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History Of Canossa Convent Primary School

The proposal to build Canossa Convent Primary School (CCPS) was made by Fr Stephen Lee with the intention of having an orphanage and a private Chinese School for girls in the Geylang area.

The work began in the mid ‘30s and by 1941, the main building was ready. It was the start of a community of four sisters and 20 orphans. The official opening was on 15 August 1941. The school was supposed to function in January 1942 but unfortunately, war broke out. During the war, Canossa Convent became a refuge for war victims. On 15 May 1942, CCPS started to function using Japanese as the medium of instruction. 

After the war in 1946, a private Chinese School was established on the site for those who had reached school age. In 1951, due to the lack of funds, the Chinese Private School was converted into a one-session Government-Aided English School.

With the change, the sisters began to teach the classes which all along were taken by Chinese-speaking lay teachers. In 1962, CCPS became a two-session Government-Aided English School.

The Life Of Our Foundress- St. Magdalene Of Canossa

Saint Magdalene of Canossa was born in a palace on 1 March 1774. She was the second child of a Veronese noble, the Marquis Octavious Canossa, and his noble Hungarian wife, Countess Maria Teresa Sziuha.

Cradle Without A Smile

Her birth disappointed her parents who were longing for a son to continue the family name.

She was only five when her father was stricken by a sudden illness while on a geological excursion. Barely two years later, Magdalene’s mother remarried. Her grandfather did not want the children to leave Canossa Palace and so they were left in the care of their uncle.

A French governess, who was appointed to care for the children, did not treat Magdalene well. During her eight unhappy years under the governess, Magdalene found solace in Mary, the Mother of Sorrow. When Magdalene was 15, the governess left the household. Not long after, Magdalene suffered a series of long and painful illnesses. She was in pain and poor health for the rest of her life.

Years Of Searching

At 17, following her call to God, Magdalene spent some time in the Carmelite monastery in Verona but she felt drawn to a more active role among the people.

From 1792 to 1800, under the spiritual direction of Fr Luigi Liberia, she grew in the awareness of her calling but obediently accepted the guardianship of her younger sister and the responsibility of running the palace.

Through the Napoleonic invasion of 1796, Magdalene experienced war and exile. She also became involved in caring for orphaned girls whom she housed in a rented house together with some women. In 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte visited Canossa Palace and granted her the use of the monastery of St. Joseph for her work with poor girls.

In Search Of A Home

On 7 May 1808, Magdalene left her ancestral home for good and at 34, started her first convent, St. Joseph’s Convent.

Magdalene described her new institute as such: “while it gets life from the genuine sources of prayers, medication, sacramental life and union with God, it must work for the good of others…aiming at improving the morality of the growing generation, at helping orphans, the fallen, the unfortunate.”

Saint Magdalene of Canossa was truly a woman in love with God. She died, aged 61, on the Friday of Passion Week in 1835 as she prayed the Hail Mary. But her great love for God lives on, reaching out across five continents through her Order, the Canossian Daughters of Charity.

Today, the Canossian Sisters continue her mission of love, educating the youth, assisting the sick and elderly, proclaiming the Good News of God’s love through schools, homes and spiritual formation.

“Make Jesus known and loved”
- St Magdalene of Canossa