In recognition of the United Nations International Day for Street Children on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020, Sister Jolyn “Jules” Dungo, OP, writes about her ministry to street children in the Philippines through the Adrian Dominican Sisters School on Wheels.
By Sister Jolyn “Jules” Dungo, OP
April 8, 2020, San Fernando, Pampanga, the Philippines – Pope Francis summoned each of us to move out of our comfort zones and bring the Good News to the frontiers of Earth. In his pastoral exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the pope called us to bring Jesus to the very heart of the world so that people may know about God, hope, salvation, love, and everlasting life.
I have been reaching out to children on the frontiers in my native Philippines through my ministry with the Adrian Dominican Sisters (ADS) School on Wheels. The ADS School on Wheels meets the practical needs of the street children.
Together with our volunteers, we meet the children in the marketplace – where they perform everyday labor – and at the city government hall, which has become a meeting place or school for them. We teach the street children and other interested children how to read, write, and count, along with religious education.
Our ministry to the street children has three objectives: to develop a culture of acceptance and equality among children from a disadvantaged environment; to strengthen social functioning and potential through education; and to change society’s negative impressions of street children.
As a social worker charged with reaching out to the street children, I witness their daily struggles. They try to work through socially acceptable ways like selling eco bags and flower garlands. Others work for minimal pay as parking lot attendants, car washers, and fish vendors. They are forced to work to survive.
In this ministry, we deal with the most vulnerable sector of society and we strive to protect them from all forms of abuse, trafficking, and violence. But we want more for them. We want them to dream and to realize their dreams outside of life on the street. We give them opportunities to work toward their dreams, no matter where they come from, their religious affiliations, or their associations.
Engaging in this ministry is transformational. It changes my perception. The street children’s situations allow me to dream for them and to help them to realize their dreams in God’s time. I believe what they need is acceptance, opportunity, and the hope that they can overcome poverty and their lives on the street.
Dr. Jose Risal, our Filipino national hero, once said, “The youth is the hope of our country.” His words are technically and figuratively true. When the good traits of the children are nurtured and developed, they might become teachers, architects, engineers, priests, Sisters, the next national hero or President of the Philippines, or even the next Filipino saint. If these children are included in the development efforts of the United Nations, their dreams will be realized. It takes one individual who believes in them to make a difference.
Feature photo: Sister Jolyn “Jules” Dungo, OP, speaks with a group of street children as part of her ministry.
January 31, 2019, Washington, D.C. – Adrian Dominican Sisters joined thousands of other women across the United States in the 2019 Women’s March, participating in the main march in Washington, D.C., and in sister marches in other parts of the U.S.
Among the participants were Sisters Maurine Barzantni, OP, Joan Baustian, OP, Leonor Esnard, OP, and Kathleen Nolan, OP, who participated in the March in Washington, D.C., and Sisters Marian Castelluccio, OP, Corinne Florek, OP, and Evelyn Montez, OP, who marched in Oakland, California.
Sister Kathleen, Director of the Congregation’s Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, coordinated the efforts of the Adrian-based Sisters who attended the march in Washington, D.C. She said traveling together and sharing the experience was a benefit. The Sisters drove 10 hours and stayed at a hotel in McLean, Virginia. They then traveled to the march with the aid of the hotel’s shuttle and public transportation. The Sisters spent five hours at the rally and march.
“I just wanted to stand up and be counted as one who is really dissatisfied with the way the country is being run by our leaders,” Sister Kathleen said. Still, she added, she didn’t see the march as a political rally. “What [march organizers] continue to do is connect the dots,” she explained. “They talked about intersectionality and how all the issues are connected.”
Sister Maurine said several issues were represented, from immigration to gun violence. “Our issues should be to care for each other,” she said. “That should be the issue for the whole country. Let’s care about each other. … Basically [the March] was about government – the government has to care about everybody.”
Sister Leonor recalled that a person at the march had had a sign listing issues. “The sign was not large enough to contain them all,” she said. “One of the dearest issues to my heart is women’s and children’s rights – equality: equality in pay, respect in relationships.”
The Sisters also saw some gaps in the issues that were represented. “One thing I don’t think they stressed enough through the speakers and the rally was the poverty issue, and especially single moms, many of whom are black and Latino,” Sister Joan said. “They didn’t talk about the thousands of American kids who go to bed hungry every night. You don’t hear that explicitly.”
Sister Kathleen explained there is still a feeling that marchers don’t fully welcome pro-life women. “That seems to be a gap. I’m strong on right to life, but I see it as a seamless garment – right to all life. The Bishops Conference said all people deserve respect.”
Overall, the Sisters found the Women’s March to be inclusive and peaceful. Sister Leonor especially remembered being welcomed to the march after the Sisters disembarked from the train. “It was like a welcoming before we integrated with the group,” she said. “With all those people, everyone was polite and respectful. … You had a sense of safety and solidarity.” She was also impressed with the efforts by some to greet the police officers and military who were in attendance. “We just wanted to thank them for being there,” she said.
The Sisters who participated in the march in Oakland, California were also impressed by the inclusivity and diversity in the rally at Lake Merritt and the 1-mile march to the Frank Ogawa Plaza, where city offices are located. “The beauty of it was the diversity of people: families with young children in strollers, a variety of families – two moms or two dads with their kids – and diverse ethnicities and cultures,” Sister Marian said.
“It was wonderful to be with such a diversity of people and see the many posters asking for inclusion of all,” Sister Corinne said. “The grandmothers were there singing their hearts out on one corner and a group of young women were chanting on another – a real people's party!”
The Sisters also emphasized the energy they experienced – and the sense of hope from the unity among the participants, even among those who focused on different issues. “Just being with a lot of people is energizing,” Sister Joan said. “It makes you think that you’re going in the right direction.”
Sister Kathleen emphasized “women are here to stay. They’re going to be heard and they’ll stay in the struggle. Another world is possible and the women are important in bringing that about.”