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Good Shepherd Sisters bid adieu to Marymount Centre after 64 years

Good Shepherd Sisters will miss Marymount haven but also look forward to new home

Published on Mar 23, 2014 7:35 AM
 

For 64 years, the Good Shepherd Sisters have lived on a quaint hilltop haven with the gates always open to devotees and those needing a break from city life.

But by next month, the Roman Catholic order of nuns will have to leave their beloved Marymount Centre, where major work on the North-South Expressway will start next year, for a new five-storey building in the bustling neighbourhood of Toa Payoh.

That means giving up their garden for balcony space, and unlocked gates for ones with card access for security reasons.

"It's hard to let go of a place that you love dearly. Many of us were crying when we first heard the news in 2011," said 76-year-old Sister Gerard Fernandez, who still hopes that the buildings, which are "still sturdy", can be saved.

 
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Background story

MILESTONES

December 1939: Four Irish sisters set up the Singaporean branch of the Good Shepherd Sisters' order.

1942: Their home, a bungalow in Punggol, is bombed during the fall of Singapore in 1942. Five nuns are sent by the invading Japanese army to a jungle settlement camp in Bahau, in Negeri Sembilan.

1945: After the war, the Sisters move into a bungalow in Kampong Java, where they start a kindergarten with just six pupils. This is the beginning of today's Marymount Convent School.

1947: The British give the Sisters 4.5ha of land on a 99-year lease in Thomson Road. They name it Marymount.

November 1950: Maria Hertogh, 13, is placed in protective custody at the centre. After a court rules that the girl, who had been raised by Muslims, must be returned to her biological Dutch parents, rioters march towards the centre but are stopped by the authorities.

1990s: The Sisters start a programme to teach Filipino maids basic English and computer skills in 1995. Three years later, Sister Elizabeth Lim sets up the Oasis Retreat House.

2001: The Ahuva Good Shepherd opens, providing residential care to girls aged between four and 16 who come from single-parent families and other challenging backgrounds.

2011: The Sisters are told that the convent must make way for the North-South Expressway tunnel.