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Saturday, January 19, 2008
An outing with the Jesuits - Part 2
After leaving the kinds, we trotted to the nearby Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus on Light Street. Established by the IJ sisters in 1852, it's the earliest girls school in these parts. Mother Mathilde, who established over 80 convent schools in the region also founded what is now known as CHIJMES in Singapore. It's a former Infant Jesus Convent which was closed down and converted into some kind of pub.
The outside of the Chapel.
When I brought the Jesuits to this part of town last year, we tried to get in but since the school was in session, the security was pretty tight and we didn't manage. This year, it being a public holiday, we got through security and wandered around a bit.
I went over to look for the sisters, who still live within the Convent grounds. We managed to meet with Sr. Fidelis, the superior. Wow! What a person and what a nun!Very feisty. Great company and great fun. She regaled us with stories from the past, of her home country, Burma, of her family (1 bishop, 2 priests and 1 nun, I think) and of her life and times. A wonderful and totally charming person and sister.
She took us for a guided tour of the place, which is huge.
We first went to the Chapel. Wow... I was awestruck by it's beauty. The stained glass and windows illuminated the place in a heavenly glow. You could feel the holiness of the place where the Sacrament is still reserved.
The altar is modern as a 'renovation' occurred and the high altar torn down in the wake of the turbulent 60's. The whole chapel, as well as the school was recently restored due to the efforts of its alumni after being in a very dilapidated state for years.
But unfortunately, due to it's location and distance from the nun's quarters, the crucifixes, candlesticks and lamps had to be removed for fear of them being stolen. Break-ins have occurred in the past and the area isn't as safe as it once was.
A truly beautiful place.
Sr. Fidelis was kind enough to tell us some of the stories connected to this place, it's history and it's importance as the heart of the Convent. Of course the days when the place resounded with the footsteps of the nuns are long gone, there being only 6 of them resident there. But their memory still burns brightly in the minds of people like Sr. Fidelis.
We were then taken on the rest of the tour and shown such gems as the well (below) dug by Captain Francis Light who founded the state of Penang.
In fact, he had his residence here (above) before the land was given over to the school. The courtyards, quadrangles and frangipani trees remind me of my own school.
The grounds, as you can see are very tranquil and beautiful. The students are a privileged bunch, to be able to study in such surroundings.
On a more sombre note, during WW2 and the Japanese Occupation, the Convent was converted into a detention centre. The crew of the USS Grenadier, an American submarine, were detained and tortured here.
They left their mark by carving their names into the walls of the classroom where they were held as you can see below.
This is truly a beautiful place and made more so by the kind sisters who dwell there, still serving God and being faithful to their vows. Sr. Fidelis is nothing if not faithful, as she so often reminds us. =)
It was a really pleasant visit and I do hope to come back and chat with the sisters again.
Come back for part 3, where the novices visit an Anglican Cathedral, the Courthouses, A Buddhist Temple and a mosque.