She lives on in the hearts and minds of her ‘children’

Sr Enda has inspired generations of students with her kindness, wisdom, and sense of humour. She was not only a teacher but also a mentor and friend to many, guiding them through the challenges of youth and shaping their characters with her strong values.

Apr 19, 2024

Sr Enda’s Archives

No event management company could have organised a reunion of more than a thousand alumni members spanning almost five decades in mere days. Yet, Sr Enda Ryan, FMM, in death, managed to do just that. Classmates, some not having crossed paths for years, gathered in a blend of sorrow and joy to honour a cherished educator and headmistress.

Despite the sombre occasion of paying tribute to the 96-year-old nun who passed away on April 7, many of the women, after paying their respects at the wake, let go of their inhibitions and reverted to their carefree schoolgirl days. Laughter and chatter filled the air, a fitting tribute to Sr Enda, who was known for her joyous spirit and infectious laughter. She would have preferred this lively atmosphere over a sombre one, as it reflected her own approach to life.

Sr Enda has inspired generations of students with her kindness, wisdom, and sense of humour. She was not only a teacher but also a mentor and friend to many, guiding them through the challenges of youth and shaping their characters with her strong values. Her influence extended far beyond the classroom, shaping awkward girls navigating childhood and adolescence into the accomplished women they are today, whether excelling in their roles as homemakers or thriving in their careers.

“Calcutta had Mother Teresa, and Petaling Jaya had Sr Enda,” remarked Pat Lu, a member of the Class of 1978 and the former president of the Assunta Alumni (2011-2013).

“They are testaments of how one life can make a difference. Their lives were given so that others could find it. Their call wasn’t parttime but it meant going all the way and no turning back. They believed in doing their best and that God would do the rest. Their aim was never greatness but in touching one life at a time.”

“Although Sr Enda is no longer with us physically, the seeds of focused passion, strong courage, and deep faith she sowed throughout her life continue to flourish in the hearts and minds of her ‘children’ - as she fondly called us - and will inspire future generations of Assuntarians. Her legacy lives on as a vibrant embodiment of the Assunta spirit, uniting us as one extensive family.

“We are fortunate to have had Sr Enda as our Mama, guiding us from our school days to our roles now as parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents for many. Her values endure through us. In her passing, I see only hope and love, reinforcing that together, nothing is beyond our reach. Sr Enda united all her former students, from her ‘firstborn’ to today’s Assuntarians, forging a strong family bond for the betterment of our beloved country, Malaysia,” she added.

The influence of the Irish nun reached well beyond the classroom walls, as noted by Jacinta Vythilingam from the Class of 1991.

“Sr Enda built more than just a school; she created a community - a tribe, some might even call it an empire - of empowered, independent, disciplined, kind, and driven women. Many of these women, including myself, have gone on to excel in corporate Malaysia. To me, she was not just a school principal, but my earliest role model for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

“Sr Enda fostered an environment where girls could thrive on their own terms and lead with confidence. She instilled in us the values of DEI long before it became a corporate buzzword. In our school, there were no divisions based on race or religion; we were all simply Assuntarians - that was our bond.

“If you had the ambition to lead, you didn’t wait for permission; you claimed your seat at the table boldly and fearlessly. It’s thanks to her mentorship that I am the person I am today. I feel incredibly privileged to have been shaped by the school she established, nurtured, and continues to influence in countless ways,” said Jacinta.

Anne Gomez, who served as head prefect at Assunta Secondary School in 1980, lauded Sr Enda as a fearless leader, a visionary founder, a mentor, a cherished teacher, and a friend. “We cannot think of our Alma Mater, Assunta, without remembering her. We will carry the Assunta spirit with us, whether over land, sea, or sky. Sister’s example - her faith in action, her humanity and compassion, and her steadfast commitment to living her values - will forever be our guiding star,” she expressed.

“Sr Enda nurtured us to become good citizens, loving mothers, wives, partners, and daughters, caring friends, active community members, and compassionate global citizens dedicated to fostering a peaceful and just world. We will continue to make her proud and uphold our ideals,” she added.

“Each of us was touched differently by her,” said Shareen Chua, a 1991 alumna. “For me, she imparted lessons on grace, humility, and giving in various forms at any opportunity, and she taught that there’s always a song for every occasion - a lesson I carry with me to this day.”

“Her energy, positivity, and zest for life were legendary, and wonderfully contagious. It’s because of her that I developed a love for tuning into the BBC World Service.

“In one of Brian Friel’s plays, he describes a Franciscan priest who leaves Ireland, learns the language of his new home, and becomes deeply integrated into the local culture, both enriching it and being enriched by it. While the parallels with this fictional character end there, it reminded me of the ‘smiling Irish eyes’ we often sang about and came to know so well in our early teens.

“I’m sure many will recall Sister’s ‘Testing, testing...’ (with scratchy noise interference) echoing through the PA system each day, addressed to ‘murid-murid dan cikgucikgu,’ followed by her pearls of wisdom, and signing off to the tunes of Gershwin and Rachmaninoff.

“On so many levels, we thank her for educating generations of us to navigate life,” said Shareen.

Speaking at Sr Enda’s funeral Mass at the Church of St Francis Xavier, Petaling Jaya on April 11, Archbishop Julian Leow reflected, “As I stood amongst those gathered to mourn Sr Enda yesterday, I was moved by the sight of Assuntarians from diverse backgrounds - different faiths, different races - coming together to honour her memory, and it was the same scene the day before.”

He continued, “Sr Enda was more than just a figure from Ireland, she became an emblem of unity for Malaysia. We owe a debt of gratitude to the remarkable person she was."

Archbishop Julian expressed his hope that Sr Enda’s legacy of inclusivity and empowerment would endure. “May her example inspire us to embrace others, to meet them where they are, and to uplift them towards greater heights of goodness and compassion. As we bid farewell to Sr Enda, her influence lives on in every Assuntarian, every FMM sister, and in all whose paths she crossed.

“May we continue her work of being unifiers wherever God has placed us,” added the prelate.

Sr Enda’s legacy will continue to echo within the community she nurtured, inspiring future generations to embrace the values she cherished and to cultivate unity and purpose beyond the confines of the classroom. As these alumni resume their lives, they will carry the indelible imprint of Sr Enda’s guidance, a testament to her profound influence on their personal trajectories and on society at large.

Total Comments:3

David Cheang. [email protected]
Great men/women are the best way to demonstrate there is still hope in the world. There are not many but the few have touched and motivated so many. Out of these many, sure they will in turn motivate others in multiple numbers.
All Assuntarians loves Sr Enda who had somehow groomed us to be the best of ourselves. Herlegacy lives on..
David, Mary, Jonathan, Ra[email protected]
Thank you for your many years of kinship and utmost dedication to serving the many communities in your outreach and wonderful work with the FMM Sisters and beyond. God bless you always and forever.