The Marist brothers have a special mission to provide a Christian education for children and young people, particularly those who are poor, abandoned or neglected. This explains the letters ‘FMS’ after their name which stands for Fratres Maristae a Scholis or “Marist Brothers of the Schools”. The Brothers in Singapore belong to the Singapore-Malaysia-Hong Kong-China Province. The first Brothers arrived in China in 1891 and in Singapore in 1949.
When the Brothers first arrived, their first ministry was St. Teresa Sino-English School, the school of St. Teresa’s parish, which had 100 students in Primary One to Four. Classes for Primary Five and Six were added in 1953. By the time the Brothers left the school in 1954, the student population was 300. In 1949, four Marist Brothers were also invited to teach at Catholic High School in Singapore.
The school had been founded by Father Edward Becheras, MEP, with the help of some alumni of the Marist-run Sacred Heart College in Canton. (Father Becheras would later be responsible for stamping out any vestiges of communism in Catholic High School in the 1950s, while other local Chinese-medium schools struggled with students who were Communist sympathizers.) A year after its founding, the Brothers took responsibility for the administration of Catholic High. A primary section and a boarding house for Catholic students were opened in 1951. In 1974, administration of the school was handed back to the diocese.
The school which the Marist Brothers are most known for today is Maris Stella. It was founded in 1958 by Brother Joche Chanel in response to the overwhelming demand for places in Catholic High School. In its first year, Maris Stella had 300 students with four Primary One classes, four Secondary One classes, and a staff of 11. The school first borrowed the premises of St. Stephen School (run by the La Salle Brothers) and taught the students in the afternoon. As the classes expanded, Maris Stella functioned at different premises concurrently. It was only in 1967 that Maris Stella moved to its own premises at Mount Vernon Road, where it remains. Brother Joche Chanel was its principal until his retirement in 1981 and he expanded the school greatly. Its subsequent principal, Brother Anthony Tan, added many facilities, and started programmes to train teachers in sharing the Marist spirit. Today, the Brothers’ mission of “Making Jesus known and loved among children and young people” has become a shared mission with lay teachers under the Marist schools.
Another school that the Brothers are known for is Maris Stella Kindergarten. It was started in Flower Road in the early 1970s in collaboration with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) Sisters who carried out its day-to-day operations while the Marist Brothers provided the facilities and management. The FMM Sisters headed the kindergarten until the 1990s when a lay principal was appointed.
John, A., Skadian C., Alfred H., Reuters L., Tan T., Ho K., … Yap N. (2004). Come, Follow Me: 40th Sacerdotal Anniversary of His Grace Archbishop Nicholas Chia. Singapore: Archdiocese of Singapore.
Ooi, W. (2007, January). Up close and personal: Marist Brothers. Catholic News. Retrieved from http://catholicnews.sg/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1813:dedicated-educators-for-jesus&catid=113:january-2007&Itemid=79.