MALACCA: It was in Malacca that the Malaysian Canossian Daughters of Charity religious ministry, or fondly known as the Canossian Sisters community, was first established in 1905. History also records that it was from the historic state that this religious community (founded in Italy by St. Magdalene of Canossa in 1808), spread its wings, setting up convents, learning centres and religious communities in Kluang in 1950, Segamat (1956), Jinjang (1961 and Sungai Siput (1984).
The 110th commemoration themed A Journey of Purpose, Truth & Love was celebrated recently with no less than 30 Canossian religious community members from Kluang, Sungai Siput, Segamat, Jinjang, Singapore and Malacca joining hands with alumni members, past and present students, teachers and staff, benefactors and loyal supporters.
They turned up for an Eucharistic Celebration, the opening of the Canossian Heritage Gallery both at the Banda Hilir convent and a gala charity reunion dinner at the Pay Fong Hall where about 1,200 guests were in joyful and prideful attendance
The local Canossian roots could be traced back to 1884 when Bishop Antonio Joaquim Medeiro of the Portuguese Christian Mission invited the Canossian Sisters to establish a convent and a school in the state for the education and needs of girls, particulary the poor and abandoned.
Unfortunately, the bishop died in 1897 without fulfiling his mission. Meanwhile, Singapore’s St. Anthony’s Canossian Convent and whose religious community was founded in the republic in 1879, was already planning to send pioneer religious members for the Malacca cause.
Eventually, on May 23, 1905, four Canossian Sisters - Srs. Luigia Spazzini (an Italian missionary), Ermelinda Rozario (Singaporean), Catherine McBean and Felicia Victor (both from Macau) - set sail for Malacca.
On arrival, the four settled down in a small house in Banda Hilir and within days took over the running of a school in Tengkera for boys and girls. This school spelled the forerunner of the setting up of the Canossian Sacred Heart Convent in Banda Hilir in 1929.
With larger premises now at their disposal, the sisters welcomed more orphans and also boarders who families could afford to pay a minimum fee to enable their children attend the school in Tengkera, which was then known as the Portuguese Convent. The Banda Hilir convent was completed and officially opened on Aug 8, 1930, while at the same time, the establishment at Tengkera was closed down.
In 1935, further construction work for a chapel on the upper floor of the Banda Hilir convent commenced. The edifice was officially blessed and dedicated by the then Bishop of Macau, Dom Jose da Costa Nunes during his goodwill visit to Malacca in October, 1937.
In 1952, a new primary school block took shape a the Banda Hilir site. Four year later, an additional block was erected inclusive of accommodation for the local Canossian religious community members comprising mostly Italians, orphans, boarders and a kindergarten. Subsequent blocks also rose and the Banda Hilir premises eventually comprised the primary, secondary and kindergarten under the Sacred heart Convent banner by 1956.
In 1968, a new school block was built at the Portuguese Settlement for upper secondary classes while the Forms One and Two classes prevailed at the Banda Hilir premises. In November 1984, the secondary wing was completed.
The Forms One and Two classes at Banda Hilir also moved in and the establishment became known as the Canossa Convent School.
Today, the student intake at the primary school in Banda Hilir stands at 256 students together with a teaching staff of 30 and a supporting staff of six. The secondary section at the Portuguese Settlement has a 521-student enrolment coupled with a teaching staff of 44 and eight supporting staff.