Sunday, July 01, 2007

SMI Chapel - A Forgotten Legacy.

Little is written about the school chapel. This under-publicised heritage of SMI, located on the 2nd floor of the main building and is linked to the quarters where the Brothers stayed, has been long "abandoned", as OMA president Adrian Tsen put it. He said during the 60s' until the early 80s' the chapel was a focal point among students who congregated there to sing hymns and start the day with words of prayers before proceeded to their respective classes.

"I remember the chapel was a place students would come together after school every Friday to have fellowship together. The singing created such pleasant and sweet atmosphere within the school compound. In other words, it was a place students found solace and peace," said Adrian, who studied in SMI during the 60s.

"They brought along their guitars and others would join in to sing along. It was such a pleasant sight to see Michaelians at a place they considered a sanctuary," said Tn Hj Meor Idris, who has taught in SMI for the past 30 years.
He said the chapel was a favourite place among students.

"Some would sit outside the chapel reading their books and others would just fellowship inside. Masses would also be held for Catholic students. They liked the serenity and the soothing effects in the chapel," Meor said.


During World War 2, before St Michael's was occupied by the Japanese, its soldiers machine-gunned the building and seriously damaged the school roof. Looters stole furniture and books. They even tried to wrench the tabernacle from the altar of the chapel. It was soon that the chapel was converted into the State Legislative Council Chambers. The altar was removed and used as firewood. Here, the European and the Chinese with Japanese wives had to take a promise of allegiances to the Japanese Emperor.


Interviews with former teachers and old boys reveal that serious infestation by termites on the wooden panels around the altar, walls and ceilings also attributed to the closure of the chapel. Presently, the chapel is under the care of Brother Matthew Bay, who personally looks into its posterity, upkeep and maintenance.
Currently under extensive repairs in line with the roof replacement works of the main building, the chapel is set to shine again. Plans are afoot to restore the originality of the chapel, including looking into the architectural aspects and its outstanding work of art - the paintings and stained glass windows.
School principal Mr Phoon Choong Chee and OMA president Mr Adrian Tsen have expressed their desire to see a complete restoration of the chapel, after which the great activities of yesteryear are brought back again to resonate the atmosphere long missed by the school community. Many feel that, after decades of neglect, the chapel is to be accorded the status and recognition it truly deserves.
Feel free to comment about the chapel.


KinTung said...

It had been neglected for decades.
Throughout my 13 years in SMI, I never stepped into the chapel officially and it never been opened to students.
It was closed, just like a abandoned storeroom.
Somehow, it's a place which is very historical and meaningful, besides of the school parlour.
If the person who concerns really put his heart and soul to the school's development, the school chapel won't be infected with the termites. For me, this is totally a shame.
Whereby, the school chapel should be reconstructed again, and reopen it again to everyone who wanted to join together, as a group or even a big family and from there it'll be the place where the Michaelian Spirituality grows.
Each part originality of the school, not only the chapel, MUST be restored. Each parts has its stories and nostalgias. If the originality of the school (external and internal) are not being restored, it is meaningless to celebrate the 100th years anniversary of SMI in the next 5 years.
I have the confidence that under the patron of Mr Phoon C.C. and Mr Adrian Tsen, that a great agenda in this matter will be carried out soon which it will marked the school's history itself.
As we're stepping into the 100th years anniversary very soon,
therefore, Michaelians, PLEASE WAKE UP.

Kin Tung Wong
USA1 2006

Peter Khiew said...

This is one story which I believe will generate a lot of comments. Let the school know how you feel about the chapel and how the school can work towards making it shine again.

Seng Hoo said...

Does it means the school's gonna use the chapel for something or renovate it into some kind of room?

Harneak said...

Each school has its own "special" place which students are proud of and speaks about not only among themselves but to their children. I m one such person. Being a Michaelian, till 1980, I love each and every part of my Alma Mater and is proud of it. The school Chapel has a special place for me too. Any harm to it hurts me deep. Even as I m not a Catholic, I use to sneak to the Chapel and enjoy its serinity during our recess or just "hang around" at the chapel after school. There used to be fellowship going on at times after school. It is difficult to describe its quite and peaceful atmosphere. Its just beutiful.
Due to the roof replacement works, the school building is under going a real weather test. The Chapel has not been spared either. Every care has been taken by the contractor to ensure that least damage is done to the Chapel. The Contractor has successfully saved the magnificent ceiling but the beautiful wood panelling has taken a toll from the weather and termites. New roof over the chapel has been completed in the least time. I share your view and strongly suggest that the Chapel should be reopen and fellowship be held more often. If left closed, it will soon be forgotten by the future generations of Michaelians.

Principal - Mr Phoon, OMA President - Mr Adrian Tsen and the BOG has ensured that the originality of the building be kept. Bro Matthews is also overlooking to the various projects carried out at the school.

It is every Michaelians wish that our 100th Anniversary in 2012 is celebrated in great joy and pomp.

Harneak Singh
Form 5, 1980

LX Manmathan said...

When is the Chapel is being opened again. Why not the Michaelian Catholic Community is given a chance to conduct mass here and their prayer session every Friday after school here. By this, the students religious life become more stronger. 'What we sow now, is what we reap later.'

palohchai 'n' littlecicak said...

Honestly, I've never been to the chapel before as it was closed all the time. I've always wanted to step my foot into the school chapel but the opportunity never come by. Having been studying in SMI for 13 years, it's really sad that I never had the chance to look at this serene and holiest place of SMI. I've always wondered why the chapel was not open to the student during my days. However, if I'm not mistaken, the chapel was once the meeting place for Michaelian Catholic Xaviers (MCX) every friday but the tradition was somehow stopped eventually.

I persoally feel that this piece of SMI heritage should be opened to the student and perhaps to the visitors as it's part of our SMI living heritage, the living entity that reminds us that SMI not only develops students academically but spiritually. SMI believes in wholesome education that also focus on the development of characters based on the spiritual teaching of World religions, regardless of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.

While SFI Melaka is proud of their tainted glass in their chapel, we in SMI should also be proud of our little chapel which braved through years of obstacles and challenges, especially during the war.

I sincerely hope that the chapel would be restored back to its former glory, not only on its physical appearance but also its essence,the living history of SMI chapel. Perhaps, the chapel could open its door to everyone, be it christian or non-christian so that more will know the living heritage of SMI.

I hoope I could visit the school chapel in the near future.

Jeremy Wong Weng Yew
Class of 2001 (USS3)
M. Med. Sci. (UM)
Malaysian Palm Oil Board.

sar3ong said...

SMI's chapel holds a special place in my heart for numerous enriching reasons. Firstly, it was my spiritual sanctuary during the most trying period of my school days. I had numerous seemingly insurmontable problems between my form 3 and 5 years. My mother passed away in 1993(when I was in form 3) and I fell into deep depression. I neglected my studies and was spiraling towards inevitable failure in the looming senior cambridge exam. On top of that I had to contend with 2 over-domineering and abusive elder brothers who were bent on breaking my spirit in their misguided belief that it was for my own good.
I was not a christian but I turned to Mother Mary and Jesus Christ for help. I would go to the chapel daily and prayed for guidance. My prayers were answered through numerous indirect ways.
Rev. Bro. Dir. Ultan Paul gave me the reponsiblity of painting "the stations of the cross" for the chapel. A form six female student who was very good painter was assigned to assist me. We completed the paintings and they were hung in the chapel.
I managed to scrape through my senior cabridge in 1965. And the following year, even managed to be the first Michaelian to be selected for the AFS student exchange programme for a year of stay in Illinois, USA(1966/67). I believe strongly that it was my daily prayers in the chapel which gave me the spiritual strength to overcome all the odds and obtained divine grace for my success.
Today, I am a successful portrait painter with my own studio in Batu Ferringhi. But the greater miracle is that my spiritual believes have expanded and I embraces Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism in addition to Christianity and Islam as divine truths.
I believe that if we open our hearts to God, He will come to us in whichever form that our spiritual age is able to accept Him. After all he is omnipresent. And SMI's chapel was the starting point in which I experienced this truth.

Ong Hean Tooi