By Teresa Boon
In early 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, who, in the course of conversation, disclosed their loneliness at being far away from their home towns. The idea of having a group of Catholic nurses meet and get to know each other was thus conceived. In August 1947, with the blessing from Bishop Michael Olcomendy, the first branch of Catholic Nurses’ Guild was formed in Alor Star with five members.
In the following year, Fr Fortier was transferred to Kuala Lumpur and there he met more nurses from various Malayan states. A second CNG branch was soon formed in Kuala Lumpur with the local Training School providing more members. As membership grew, 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. Branches of CNG were soon established throughout Malaya and membership increased steadily every year. During this time of active recruitment campaign, CNG Malaya extended to having branches in Singapore.
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, the Rural Health Department, Naval Base Hospital and General Hospital. On account of the stable foundation of the Guild with its large membership, the first local 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 becoming religious sisters. After the separation of Malaysia and Singapore, and the increasing membership in both countries, that it was felt CNG Malaya should have its own headquarters with Malaysian nurses as office bearers.
Efforts were made to form a Malaysian Guild with active members from branches of Assunta Hospital, General and University Hospitals. In 1969, the Catholic Nurses’ Guild of Malaysia was established. On 4th May the following year, 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.
This article can be accessed at https://sgcatholicnurses.wordpress.com/about-2/ . It has been reproduced with some minor edits with the kind permission of the Catholic Nurses Guild in Singapore.