The Humble Beginning
On May 8, 1808 in Verona, Italy, Magdalene of Canosaa began her work of charity with a few companions, gathering street children to give them formal and moral education. Since then, her work has ignited the passion in the hearts of many young people who become committed to this grace-paved path to nurture and to educate.
On February 27, 1960, propelled by God’s grace, six Canossian sisters from Venice and Padua journeyed to Hong Kong. They began their work with the establishment of an orphanage. Within five years, three schools, a Chinese one, a Portuguese one and an English one, were established. With courage and dignity, they overcame the hardships and uncertainties of living in a foreign country. Despite insufficient facilities and human resources and barriers to culture and language, their determination did not waver.
“Above all, make Jesus known. Jesus is not loved because he is not known.” – St. Magdalene of Canossa
The Canossian Missions continued to expand in order to serve the needy and care for the moral welfare of the community. In 1869, the Canossian sisters took up the challenge to set up a school in Wanchai to give proper education to the wayward girls in the district. The small shabby huts where the learning and teaching began not only changed the life of those street children, but also the hearts of the many generations that followed. Their hearts were set on embarking on this grace-paved path of virtue and love. St. Francis’ Canossaian College has thrived since then.
“Education is the moulding of the heart.” – St. Magdalene of Canossa
From the very day St. Francis’ Canossian College was established, the Canossian sisters have had in their hearts something more important and precious than teaching and mastering of knowledge – the formation of the heart. They strive to promote a balanced education for all their students with an emphasis on moral growth, to guide them through a life of dignity, integrity and charity.
The Relentless Transformation
1900 – 1939
“Let us serve our Lord with courage and a generous heart filled with love.” – St. Magdalene of Canossa
By the early 20th century, our school, which was called St. Francis’ School, was already a government granted English school and consisted of a kindergarten, a primary school and a junior secondary section. It was built on the site of the old basketball court. The primary section was co-educational. Boys could get into St. Joseph’s College or other boys’ secondary schools after they had finished their primary education.
1940 – 1969
“Do not be afraid, after the storm comes a more splendid calm.” – St. Magdalene of Canossa
During the Second World War and the Japanese occupation, the English School was forbidden to operate. The Chinese Section, known as the Holy Infant School, however, remained open until it, too, had to close down. Our school was turned into a sanatorium for the ill, the disabled and the wounded. It was not until the end of the war in 1945 that our school was reopened.
In the early post-war years, the demand for school places drastically increased due to the influx form the Mainland. St. Francis’ then started her expansion project to meet the rising need of the public for education. In 1956, the East Wing was completed. Two years later, the Administration Block was erected. The completion of the West Wing took place in 1963. With the expansion of the school premises, a more complete class organization and course structure were made possible in the subsequent years.
The Age of Modernization
1970 – 1989
“I desire that God may set your heart on fire with his love.” – St. Magdalene of Canossa
As time went by, more and more students and teachers joined the ever-increasing family of St. Francis’. The need for further expansion became urgent in the 1970s. The demand made upon the school for a quality and well-balanced education facilitated the conception of the Hall Building Construction Plan. A well-equipped school auditorium with sufficient number of special rooms, enabled the provision of a diversified education for all Franciscans. With the concerted efforts of the whole school and a number of fund-raising projects, the Hall Building came into existence in 1985.
Many new facilities, including the Multi-purpose Room, gymnasium, canteen and the MMLC, have since been installed to cater to the needs of the increasing student population and demands of educational changes.
1990 – 2018
“Let us live in his presence and unite ourselves deeply to him day by day.” – St. Magdalene of Canossa
As the school underwent relentless physical and educational transformation, the old school building, which was built in stages since the 1950s, had its share of wear and tear. Elicited by the landslide in 1992, which damaged classroom structure, our School Sponsoring Body proposed in-situ redevelopment of the school. Approved by the Legislative Council in December 2010, the colossal redevelopment project commenced in 2011. Phase One of the School Redevelopment Project which involved demolition of the old primary block (including the moving of the grotto and the four angels) and the building of the new main block was completed in October 2014. The new main block came into service in November 201, marking a new chapter in the history of St. Francis’ Canossian College. The spacious, modernized and brightly-lit classrooms align learning with technological development of the new era. With minimal disruption to lessons, the move-in was completed. Phase Two of the building project commenced in mid-April 2015, involving the demolition of the vacant old school compound and construction of an amphitheater, a library, an open playground and a link bridge joining the main school building and the assembly hall building. The past seven years of school redevelopment have seen tremendous tests and challenges. Yet, the united spirit of the school community and the relentless support of our alumni have been ever so encouraging. In God’s grace, brick upon brick, the work progressed and the school redevelopment project was eventually completed in May 2018. This historical moment was marked by the return of our four angels. The mosaic angels, with their tambourine, harp, clarinet and cymbal, once again standing sentinel on the exterior wall of the school building, is the new landmark of St. Francis’ Canossian College.
Grace upon grace, St. Francis’ Canossian College has stood the test of time and undergone relentless transformation to meet the educational needs of society as it advances. From the little huts where our pioneer sisters humbly began their service to the realization of our modernized school campus, the dream of St. Magdalene of Canossa has lived. As the school was one and a half century ago, it will be in the future – an advocate of Catholic values, service and education.