'Singing nun' continues to serve beloved school in PJ

'Singing nun' continues to serve beloved school in PJ
Sister Enda still plays the piano during her spare time.
PHOTO: The Star/ Asia News Network

Datin Paduka Sister Enda Ryan, former principal of SMK Assunta Petaling Jaya, is well-respected and loved by thousands of the school's former students.

The 88-year-old is the last Irish nun in the country serving under the Order of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM).

Her retirement as principal of SMK Assunta Petaling Jaya in 1989 did not stop her from being active in the education sector.

Despite her age, she is still involved in the development of the school.

"I was recently involved in setting up the new library building for the school with the help of YTL Foundation.

"Two of the girls from the YTL family studied at SMK Assunta PJ," said Sister Enda, who lives in Section 4, Petaling Jaya.

This photo in 'Make Me An Instrument', a biography on Sister Enda, shows her racing with other teachers at a school sports day. (Right) Sister Enda still plays the piano during her spare time.

She is a cancer survivor but she fractured her arm in a fall that left her with a permanent injury and the inability to lift her right arm completely.

The nun is also involved in the Malaysian Christian Schools' Council and the Malaysian Catholic Education Council.

During her days as principal, Sister Enda would put up a positive quote on the school notice board every Monday morning.

She continues to do this via social media. "I upload positive and encouraging quotes mostly on Mondays on the SMK Assunta Alumni Facebook page. The page is followed by more than 3,000 former students.

"I also correspond with some of the former students through email," said the tech-savvy nun.

Sister Enda is also fondly known as the "singing nun".

Her students came up with the nickname as she sings and plays the piano well.

"I still play the piano and I should play more often now that I have more time," she said.

Her retirement also enables her to devote more time to prayer and be more involved in social and church-related work.

"Besides my daily prayer, I attend the Sunday evening mass at the Church of St Francis Xavier in Jalan Gasing," she said.

Sister Enda came to Malaya from Ireland in 1954 when she was only 26 and helped form the Assunta Primary School in early 1955.

She was awarded Malaysian citizenship in 1966.

The SMK Assunta Alumni published a biography on Sister Enda titled 'Make Me An Instrument' in 2013.

"Saya warganegara Malaysia," was the reply she gave when asked if she could converse in Malay.

"I am a Malaysian and I can speak the Malay language but I cannot seem to remove my Irish accent from my speech and my sense of humour," said the nun.

Sister Enda said despite her service in the teaching profession, she and several other missionary teachers were not entitled to pension.

"It may come as a surprise to many but for the most part of my teaching career, my salary was RM260 plus some allowance. I do not have any pension," she said.

Sister Enda said it was the late Brother Felix J. Donohue, the former La Salle Petaling Jaya principal, who realised the need for financial assistance for the missionary nuns and brothers following their retirement.

"He sold one property and kept part of the funds for the needs of the missionaries for their old age.

"The rest of the money was channelled back to charity. After Brother Felix's retirement, he took up financial management courses.

"This was to enable him to manage finances and assist his fellow peers," said Sister Enda who is still mourning the loss of Brother Felix who died on June 18.

When asked her thoughts on the issue of bullying among students, Sister Enda said parents should be more involved in their children's lives.

She said it was vital for parents to express positive emotions and love towards their children from a young age.

"The seeds of good values should be planted from home. Don't be shy to show love and don't stereotype children by saying things like boys will be boys when they misbehave," said Sister Enda.

She also advised teachers to keep a lookout for talents among students.

She said parents should be actively involved in Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) meetings.

"Some students may not be academically inclined but they may have artistic talents. They can become chefs and artists.

"Parents should also attend PTA meetings and discuss ways to tackle discipline issues. A good discussion will help put forward effective ideas," she said.

She added that schools could also implement a mentor system between bright and weak students.

When asked what is her one wish that has not been fulfilled, she replied, "I want to be able to pray better. I have problem focusing," laughed Sister Enda.

Those interested to get in touch with Sister Enda can email her at endafmm@gmail.com

The SMK Assunta Alumni published a biography of Sister Enda titled Make Me An Instrument in 2013. It is available at major bookstores.


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