Celebrating the gift of Catholic Education

Ervin TanFeature

Left to right: Woo Soo Min, Fr Adrian Danker, SJ and Angela Ow worked closely together to make CEC2021 a reality. Photo: Catholic Foundation

Celebrating the gift of Catholic Education

Catholic education continues to be key in building the Church in Singapore. The Catholic Education Conference 2021 (CEC2021) a Catholic200SG event held on Mar 15, helped participants focus on prayer.

Themed “Celebrating, Encountering, Creating our God Experience”, the event was planned by the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools (ACCS), the Council of Catholic School Principals (CCSP), and teachers and religious from the families of Catholic schools in Singapore.

Unlike previous years, CEC2021 was a hybrid physical-virtual event, live-streamed from St Joseph’s Institution (SJI) to more than 650 participants in their respective schools.

Emphasis on prayer

For the first time, it included preconference Novena sessions led by religious congregations and Catholic schools which were streamed online from Feb 22 to Mar 12.

Angela Ow, Executive Director of ACCS, said, “Another key difference this year is that the conference not only discussed the importance of promoting the Catholic ethos, but also explored the individual’s responsibility in strengthening his or her own spirituality.”

Fr Adrian Danker, SJ, Programme Committee Chair, explained, “This time, the Holy Spirit led us to do something more prayerful, allowing participants to reflect on how they want to grow in their faith, and to refocus on our mission to spread the Gospel and give back to our schools.”

Experiencing God through art

Following Mass, participants prayed with an icon using the Visio Divina method before exploring the use of the arts as vehicles for reflection and contemplation.

Film workshop facilitator Anthony Siow said, “We often find it hard to name or place our feelings. The arts can often help us express ourselves, touching us in profound ways. God can be found in all things, not just in expected places like a church or at a spiritual retreat.”

Added origami workshop facilitator Nicholas Lye, “I hope the participants will begin to discover more ways to pray and encounter God, to enjoy those processes, and discover truths and insights that conventional ways of prayer may not offer.”

The Catholic ethos: Helping students encounter God

In his address, Archbishop William Goh encouraged Catholic schools to learn from their founders and forefathers who had helped people encounter God, and to create a Catholic ambience that is loving, forgiving and nurturing, where every student is respected. This is crucial in preparing 0the students to live lives with purpose and fullness, to be leaders of tomorrow.

His message resonated with organisers and participants alike. Fr Danker said, “The secular narrative today is ‘me, myself and I’ – the rush for good grades, doing well. Catholic education proposes a counter-narrative: young men and women exist not for themselves but for the community and God, to make the world better. We learn to be generous and to give back.”

Teacher Preston Tay shared, “The Archbishop gave a powerful and inspiring speech reminding us Catholic educators to always instil spirituality in our students. This distinguishes us from regular teachers.”

Student Luke Chew said, “Catholic students need a strong foundation in faith because the youth of today are the evangelisers of tomorrow. I am grateful to be in a Catholic school as I get to participate in meaningful activities like morning prayers and Masses that actively develop my faith and deepen my relationship with God.”

Learning from each other

As with previous conferences, a crucial segment involved getting each school to share its efforts to build faith in their community. Woo Soo Min, Planning Committee Chair, explained, “To grow the ethos in Catholic schools, there is a need for regular conversation to learn from each other, and for each school to examine its own efforts to impart Catholic values.

Children today face many challenges and may receive less guidance, especially if both parents are working. Many parents place much focus on academic results, but Catholic education gives our young the grounding they need to navigate the trials, temptations and uncertainties of life.” Thankful for his Catholic education, Luke said, “Through this conference, I have learnt to recognise  God’s presence in the many beautiful, little and unexpected things in life.”

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