Members of the Catholic Nurses' Guild of Singapore pose with spiritual director Father Johnson Fernandez. The group recently celebrated its golden jubilee. (Photo: CNGS Facebook group)
The Catholic Nurses’ Guild of Singapore (CNGS) recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its foundation by reiterating its pledge to keep up with its motto of comfort, compassion and tender loving care.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the group ditched a flamboyant celebration of the golden jubilee, holding a low-key program to mark the anniversary late last year with its 250 member nurses.
Founded in 1970, the CNGS bears the legacy of Father Albert Fortier, a French missionary priest from the Paris Foreign Missions Society who started the Catholic Nurses' Guild in Malaysia, then Malaya, back in 1947.
While dispensing pastoral care to the sick in hospitals, Father Fortier was moved by the loneliness of young nurses who were posted to hospitals far from their hometowns. The priest set up the support group-cum-faith community for Catholic nurses in Kedah with five members. He later started another branch in capital Kuala Lumpur in 1948.
Following his transfer to Singapore, Father Fortier helped in the formation of the CNGS, which elected its first executive council in 1970.
In her message, Laura Tan, president of the guild, said that despite overwhelming fear and sense of uncertainty over Covid-19, Catholic nurses have been dedicated to their duties of serving patients by keeping the motto of the organization in their hearts.
The members of the community have also kept their faith alive in the time of the coronavirus pandemic, she said.
“We had to stay physically and mentally strong to support our patients, their families and our own families back home. But, as time went by and we gradually got to know more about the disease and saw our patients recovering and returning home to reunite with their families, we felt more confident and less fearful,” Tan wrote in a message posted on Catholic News of Singapore.
Besides regular duties, Catholic nurses have joined parish members to cook and deliver food to hospital wards and homes, attended Masses when restrictions were lifted, prepared masks for priests, visited neighborhoods and attended virtual gatherings to keep up the community spirit and faith formation, Tan noted.
Father Johnson Fernandez, spiritual director of the group since 1973, reminded the nurses about the greatness of the profession and lauded them for outstanding services during the pandemic.
“Nursing is more than a profession — for a Catholic nurse, it’s pure dedication. During this Covid-19 pandemic, the nurses have given us an example of heroism in their willingness to risk their lives for others. We salute their courage and self-sacrifice driven by their love of Christ,” Father Fernandez said.
Over the past decades, the CNGS has been actively involved in a range of national and international services.
The CNGS is a member organization of Caritas Singapore, the social service arm of the Church in Singapore, and collaborates in various activities including helping the sick, handicapped, elderly and children with special needs.
It partners with the Archdiocesan Commission of Pastoral Care for Migrant and Itinerant Workers to provide training on basic care-giving to foreign domestic workers. Training courses are held twice a year with 10 monthly sessions over six months each.
Its members befriend patients with HIV/Aids under the Catholic Aids Relief Effort by interacting with them over lunch and providing healthcare education twice a month.
The CNGS also runs awareness campaigns for the Natural Family Planning program and promotes shared responsibilities for family planning, provides medical and first aid services for church events, arranges free medical clinics and pastoral care workshops for lay people and organizes annual retreats and year-end gatherings for local and foreign nurses, and participates in pastoral and community outreach programs in neighboring countries including Indonesia.
The group is a member of the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medico-Social Assistants which collaborates with the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, the Pontifical Council of the Family and the Pontifical Council of the Laity in the Vatican.