to ask God to shower them with His blessings? Just like a caring father who would only give the best to his child, He is ever-ready to give good things to those who ask (Mt 7:7-11).

Before your first lesson every day, dedicate a chaplet of the Divine Mercy or a decade of the rosary for the intentions of your students. Ask God to help these young people focus as they learn more about the world He has created. Ask Him to protect them from all harm and evil influence, and to only pick up values that will mould them into upright persons of integrity. Ask our Lady to intercede for them, that they may open their hearts to Christ.

In praying for our students, we are reminded of our special role as Catholic educators, delivering God’s love and mercy to the next generation. Let us optimise the last months in Year of Mercy to bring our youths closer to God and His Kingdom, and extend His boundless love through our service.

27 August 2016

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Tags: Educators

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Categories: Reflections, Saints

St Monica was born to a Christian family in North Africa in 333 A.D. Married as a young girl to Patritius, a pagan who held an official position in Tagaste, her life was filled with disappointment and trial, for Patritius was a quarrelsome and demanding husband. Faced with daily tensions and difficulties in her unhappy marriage, St Monica continually displayed a profound and dedicated love for God through constant habits of prayer, almsgiving, and acts of charity. These annoyed Patritius, and became, without a doubt, the cause of significant friction in their marriage. Monica refused to ignore her duty toward the words of Christ, “Come, follow me” (Mt 4:19). St Monica is well-regarded because of her son, St Augustine of Hippo, who took after his father. She was responsible for his conversion before her death in 387 AD. So what can educators learn from St Monica?

Have faith in the presence of God despite the environment
St Monica married into a non-Catholic family. Her mother-in-law and her husband were not Christians and were unhappy with her daily devotions to God. Her marital environment would have caused many other women to despair and eventually give up their faith for the sake of peace. But not St Monica. As educators, St Monica is a role model who teaches us that even though teachers work in secular environments, it is possible to continue with our Catholic faith. While teachers may not be allowed to pray publicly and talk about God to students publicly (MOE has clear guidelines on evangelisation in schools), they can exhibit their faith through their daily actions. Catholic educators in non-Catholic schools can display a love of God by doing their work well, caring for the students under their charge and submitting to their supervisors in obedience to God. For Catholic educators in Catholic schools, there is more room to display and grow your faith. Catholic educators can volunteer to teach RCCE, lead prayers at morning assembly, lead catholic activities in schools, and help organise masses for the students.

Pray for conversion
Despite having a difficult husband and son, St Monica saw beauty in her life’s work. Her daily habit of prayer and persistence in living a holy life converted both her husband and son. Educators today sometimes work in hostile environments with demanding parents and uninterested students. Like St Monica, educators can pray for their conversion. Instead of reacting negatively at a parent or a student expressing their unhappiness at the system or at us, teachers can offer up prayers for them. Their conversion may not come about immediately—St Monica prayed for her son for 17 years.

See meaning and beauty in the vocation
Although St Monica had a very difficult time as a wife and mother, she still saw the beauty of her vocation. St Augustine lived a life of laziness and impurity by his own admission. Yet because of his mother’s prayer and labour over 17 years, St Augustine is today one of 33 Doctors of the Catholic Church, the Doctor of Grace and the Doctor of Doctors. It appears that the conversations St Augustine had with his mother in her last years was that they pondered what it might be like “to share the eternal life enjoyed by the saints, ‘which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, which has not even entered into the heart of man'” (1 Cor 2:19). Educators can try to see the beauty of their vocation. Visualising what the students can be when they are fully matured, educators can see past their present behaviours. A student who may be unmotivated and aggressive may become an important influential person in the next decade. Educators can and do impact students’ lives positively. From the lives of St Monica and St Augustine, educators can realise that no student is a lost cause. Educators must know that students can and do change for the better. Keeping your focus on the students’ development will enable all educators to see the beauty in the vocation. Like St Monica, educators are called to be the model of a virtuous parent.

15 August 2016

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Tags: Educators

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Categories: Reflections, Saints

John Vianney was born in 1786 in Dardilly, France, one of Catholic farmers Matthieu and Marie Vianney’s six children. He grew up in the anticlerical ‘Reign of Terror’ during the French Revolution, marked by the infamous mass guillotine executions. Priests were on the run and celebrated Mass stealthily. Young John Vianney regarded these priests as heroes and grew up wanting to become one.

At 20, John was allowed to leave his family to further his education in a school. He had the intention to join the priesthood but struggled in his studies, especially in his learning of Latin (required for all priests). John was many times deemed unfit for Holy Orders. His studies were again interrupted when he was drafted into Napoleon Bonaparte’s army in 1809. It is believed that because of his poor health, John was left behind while the troops continued without him. He then met a man who brought him to a place where deserters stayed. There, he remained for one and a half years before amnesty was granted to deserters in 1810. Finally, John was able to continue his ecclesiastical studies. He was ordained a deacon in 1815 and became the Curé (equivalent of parish priest) of Ars three years later.

The story of St John Vianney’s struggle to fulfil his purpose in life holds some relevant lessons for Catholic educators today.

1. The constant struggle to upgrade and update content and pedagogy
Just as the French priests of the 18th Century were heroes for St Vianney, educators today are heroes to our youth. We work in a difficult environment of high expectations, long hours and face constant pressure to improve ourselves. As educators, we can definitely identify with St Vianney’s difficulty in keeping up with the acquisition of knowledge. Yet, we can take courage in knowing that we are not alone, and that even saints had a hard time learning too.

2. Educating the ignorant and indifferent
As the parish priest of Ars, St Vianney realised that many of the parishioners were not properly informed about the faith, or were indifferent. He spent many hours listening to confessions and giving homilies to educate them. In a span of 30 years, the number of pilgrims who visited Ars to confess to him reached 20,000.

Like St Vianney, we too, face students who lack the will to learn. We spend long hours every week planning lessons to help our students learn effectively. Although our work can be draining and arduous, we can look to St John Vianney for strength and inspiration. Always remember that our work contributes to the spiritual and intellectual well-being of God’s children.

3. Recharge
Even a saint can be tempted to give up at times – St Vianney tried to run away from his priestly duties at Ars four times! But eventually, he learned to accept the task given to him, and devoted the rest of his life to his congregation. Although we may have moments when we feel like giving up on our students and the education mission altogether, it becomes easier to persevere when we are reminded of our duty as educators. Take time to recharge if you must, but don’t let despair derail you from our meaningful vocation.

As St Vianney entrusted his efforts to God, let us also ask Him to be our strength and fortify us in our work as educators:

“I love You, O my God,
and my only desire is to love You
until the last breath of my life.
I love You, O my infinitely lovable God,
and I would rather die loving You,
than live without loving You.
I love You, Lord,
and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally.
My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You,
I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.
Amen.”