September-04-2017 09:45 PM
Selamat Datang to the City of Kuching!
Have you ever wondered what Kuching means? There have been many stories and legends about where this place got its name. One tells that it comes from an animal; one says it is an adaptation of the name of a foreign place; another claims it is from a river; still another relates that it is from a fruit and the last suggests it is from an old wishing well. So which one would you like to hear about?
The story that intrigues me the most is the one which tells of two lights that one can see from the harbor of the city. One was said to be coming from a light house on top of a mountain and the other from a nearby tower. These two were horizontally aligned and when viewed from the harbor at night, they appeared to be like a cat’s eyes. Thus the place came to be called “Kuching”, which literally means "cat" in the local dialect. This city became famous then for its cat statues spread all over which became landmarks and also for its Cat Museum.
It is in this city of Kuching, state of Sarawak, Malaysia that a new mission of the Marist Brothers of East Asia Province was recently established. The project came to be when Br. Robert Teoh, the current Provincial was invited by Archbishop John Ha. As the overheard story goes, it was a Franciscan nun who was requested to administer and inaugurate a school which would be named St. Joseph’s International School. This school would become one of the branches of the St. Joseph Family of Schools in Kuching. The said Franciscan nun accepted the offer but she was eventually elected as a Major Superior of their congregation; hence, the project was left open for the taking.
Br. Robert learned about this and took the opportunity to meet with the Archbishop and told him that the Marist Brothers were willing to take over the task of opening a school. Br. Robert then called Br. Paul Hough from the Province of Australia who was so courageous in taking up the challenge of starting this school. Br. Niño Mark John Suarez from the Philippines was also asked to be assigned to this new area.
Beginning January 2016, Br. Paul together with Br. Robert paid a series of visits to the city to meet up with some important personalities. In June 2016, Br. Mark made his official ocular visit to experience and acquire a feel of the place. The site where the school would be established was also visited by the Brothers together with Mr. Gerald Lee, the out-going Director, and Mr. Chris Chua, he newly-appointed Director. Upon seeing the place, the Brothers concluded that the area was quite small but promising nonetheless. It was an old abandoned school that needed a lot of renovation and construction.
By November 2016, the school had a fresh look - newly renovated, painted, and partially furnished. Classrooms were filled with chairs and tables for the students and looked ready for action, so to speak. Two laboratories were in place; the canteen was prepared for some serving; and the office and faculty room were set up well for working. Moreover, Brothers Paul and Mark started the work of administering and preparing the school together with Ms. Sheryl Lee, the office administrator, and two maintenance personnel. Br. Paul arrived in early November 2016 and assumed his post as the headmaster. Br. Mark, on the other hand, reported to his work in the faculty office upon his arrival in late November.
On December 28, 2016, St. Joseph’s International School held the first meeting with all the members of the school community led by Br. Paul. The school community then is composed of twelve individuals, just like the Twelve Apostles. Twelve means complete; and this a good sign that the Spirit is working within.
The eight teachers are Ms. Ann, Ms. Lina, Ms. Ina, Ms. Molly, Mr. Kenneth, Mr. Chang, Mr. David and Br. Mark. The two maintenance personnel are Japni and Samsu. The office administrator is Ms. Sheryl and the headmaster is Br. Paul. With that, the school was confidently ready for the opening of classes which took place on January 03, 2017. We have a total of one hundred students at the moment since that the only number we can accommodate with the facilities that we have. It is a secondary school where seventy five students are in grade 7 and twenty five are in year 8.
There were different activities that took place during the first day of classes. These included the welcoming, assembly, tour of the school campus and the Parish Church, singing practice, distribution of books and orientation of each classes. It was also an honor that the Archbishop presided the first Eucharistic Celebration on January 06, 2017, followed by the blessing of the school. The St. Joseph’s International School is so far running smoothly under its staff and administrators.
The coming months are expected to be busy and noisy because two four-level buildings will be constructed. On the other hand, students are becoming more confident and are increasing their participation in the different classes and activities of the school. We are now about to finish the first month of classes and things are going very well.
Initially, the Brothers did not have a community house. They were then accommodated at the St. Peter’s Seminary. The priests were very hospitable in providing for the Brothers and we are so grateful for that. After the long process of house shopping and paper processing, the Brothers finally got a house in late December 2016. The Province bought a two level house in a residential area called Stapok Utara in Kuching.
As the house needed some repairs, it was first occupied by Br. Mark on January 7, 2017 and he did some preparations. Br. Paul moved in on January 18 and it was celebrated with a dinner of Australian steak and vegetables prepared by the brothers themselves. From the community house to the school, it would take 20 to 30 minutes travel by car. During the day, the Brothers are all working in school and they would come home late in the afternoon. The community house has a homey atmosphere and Brothers from around the world are most welcome to pay us a visit. Just make sure you book ahead of time as we only have one very large guest room that can accommodate three to four people. Our living room is spacious as well; you may sleep on the sofa. Rest assured that we will tour you around the different beautiful spots of the city.
I hope to see you here in the City of Cats! Terimah kasih!
Br. Niño Mark John S. Suarez, FMS