HONG KONG (SE): The Sisters of St Paul de Chartres (SPC) in Hong Kong mourn the death of Sister Carmela du Rosaire Santos on September 26 in Dasmarinas, Cavite, Philippines at the age of 97 years.
A devoted former missionary to Hong Kong, Sister Santos was born in Surigao, Philippines in 1922. Having obtained a bachelor of arts degree in music at the Conservatory of Music, St Paul University Manila, she entered the novitiate in Quezon City in 1940, making her first profession in 1942. Then she began her career teaching music at the congregation’s different schools and colleges.
She was sent to Hong Kong in 1957 and taught music at St Paul’s Convent School, Secondary Section, until 1973. From then on it was St Paul’s School (Lam Tin)’s lucky turn to benefit from her musical expertise where she again began teaching music. She became head deputy in 1981 and local superior of the community in 1984.
Her stint at St Paul’s Convent School was successfully marked by triumph after triumph of her school choir at music festivals and concerts. In 1966 it won first place out of 50 schools in a “Sound of Music” competition. Her Christmas concerts became a welcome tradition for many people in Hong Kong – from proud parents to harried shoppers at Ocean Terminal, to patrons at hotels, to the sick in hospitals, the old in homes for the aged, the poor, the destitute. She produced three 12-track LP records in collaboration with EMI Records, two by the St Paul’s Convent School Choir: “Christmas in Hong Kong” (1965), “St Paul’s Convent School Choir” (1972), and later by the St Paul’s School (Lam Tin) Choir: “Songs to Remember” (1978).
After 16 years at St Paul’s Convent School, she was transferred in 1973 to St Paul’s School (Lam Tin), a newly opened school three years before. The school, besides being new, was also located in a remote resettlement area of Kowloon, where few would choose to study.
Sister Santos, driven by her concept of music as “the soul’s own speech”, had a firm belief that music is a source and expression of joy, which she passionately wished to share with others and selflessly worked hard to achieve.
By 1974, just a year after her arrival, St Paul’s School (Lam Tin) began winning at music and speech festivals. The school reverberated with music making the hills near the school, which were dotted with squatter huts, “alive with the sound of music”.
Although focused on music, speech and drama, Sister Santos was an active and forceful agent in the remarkable transformation of the school, where most students came from still underdeveloped very poor resettlement estates, to one comparable with the more renowned schools in Hong Kong at that time. Gradually more graduates of the school were able to achieve the unreachable dream of going to university.
Sister Santos’s contributions and influence went beyond teaching and beyond the school. As a composer she had written songs and hymns for use in schools. She was also deeply concerned with moral education, counselling past students and friends even outside the school. She served for many years as a member of the Curriculum Development and Examination Board in Music, Education Department in Hong Kong.
After 32 years of fruitful and remarkable service in Hong Kong in the field of education, she left Hong Kong in 1989 and was transferred to London, England, where she continued her mission of reaching out to those who are in need in whatever way she could.
After the Mass of the resurrection at the SPC Vigil House on September 29, she was laid to rest at the Garden of Peace, Our Lady of Chartres Convent in Antipolo, Philippines.
The sisters, her family and relatives will be grateful for prayers for the repose of her soul.
May she rest in peace!