The Jesuits live by the motto “Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam”, which means “for God’s Greater Glory. As such, there is no person, place or country that they will not serve. All over the world, their order has established universities, parishes, scientific observatories, counselling and retreat centres, various outreach programmes to the poor and refugees.
The Jesuits were one of the first orders in Asia. The first Jesuit to reach Malaya was the great preacher St. Francis Xavier, who visited Malacca in 1545 and subsequently sent two of his Brothers to start a community and a school. Unfortunately the Jesuits were expelled from Malacca after the city fell to the Dutch in 1641.
The Society re-established its presence in Malaya once more in the 1950s, with the arrival of two French Jesuit priests—Father Andre Joilet SJ and Father Jean Monsterleet SJ—from China to Singapore. Father Joilet worked at the the Church of the Sacred Heart in Tank Road while Father Monsterleet taught school children catechism. Other Jesuit Fathers followed in their stead. Father James Kearney SJ from the United States was the editor of the newly-established Malayan Catholic News from 1951 to 1959 and Father Arthur Berube SJ was assigned to work at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Singapore.
In 1951, Father Patrick Joy SJ was appointed Superior of the Jesuits in Malaya (now Malaysia-Singapore). When Archbishop Michael Olcomendy approached him to start a hostel for trainee teachers shortly after his arrival in Singapore, he began construction works for such a place. The Kingsmead Hall Jesuit community and student hostel opened in July 1954. The members of the first Jesuit community in Singapore were Fathers Patrick Joy SJ, Kevin O’Dwyer SJ, James Kearney SJ and Brian Kelly SJ (who was also the hostel warden).
In late 1957, Archbishop Olcomendy made a request for the Jesuits to build and manage a parish in the West of Singapore. The area around Kingsmead Hall was chosen to be the site of the new church for ease of administration. Father O’Dwyer was the clerk-of-works responsible for fitting out the parish. The Church of St Ignatius, named after the founder of the Society of Jesus, was opened in 1961 adjacent to Kingsmead Hall with Father O’Dwyer as temporary parish priest. He ended up holding the position for the next 13 years, until September 1974.
The Jesuits in Singapore currently manage the parish of St Ignatius and Kingsmead Centre for Ignatian Spirituality and Counselling (CISC), as well as serve in areas of education and the noviceship formation of young men from all over Asia.
Our History. (n.d.) In Society of Jesus: Jesuits of Malaysia & Singapore. Retrieved from http://www.mas-jesuits.org/index.php/our-history.
Our Origin. (n.d.) In Catholic Church of St Ignatius Singapore: About Us. Retrieved from http://www.stignatius.org.sg/about-us/our-history.php.
Read more about the mission and good works of the Jesuits on their website at http://www.jesuit.org.sg/.