In 1852 the Brothers of the Christian Schools came to Singapore to start their first school here. It was Father Jean Marie Beurel who was instrumental in persuading the Brothers to do so.
He left France and arrived in Singapore on 27 October 1839 to work in the Mission of Siam (which included Singapore). He obtained a grant of land from the colonial government and started working on constructing a larger church for the then growing Catholic community. This has since become the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.
He wanted to open a school for boys, which would be managed by the Brothers of the Christian Schools. He rationalised that the school was necessary for implanting a truly Christian faith in the hearts of children.
“Give me this grain of mustard seed and perhaps a fine tree will grow out of it. Give me a little leaven and perhaps my dough will become ready to make an excellent bread. Everything must have a beginning, even the most gigantic things in nature” Fr Beurel wrote in Jan 1849 in a letter to Fr Albrand, Director of the Seminary of Foreign Missions in Paris, asking for the Brothers to come.
Beurel left for France on 28 October 1850 to engage in discussions with the relevant authorities on his school building mission. While in France, he took the opportunity to convince 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. On his return to Singapore on 29 March 1852, Beurel brought along with him an initial team of six La Salle Brothers and four Infant Jesus sisters.
In 1852, Beurel founded St. Joseph’s Institution (present day Singapore Art Museum). Beurel used his own money to purchase a house at the corner of Victoria Street. On 5 February 1854, Beurel started the first Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus in this house that he had bought (present day CHIJMES).