Outpouring of grief and memories

Guiding light: Sister Enda, the founder and principal of SMK Assunta.

PETALING JAYA: There has been an outpouring of condolences, grief and fond memories as students of SMK Assunta here, both past and present, bade farewell to their beloved founder, Datin Paduka Sister Enda Ryan, 96.

Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood remembers the “singing nun” as someone who taught her girls to be “fearless”.

“Sister Enda, who was our principal then, spent time guiding us in charity works and other activities under the Interact Club and English Literature Club.

“She had a really great influence on my life. She definitely made me who I am today,” said Dr Jemilah, who has held many positions including as a former special adviser to the prime minister during the Covid-19 pandemic, under-secretary general for partnerships in the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Chief of the Secretariat of the World Humanitarian Summit at the United Nations in New York.

“We were a diverse group of students and she always respected our backgrounds,” she said, adding that many felt Sister Enda was “their mother in school”.

“We will miss her very dearly,” Dr Jemilah added.

Also extending their condolences was former Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, who said Sister Enda’s passing has left a profound void in the hearts of many.

“My heart breaks upon hearing that Sister Enda has left us.

“She truly led a life filled with purpose and clarity, empowering generations of young women to be all that they can be – confident, assertive and mission-oriented,” she said when contacted.

“A cancer survivor, a loving, singing nun who touched all of our lives – Assuntarian sisters future and past, through a smile that ignited the passion towards the path of good.

“Our deepest, most heartfelt and profound condolences.”

SMK Assunta Board of Governors vice-chair Datuk Kathleen Chew said Sister Enda’s primary concern was to ensure all students thrived in school, irrespective of race, religion or social status.

“She was firm but always kind and concerned for the well-being of all. Most of all, she was full of energy and laughter,” said Chew, who is also YTL Foundation programme director.

Former group chief editor and current columnist June H. L. Wong, who was there during the early 1970s, said she remembers Sister Enda for her compassion.

“Sister Enda was so sweet and kind to everyone. She cared so much (for us),” she said.

“Being in a school run by Sister Enda was really a privilege as it was a safe space for us.”

Capital A president (Ventures) Aireen Omar expressed deep gratitude to Sister Enda for making Assunta a secure environment where everyone could freely explore and grow, likening the school to a “second home”.

“I made many friends there. The appreciation of our diversity was deep.

“We supported each other in many endeavours.

“Debating, editorial, nature’s society, cross country, school band, volleyball, hockey, English literary night plays, Sains Rumah Tangga (domestic science), campaigning and voting our own prefectorial board,” she recalled.

Aireen also said the song written by Sister Enda – Ad Veritatem Per Caritatem – is the school’s motto in Latin which means ‘To Truth Through Charity’, is the very foundation of all Assuntarians today.

“Rest in peace, Sister Enda,” she added.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur chancellor Rev Fr Dr Clarence Devadass said: “Her dedicated services in the field of education, especially for girls, not only inspired many but also gave opportunities to the needy.”

Sister Enda passed away at 11am yesterday.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share the news of our beloved Sister Enda’s passing,” said Sister Elizabeth Tan of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) in the Assunta Alumni Facebook post.

Sister Enda’s dedication to service and giving through education and charities date back to her arrival in then Malaya in 1955.

She made significant contributions throughout her lifetime – from championing women’s education to assisting her FMM sisters in the growth of Ave Maria Clinic, which has expanded to Assunta Hospital today.

During her 31 years of dedicated service, Sister Enda received numerous awards, including the Excellent Service Award from the Education Ministry (1985), the Pingat Jasa Cemerlang (1986), the Pingat Jasa Kebaktian (1987) and the Anugerah Tokoh Guru Selangor (1990).

Sister Enda was also conferred an honorary doctorate in humanities from Taylor’s University in 2022.

She was born Eileen Philomena Ryan on Dec 30, 1928, in Galbally, Ireland.

She joined the FMM in 1947 and arrived in then Malaya in 1954, following a request by Sir Michael Hogan (the then chief justice of Malaya) to set up schools to cater for girls whose education had been disrupted during the Communist insurgency.

She became a Malaysian citizen in October 1966.

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Schools , Education , Sister Enda , Assunta


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