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History of FMDM Singapore


China_Pioneers_1947.jpgOur history in Singapore has necessarily to go back to 1947, when three FMDM sisters (from England and Ireland) went to start a mission in China. The sisters joined the Irish Franciscan friars in the ancient walled city of Anlu, in the Sui-hsien (Hupeh) Province. China mission abandoned – Singapore’s gain. Due to the advancement of the Communist troops, the Sisters were ordered to abandon their mission in China and to go to Hong Kong, where they stayed with the Maryknoll Sisters, praying for the opportunity to return to Anlu. From the HISTORY BOOK, kept by the Sisters at that time we quote…. “It was here we came in contact with Rev. Fr. Adrian McGrath, a Columban Father, who informed us that one of the Jesuits in Hong Kong had recently returned from Singapore, and the Bishop there asked him to try and find a Nursing Order of Sisters who might be interested in taking over a women’s tuberculosis hospital under the British Government.”

Thus it came about that on 7 March 1949 Mother Angela arrived in Singapore and communicated with the Bishop and Government Health Authorities. It was decided that the Sisters would take over the three pavilion-type Tuberculosis wards of Tan Tock Seng Hospital, which eventually became known as Mandalay Road Hospital.

In February 1950, a Training School conducted by Sister Mary Campion Lowe was established, to prepare suitably educated young women for a Certificate in Tuberculosis Nursing. Vocations begin to arrive The coming of the vanguard of “Asian” Sisters began as early as 8 January 1951. As there was no novitiate established in Singapore, the postulants were sent to the Motherhouse in England for their initial religious formation and their professional training before returning to Singapore.

A new apostolate – Care of lepers

Another milestone in the saga of the FMDM followed quickly on the Sisters’ heels, so to speak, when the Government Medical Authorities asked the Sisters to take over the nursingcare of the Leper Settlement. “…..The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Scrimogeon, a Scotsman, took Mother General and Mother Mary Angela to see the Settlement, and of course, Mother was overjoyed at the prospect of our opportunity to do work so dear to the heart of our holy Father Saint Francis of Assisi, and to Mother’s heart as well.” (extract from the history book)

An early "dream" began to materialise
As early as 1952 the “dream” to build a Catholic Hospital in Singapore began to grow in the hearts and minds of the Sisters. “On May 12 1952, there was a meeting at Mount Alvernia about our new hospital. Each parish priest and two representatives from each parish came….” (extract from the history book)

The Building of Mount Alvernia Hospital

Thomson_Hill.jpgIn October 1956 land was purchased on “Thomson Hill” as it was known. On 4 March 1961, our great benefactor, the late Mr. Lee Kong Chian declared Mount Alvernia Hospital open, with 64 beds. Staffing of Mount Alvernia Hospital was done entirely by the Sisters, as it was not yet in a viable financial state to allow hiring of nurses, and domestic help. Among the FMDM sisters on the staff, we have to praise the foresight of Mother General Francis Spring, who had seen that most of the early “Asian” Sisters were professionally trained as Nurses / Midwives, Physiotherapist, Radiographer, Laboratory Technician and Dispenser, so that when the hospital opened, these Sisters were there to man the various departments and wards. With the help of generous benefactors the hospital developed and enlarged over the years and is now a 303 bed, acute general and maternity hospital, and two medical centres.

Convent for the sisters

All this time from 1961, the Sisters had been living on “hospital building” premises. In early 1975 the necessity was felt for the Sisters to have a separate building as a Convent in the grounds (or compound) of Mount Alvernia Hospital, and in 1976 the sisters moved into their new Convent and resided there until 1995.

Assisi Home and HOSPICE

OPening_Assisi_1993.jpgAssisi Home & Hospice, an outreach service of Mount Alvernia Hospital, owned by the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood (FMDM) Sisters, is a 35- bedded hospice for the continuing care of patients with cancer. We also have day care facilities for adults and children and home care services for patients who do not require to be hospitalized. Situated on the grounds of Mount Alvernia Hospital, Assisi Home & Hospice is a Charitable Organization registered with the National Council of Social Services.
 

 

 

Community at Villa Francis Home for the Aged at Mandai in 1976

In 1973, the Singapore Council of Social Services invited the FMDM sisters to staff a home for the elderly poor and destitute. Four years later, on January 8th 1977, the first Villa Francis Community moved in and six weeks later welcomed the first group of residents. The FMDM sisters continue to run and finance the Home until 2002.