Father Jean-Marie Beurel



Father Jean-Marie Beurel (b. 5 February, 1813, Plouguenast, France–d. 3 October, 1872, Paris, France) was a priest and missionary who founded the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, St Joseph’s Institution and the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus schools in Singapore.1

Early life
Beurel was ordained as priest in 1838 at the age of 25.2 In August that year, he joined the Missions-Etrangeres in Paris. He left France on 28 April 1839 and arrived in Singapore on 27 October 1839 to work in the Mission of Siam (which included Singapore).3


On 23 April 1840, Beurel was appointed to serve the Catholic community in Singapore.4 He became the parish priest of the Good Shepherd Parish.5 He obtained a grant of land from the colonial government and started working on constructing a larger church for the growing Catholic community.6

Fund-raising for the building began in 1840.7 Faced with a shortage of funds, Beurel travelled as far as China and the Philippines to seek help. Contributions were received from Queen Marie-Amelie Therese of France (4,000 francs), the Archbishop of Manila (3,000 Spanish dollars) and the Protestant community in Singapore.8 Of the two architectural plans submitted, the chosen design was by Denis Leslie McSwiney, a former clerk to G. D. Coleman, the architect of the first St Andrew’s Cathedral. The foundation stone was laid on 18 June 1843 by John Conolly, a merchant resident of Singapore.9 Completed four years later at a cost of $18,355.22, the church was consecrated by Father Beurel on 6 June 1847, before a crowd of more than 1,500 people.10 Known as the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd,11 a memorial plaque to Beurel can be found at the Cathedral.12

The desire for a Christian school
Beurel’s ambitions went beyond the construction of the church. He wanted to open a school for boys, to be managed by the Brothers of the Christian Schools.13 He rationalised that the school was necessary for implanting the Christian faith in the hearts of children.14 He made arrangements for brothers from France to be given free passage to Malaya to assist him in the school, but this was fraught with difficulty. The revolution of 1848 in France led to the end of the reign of King-Louis Philippe and the loss of financial support from Queen Marie-Amelie.15  


Beurel left for France on 28 October 1850 to discuss his school building mission with the relevant authorities.16 While in France, he convinced the Reverend Mother Superior General of the Infant Jesus Sisters, Mother de Faudoas, to send some sisters to Singapore to begin a school for girls.17 He returned to Singapore on 28 March 1852 and brought with him an initial team of six Christian brothers and four Infant Jesus sisters (one of whom had died at sea).18

In 1852, Beurel founded St Joseph’s Institution (originally known as St John’s Institution).19 Earlier in 1848 and again in July 1952, he asked the colonial government in Singapore for land next to his church for a girls’ school.20 On both occasions, he was told that sufficient land had already been given to him for building the church and more land would not be given for this purpose.21 In August 1852, Beurel used his own money to purchase a house at the corner of Victoria Street for about 4,000 francs.22 The house had been built by Coleman for H. C. Caldwell, who was the senior sworn clerk and later, registrar of the court.23 On 5 February 1854, Beurel started the first Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (present-day CHIJMES) in the house that he had bought.24 In 1859, Beurel completed the parochial house (present-day house of the Archbishop) next to the Church of the Good Shepherd.25

Final years

In 1868, after having spent nearly 30 years in Singapore, Beurel fell ill and returned to France, where he passed away on 3 October 1872 and was buried in Montmartre.26 It was said that when the Catholic community in Singapore heard of his death, they requested for Beurel’s body to be buried in Singapore where he had served for almost 30 years of his life. The wish could not be granted, despite the community offering to defray all costs involved in transporting his remains.27 Today, Beurel is remembered as the “founder of Catholic Singapore”. Schools set up by the La Salle brothers and Infant Jesus sisters bear testament to his labour in Singapore.28



Author
Dinesh Sathisan



References
1. Meyers, E. (2004). Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus: 150 years in Singapore. Penang: The Lady Superior of Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, pp. 42–43. (Call no.: RSING 371.07125957 MEY); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ); St. Joseph’s Institution. (2001). St. Joseph’s Institution Founders Day, 6 April 2001: Official opening of the JM Beurel Library. Singapore: The Institution, p. 2. Retrieved from PublicationSG.
2. Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
3. Meyers, E. (2004). Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus: 150 years in Singapore. Penang: The Lady Superior of Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, p. 42. (Call no.: RSING 371.07125957 MEY)
4. Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
5. Tsang, S. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history and culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 72. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TSA); Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE)
6. Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 86. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
7. Tsang, S. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history and culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TSA); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, pp. 86–87. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
8. Meyers, E. (2004). Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus: 150 years in Singapore. Penang: The Lady Superior of Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, p. 42. (Call no.: RSING 371.07125957 MEY); Tsang, S. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history and culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TSA); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 97. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
9. Tsang, S. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history and culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TSA); Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 46. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, pp. 90–91. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
10. Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 46. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE); Tsang, S. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history and culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TSA); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 98. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
11. Tsang, S. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history and culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 72. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TSA)
12. Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 49. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE)
13. Meyers, E. (2004). Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus: 150 years in Singapore. Penang: The Lady Superior of Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, p. 42. (Call no.: RSING 371.07125957 MEY); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, pp. 216, 221. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
14. Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 216. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
15. Meyers, E. (2004). Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus: 150 years in Singapore. Penang: The Lady Superior of Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, p. 42. (Call no.: RSING 371.07125957 MEY); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 220. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
16. Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 221. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
17. Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE)
18. Tsang, S. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history and culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 72. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TSA); Meyers, E. (2004). Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus: 150 years in Singapore. Penang: The Lady Superior of Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, p. 43. (Call no.: RSING 371.07125957 MEY); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 225. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
19. Tsang, S. (2007). Discover Singapore: The city’s history and culture redefined. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 72. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TSA); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 226. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
20. Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, pp. 234–235. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
21. Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE); Meyers, E. (2004). Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus: 150 years in Singapore. Penang: The Lady Superior of Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, p. 47. (Call no.: RSING 371.07125957 MEY); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
22. Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 49. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE); Meyers, E. (2004). Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus: 150 years in Singapore. Penang: The Lady Superior of Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, pp. 42–43, 47. (Call no.: RSING 371.07125957 MEY)
23. Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 49. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 236. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
24. Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 49. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE); Meyers, E. (2004). Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus: 150 years in Singapore. Penang: The Lady Superior of Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, p. 47. (Call no.: RSING 371.07125957 MEY); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 237. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
25. Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 49. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 101. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
26. Meyers, E. (2004). Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus: 150 years in Singapore. Penang: The Lady Superior of Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, p. 43. (Call no.: RSING 371.07125957 MEY); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 102. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ); St. Joseph’s Institution. (2001). St. Joseph’s Institution Founders Day, 6 April 2001: Official opening of the JM Beurel Library. Singapore: The Institution, p. 3. Retrieved from PublicationSG.
27. Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 286. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ)
28. Meyers, E. (2004). Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus: 150 years in Singapore. Penang: The Lady Superior of Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, p. 43. (Call no.: RSING 371.07125957 MEY); Wijeysingha, E. (2006). Going forth: The Catholic church in Singapore 1819–2004. Singapore: Nicholas Chia, p. 286. (Call no.: RSING 282.5957 WIJ); St. Joseph’s Institution. (2001). St. Joseph’s Institution Founders Day, 6 April 2001: Official opening of the JM Beurel Library. Singapore: The Institution, p. 2. Retrieved from PublicationSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Beurel, Jean-Marie, Father, 1813-1872
Priests--Singapore--Biography
Philosophy, psychology and religion>>Religion>>Christianity
Personalities>>Biographies>>Religious Leaders
Religious leaders
Catholic church--Clergy--Biography