Address by Ms Vivienne Lim, Chairperson, IJ Board of Management at CHIJ 165th Anniversary Founder’s Day Thanksgiving Eucharistic Celebration 2019
Your Grace, Reverend Fathers, IJ Sisters, Principals, esteemed guests, and dear IJ girls (past and present)
On behalf of Sr Maria, IJ Sisters and the IJ Board of Management, I would like to first express our gratitude to His Grace, Archbishop William Goh, and to all the 27 Reverend Fathers for celebrating our thanksgiving mass for us today.
A huge thank you also to the Organising Committee comprising all our 11 CHIJ Principals led by Mrs Margaret Tan, supported by their respective Vice-Principals, Operation and Administrative Managers, teachers and staff, who worked very hard to put together this incredibly massive event. Today we have almost 18,000 people, right here in this stadium!
There are so many more who deserve our thanks (e,g. our combined choirs, servers, ushers, media team, generous sponsors, etc, and many more). To all who have contributed, please accept our gratitude for all that you have done to put together this event.
Our celebration today is possible, only because of the vision of our Founder, Blessed Nicolas Barre, who saw the need to educate girls especially the poor. Mother Mathilde and the pioneering sisters responded to the call to come to Singapore. They started a school within 10 days of arrival, and built an orphanage for the children abandoned at their gates. Throughout its history, IJ education and service to the disadvantaged, has always gone hand-in-hand.
After Mother Mathilde, a succession of IJ Sisters from Europe have dedicated their lives to serving with the local sisters in Singapore. Today we want to take a moment to honour these IJ Sisters whom we have in our midst. Provincial Councillor of England-Ireland Sr Rosemary Barter, Provincial of Malaysia Sr Mary Theresa Chua, Provincial of Thailand Sr Apinya Tangsukkasemsan, Provincial of Singapore Sr Maria Lau together with the IJ Sisters in Singapore.
Our community has grown into the IJ Homes and Children Centre as well as 11 CHIJ schools all over Singapore, comprising at least 15,000 girls at any point. Over the course of these 165 years, our schools have educated at least 180,000 girls in Singapore (thanks to the contribution of many dedicated teachers / educators over the years, many of whom are seated here today. We want to also express our gratitude to you). Our IJ girls have gone on to make an impact in the lives of many others in society, in the workplace, at home with their families. A great number of IJ educated girls have broken glass ceilings, taken the path less travelled, advocated for the voiceless, and dedicated their lives in the service of others (especially the marginalized). Many of our alumnae are here with us today – thank you for joining our celebration today and for spreading the legacy that is CHIJ.
Our history and memories are beautifully captured in this commemorative book, titled “Ever Seeking, Ever Serving – the IJ Spirit Lives on” written by Dr Eulalia Han, an ex-student and present teacher in CHIJ. Please join me in thanking Dr Eulalia Han. We will be distributing copies of this book to all guests today and to our students.
Our aspiration for the future of IJ Education is to continue building Christ-centred school communities, with emphasis on our values of truth, justice, freedom and love, and on service to others, especially the disadvantaged. There are also 2 areas that we want our IJ girls to be ambassadors of in the coming years.
(i) To be an ambassador for PEACE:
We live today, in a world where technological and economic progress has given us good material lives. But we also live in a world where increasing rifts and divisions threaten communities and nations. We live in an age where men walk into mosques and gun down defenceless people; in an age where men walk into churches and detonate bombs on Easter Sunday.
Today, more than ever, there is a need to speak words of peace, to seek to understand one another even if our opinions or beliefs differ, to choose love instead of hatred, to build bridges where people are divided. In a divided world, we want all IJ girls to make a stand for peace. We will be asking all IJ girls to take their pledge to be Ambassadors of Peace in their schools on Youth Day and Children’s Day.
Secondly, we ask of all IJ girls
(ii) To be Ambassadors for our Environment:
Mankind has progressed materially, in many significant ways over the last century. But such progress has come at a cost to our environment. Scientists predict that temperatures could rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. By 2100, some countries could be submerged, more people will die from heat, and a third of life forms on earth could face extinction.
Some of us here, will not live to see this. But you and your children, will. So there is an urgent need for you to protect our earth, to care for our common home. For what you have saved today as our daughters, tomorrow you will give to your children as mothers.
You may think you are just 1 small girl. But look around, at how many you are. Remember this moment! If all 18,000 of you make a stand, if each of you influence your parents, siblings, and friends, to commit to peace and to care for our common home, we will make a difference, together. So dear girls, make your stand for peace, make your stand to protect our earth, always seeking to be the difference and always serving throughout your lives. And may you always remain Simple in your Virtues, Steadfast in your Duties. Thank you.