History

Catholic Nurses’ Guild (CNG) of

Singapore

by Teresa Boon

Historical Background

Early in 1947, Fr. A. Fortier, a French priest, was sent to Sungei Patani, Malaya, to assist his parish priest, Fr. Vendargon. Part of Fr. Fortier’s duties was to visit the sick in hospitals. One day, he came across two young nurses from Alor Star. In the course of conversation, they disclosed their loneliness in the hostel, being far away from their home towns. While trying to solve this problem, the idea of having a group of Catholic nurses meet and get to know each other, was conceived. Fr. Fortier thought it was a worthwhile project to take up. And so, in August 1947, with the blessing from Bishop Olcomendy, the first branch of Catholic Nurses’ Guild was formed in Alor Star. It had five members.

In the following year, Fr. Fortier was transferred to Kuala Lumpur and there he met more nurses, hailed from various states of Malaya. Soon a second CNG branch was formed in Kuala Lumpur. The advantage of having a Training School meant the possibility of bigger membership.

As the membership began to grow, a Federal Committee was formed with office bearers from Kuala Lumpur. The Committee set to work quickly by appointing nurses to take charge of various states of Malaya. The main task at hand was to contact all Catholic nurses with the aim of spreading the Guild farther afield.

With blessings from the patron of the Guild, branches of CNG were soon established throughout Malaya and thus, membership increased steadily, with each year. During this time of active recruitment campaign, Singapore nurses became members of CNG Malaya, having their own branches in Singapore.

Then, in May 1949, Fr. Fortier was transferred to Singapore. By this time, there were four CNG branches in active operation. These branches were found at Mandalay Road Hospital, Rural Health Department, Naval Base Hospital and General Hospital.

On account of the stable foundation of the Guild with its large membership, the first Executive Committee was commissioned on 30th October 1949 by the Bishop. Members of this committee were three Singapore nurses with Fr. Fortier as Spiritual Director. Miss Wilhelmina de Cruz served as the International Correspondent of the Guild.

Birth of CNG, Singapore

By 1969, CNG Malaya had enjoyed about 22 years of fruitful existence with a good number of its members responding to a Higher Call; others were promoted to higher status of responsibilities and still many others bravely took the marriage vows. It was about this time, due to the regional set-up of Malaysia and Singapore, and the increased membership in both countries, it was felt that CNG Malaya should have its own headquarters with Malaysian nurses as office bearers.

Efforts were made to form a Malaysian Guild by active members from branches of Assunta Hospital, General and University Hospitals. So, it was in 1969, that the “Catholic Nurse’ Guild of Malaysia” was established. Then on 4th May 1970, the former CNG Malaya was officially dissolved at the CNG HQ in Singapore. Following the dissolution, CNG Malaysia and CNG Singapore became two distinct Guilds, each looking after the Catholic nurses in their own regions.

Members of the first Executive Council of CNG Singapore were elected in 1970. They were: Spiritual Director-Msgr. Stanley Fernandez; President- Miss Wilhelmina de Cruz; Vice President-Miss Teresa Boon; Secretary -Miss Audrey Tang; Treasurer -Mr. Tony Tan and nine other Council members.

Listed below is a table showing the Spiritual Directors and Presidents of CNG Executive Council since 1949.

Spritual Directors Years
Fr. A. Fortier 1949-1958
Fr. S. Fernandez 1958-1975
Fr. Joachim Kang 1975-1980
Fr. Vincent Chee 1980-1981
Fr. Johnson Fernandez 1981
Presidents Years
Mrs. M. Penefather 1949-1951
Miss W. de Cruz 1951-1971
Miss Teresa Boon 1974-1973
Miss Angela Yip 1973-1979
Miss Janet Chan 1979-2003
Mrs Theresa Cheong 2003-2015
Ms Laura Tan 2015-
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