Father Jean Marie Beurel was born on 5th February 1813 in Lower Brittany, France. He joined the Missions Etrangères de Paris as a deacon on 23rd August 1838. After his ordination, he left France for Singapore on 16th March 1839 when he was assigned to the mission of Siam.
Father Beurel finally arrived in Singapore on 20th October 1839. Although only 26 years old, he proved himself to be a very capable young man. His first task as assigned by Bishop Couverzey was to look into building the first church in Singapore. Although there was already a small Catholic chapel located along Bras Basah Road (at the site of the Singapore Art Museum), it was hardly big enough to house the increasing population turning up for mass. As an industrious priest, Father Beurel went about his task by first collecting funds to build the church. A piece of land for the new church was obtained at the corner of Victoria Street and Bras Basah Road. The foundation stone of the church was laid on 18th June 1843 and the building itself was finally completed and officially blessed by Bishop Courvezy on 6th Jun 1847. The Church was dedicated to the Good Shepherd, inspired by the last words of Bishop Laurent Imbert who was martyred in Korea in 1839.
Father Beurel was not only concerned with the building of the church, he was equally passionate about providing education for the children he saw. So in 1850, probably fed up with the dismal responses from the various people he wrote to, Father Beurel took it upon himself to return to France and look for the religious who could run Catholic schools in Singapore.
Father Beurel finally returned on 29th March 1852 with six Christian De La Salle Brothers and two Infant Jesus Sisters. To his dismay, for all his efforts, Bishop Jean Baptiste Boucho ordered that the Infant Jesus sisters go up to Penang to open schools there first. The Brothers went on to open the first Catholic boys’ school on 1st May 1852, which was later renamed St Joseph’s Institution. Undeterred by his superior’s command, Father Beurel took it upon himself to buy a piece of land using $4000 of his own money to establish the first Catholic school for girls. This was given to the Infant Jesus sisters who opened their school doors in Victoria Street on 18th Aug 1852.
Father Beurel continued to serve the mission for more than two decades until 1869 when he returned back to France because he was disabled by a stroke. He died in Paris, France on 3rd Oct 1872 at the age of 59 years and was buried in Montparnasse Cemetery.