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North American Guests Inspired by Gathering with Sisters in Philippines

October 29, 2019, San Fernando, Philippines – Adrian Dominican Sisters from North America – the Dominican Republic and the United States – experienced inspiration, joy, and many graces and memories when they attended a Congregational gathering with the Adrian Dominican Sisters serving in the Philippines and their Partners in Mission.

This summer, July 31 to August 4, 2019, the Adrian Dominican Sisters held a congregational gathering, Embracing the Future / Encuentro con el Futuro / Pagyakap sa Hinaharap, during which Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, and Partners in Mission from sponsored institutions gathered in Adrian, Michigan, to celebrate the present and look together toward the future. The Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in Pampanga, the Philippines, hosted its own Pagyakap sa Hinaharap at University of the Assumption in San Fernando October 5-6, 2019, with 300 Partners in Mission.

From left, Sisters Nery (Luchy) Sori, OP, Carolyn Roeber, OP, Carol Jean Kesterke, OP, and Patricia Siemen, OP; Archbishop Emeritus Paciano Aniceto; and Sisters Maria Eneida Santiago, OP, Basilia De la Cruz, OP, Patricia Harvat, OP, and Marilín Llanes, OP.

Special guests of the October gathering included eight North Americans from the United States and the Dominican Republic: Sisters Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, who spoke at the event; Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor; Carol Jean Kesterke, OP, Chapter Prioress of the Great Lakes Dominican Mission Chapter, based in Detroit; Basilia De la Cruz, OP; Marilín Llanes, OP; Carolyn Roeber, OP; Maria Eneida Santiago, OP; and Nery (Luchy) Sori, OP.

Read the reflection on Pagyakap sa Hinaharap, written by Sister Liberty Mendoza, OP.

Three of the North American visitors reflected on what they learned at the gathering, their experience of the culture of the Philippines, and the ministries of the Sisters: Sister Carol Jean; Sister Marilín, a school psychologist at the Joliet, Illinois, School District; and Sister Luchy, who ministers at Espíritu Santo School, Sección San José de Arroyo Hondo in the Dominican Republic.

Sister Luchy said she benefited from the presentation by attorney Alex Lacson. “The presentation helped us to understand the situation in the Philippines,” she said. “He explained very well what the problems are and where they are, the political and economic situation.”

She noted similarities between the economic challenges of the Philippines and the Dominican Republic – extreme poverty, with people owning small businesses to make some money, and a “deep division between the rich and the poor.” Sister Luchy said the division is greater in the Philippines than in her own country.

Sister Luchy also noted the situations of many families in both countries in which one parent has to leave home to earn money to send back to their families. “The children feel abandoned, and they don’t feel the same love from an uncle or aunt or brother or sister,” she said. “They understand that their parents have to go out of the country to make money so they can survive, but it isn’t the same.”

Sister Carol Jean also spoke of this challenge. “So many leave their country to support their families, which is so disruptive,” she said. She spoke to two lay co-workers who had once been in that situation, one working in Jerusalem and the other in Taiwan, both to support their families. “Their economy didn’t support them,” she said.

Sister Marilín, also reflecting on the presentation by the attorney, said she learned how the economy of the Philippines “plummeted” in 50 years. “This is happening because of 40 families in the Philippines who own the Philippines,” she said. “It’s a dynasty and they insert themselves in all the circles of power.” Sister Marilín also learned of the daily violence caused by extrajudicial killings – drug dealers, but more drug users who are targeted by the government and killed as part of the nation’s war on drugs.

From left, Sisters Marilín Llanes, OP, Carolyn Roeber, OP, and Rosita Yaya, OP.

Sister Marilín was also impressed by Father Quirico Pedregosa, OP, and his encouragement to Dominicans to follow their call to preach to people on the peripheries of society. “At the end he says that every time the [Dominican] Order flourishes, it’s when we respond to the peripheries,” to people who are cast aside or neglected by society.

The Sisters from North America also recognized many admirable qualities in the Filipino culture. Sister Luchy noted that one of the biggest differences between the Filipino and the North American cultures is the respect that the people in the Philippines have for their elders. She said she was especially impacted by the way children and young people come to the Sisters and humbly ask for a blessing. 

“To experience another culture was just personally enriching,” Sister Carol Jean said. “It kind of changes you. You take in these beautiful people and you learn something of the sufferings that they endure.”

Sister Marilín was struck by the hospitality of the Sisters. “The Filipino culture is the most welcoming and so attentive to detail and to making sure you feel at home,” she said. “The minute I stepped into their house, I felt at home.”

The guests from North America also had the opportunity to come to know the Sisters from Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, their various ministries, and the influence they have on the people they serve. The Sisters teach and administer in various schools; teach catechism and serve in a feeding program for students at Villa Maria, a private school that serves the indigenous Aeta people; reach out to street children; and advocate for justice and peace for their people.

“It was just such a gift to be with the Sisters and to be with the people they minister to,” Sister Carol Jean said. “[Ministry is] their life, and you can really see that – and how grateful the people on the panel were on Saturday to have the Sisters in their lives.” But, recalling the injustice and the difficulties that the people in the Philippines face, she added, “It’s hard for me to imagine how our Sisters carry the pain that is so prevalent there.”

Sister Luchy saw that the greatest gift the Sisters in the Philippines can give is hope. “They bring hope to the people they have in ministry,” she said. “Our Sisters are doing their best to bring hope to those people who are very poor.”

“It was a rich experience of integrating our Dominican charism in Asia and beyond, and then to understand how together we are embracing the future,” Sister Marilín recalled. “I was so honored to have had the opportunity to go.”


Feature photo (top): Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, left, and Sister Carol Jean Kesterke, OP, speak to some of the school children who danced for participants of Pagyakap sa Hinaharap


Sisters in Philippines Teach and Live Out Statements on Environment and Climate Change

September 23, 2019, Kalookan City, Philippines – “We still have 11 years to recover our Mother Earth.”

That was the message and the sense of urgency that Adrian Dominican Sister Maria May Cano, OP, gained from her participation in the National Convention on Laudato Si’ and Climate Change, held September 3-5, 2019, at Layforce, San Carlos Seminary, Guadalupe, Makati, in the Philippines. 

Sister May was one of 140 participants who learned more about the environmental crisis from the convention’s study of Laudato Si’ (Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment) and An Urgent Call for Ecological Conversion, Hope in the Face of Climate Emergency, a pastoral letter by the Bishops of the Philippines.

Both documents – as well as a Unity Statement issued by participants of the National Convention – outline practices and attitudes that can turn the world around from ecological disaster: 

  • an end to reliance on fossil fuels for energy, 
  • decreased use of plastics, 
  • advocacy against ecologically destructive practices such as mining and oil drilling, 
  • greater care in the use of resources, and 
  • an attitude of respect and reverence for all of creation and for the cultures of indigenous peoples. 

In their July 2019 pastoral letter, the Bishops committed themselves to live the spirit and principles of Laudato Si’ through 13 action points to restore the health of the environment.

In an interview, Sister May outlined the various ways that she and the other Sisters in the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter have learned to live with the health of the environment in mind – and have taught students, co-workers, parishioners, and family members to do so as well. “We involve ourselves and immerse ourselves in ecological issues,” Sister May said. 

The Adrian Dominican Sisters have long advocated for environmentally friendly practices – and against any abuses of Earth or of natural resources. For years, Sisters in the Our Lady of Remedies Chapter have stood with the indigenous peoples in the Philippines against foreign multinational corporations that have sought to seize their land and plunder it for its natural resources. Along with other religious participating in the recent convention, they advocate against large-scale and open-pit mining, large dams, and other practices that threaten the environment.

Sister May has already begun the process of teaching the documents’ recommended sound environmental practices closer to home – at the Diocese of Kalookan Caloocan, where she ministers. 

“I proposed the ecological policy to the different departments that we need to reduce our use of plastic,” she said. Her instructions have been as simple as suggesting that plastic banners for diocesan celebrations be switched to cloth banners and that people who attend meetings bring their own meal kits – plates, silverware, and glasses. Understanding the need to set a good example, Sister May said the Sisters have also started using stainless steel straws to cut down on the one-use plastic straws.

One initiative promoted by the convention is to reduce by half the current carbon emission in the Philippines and to work for the ecological conversion of families toward a carbon-free Philippines. Sister May has been very aware of the need to reduce the use of fossil fuels such as carbon. “When we arrive in the office we switch on the air conditioning,” rather than leaving it on overnight, she said. “I ask my co-workers to turn it on in the morning – a little sacrifice not to turn the air conditioning on early, so the carbon use is reduced.” 

The bishops in the Philippines have also recommended the use of healthy, clean energy rather than energy produced by fossil fuels. “Making energy through solar power is expensive, but in a few years we will save a lot of money,” Sister May said.

The Sisters in the Remedies Chapter have also been teaching children, teachers, and parents in their schools how to live in a way that respects the environment. “The Dominican Schools of Angeles City and Apalit will not use bottled water,” Sister May said. “We have a water station so the schools ask the children to bring their own water tumblers.” 

The Sisters also encourage people to adopt practices that bring them closer to Earth: planting trees, planting gardens, eating of the produce of their gardens, avoiding junk food, and adopting a balanced diet. The Sisters use compost on their gardens to enrich the soil and save seedlings from plants so that they can grow more the next year. “In our own little way we should set an example,” Sister May said.

Feature photo: Sister Maria May Cano, OP; Planting trees is one of the many ways that the Sisters and communities in the Philippines address the threat of climate change.


 

 

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