In 1934, Bishop Adrien Devals sent an invitation through the Vicar Apostolic of Bangkok, Monsignor René Perros, to the Carmel of Bangkok, requesting the establishment of a Carmelite monastery in Singapore. The Foundress and Prioress of the Carmel of Bangkok, Mother Anne of Jesus, agreed to this and the first Carmelite sisters arrived in Singapore four years after.
On April 21 1938, Mother Therese des Anges (originally from the Carmel of Floreffe in Belgium) and Sister Theresita of the Child Jesus boarded a boat from Bangkok and arrived two days later in Singapore where they were hosted by the Sisters of the Infant Jesus. A second batch of sisters and some postulants arrived two weeks later on May 8, after which the sisters proceeded to their new monastery.
Bishop Devals provided the sisters with a small monastery on top of a hill called Bukit Teresa in Kampong Bahru which was described then as “on the outskirts of the city so that solitude and silence could be observed”. The monastery, Carmel of Christ the King was officially established on May 11 1938, and Mother Therese des Anges was appointed Prioress and Mistress of Novices.
Their life of prayer and solitude at Carmel however was soon disrupted by the Second World War. The sisters took refuge at the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus because their monastery was converted to an anti-aircraft base by the British and later occupied by the Japanese. After the war, the nuns found their home looted and dilapidated. With the help of their chaplain Father Stephen Lee, they made it habitable again and eventually added three new wings and a chapel. The Chapel of Christ the King was consecrated by Archbishop Olcomendy in December 1949.
In February 1984 a columbarium was built and the remains of some of the late sisters who were exhumed from a Catholic Cemetery were cremated and placed in the niches. 11 more sisters have since passed away in Carmel.
As of 2006, there are 16 sisters in the monastery, 15 Singaporeans and one Malaysian.
This is an edited excerpt from an article titled “Up close and personal – The Carmelites,” from the Catholic News, July 2006. The full article is accessible from http://catholicnews.sg/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1294.