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February 21, 2018, Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico – The women of Centro Santa Catalina, a faith-community of families struggling together amid the challenges of poverty – have much to be grateful this year as they mark 20 years of existence and growth.
Founded by local community members and Adrian Dominican Sisters Donna Kustuch, OP, and Eleanor Stech, OP, Centro Santa Catalina now stands on what had been the city garbage dump. Today, the faith community sees to the education of children, the faith formation of women, and the daily needs of families. Programs include a preschool and school; a sewing co-op that provides a livelihood for 19 women and their families; the Homework Help program, which serves 150 children per week; and an after-school tutoring program, which benefits more than 200 children and six adults per week.
In a reflection translated into English, the women involved in the Centro Santa Catalina community described their recent celebration. “We started with a procession, symbolizing that we are pilgrims, then we remembered the path traveled during these 20 years of history, contemplating the most important events.” They expressed gratitude for Sisters Donna and Eleanor, as well as for Sister Maureen Gallagher, OP, who has been walking with the women at the co-op and marketing their products in the United States. For more information about their products, click here.
In their reflection, the women noted the support network they have formed through the Center as they move the cooperative and the center forward. “The most important thing is that the community is strengthened by signs of sisterhood – redemption and survival – and is motivated to continue working for itself.”
Through the years, the Center has helped numerous women and their families to become self-sufficient, Sister Maureen explained. With the help of grants and donations, the Center has sent women to school, to finish their high school degree or to earn a degree from the university. Other women are being paid to attend a certification program for teachers’ assistants. The center also provides jobs and benefits for the local women who work in the Afterschool Tutoring Program.
“The Center has been funded mostly by the Adrian Dominican Congregation and grants from American groups or foundations,” Sister Maureen said. “We also have fundraisers and faithful monthly donors from around the United States.” She added that the Center is applying for a foundation status in Mexico to enable them to apply for funds in Mexico.
“A thousand thanks to all the people who support us so that the Center remains possible,” the women of Centro Santa Catalina wrote.
Feature photo (top): Rosa Elida, Director of Centro Santa Catalina, reads a prayer of thanks during the anniversary prayer service.
Left: The late Sisters Donna Kustusch, OP, shown in the photo shown above, and Eleanor Stech, OP, co-founders of Centro Santa Catalina, were honored during the anniversary celebration. Right: Prayer service participants stand around a timeline depicting the journey that they made in the past 20 years through Centro Santa Catalina.
By Sister Liberty Mendoza, OP
Principal, Dominican School of Apalit
June 14, 2017, Pampanga, the Philippines – As the Dominican School of Apalit, located in the region of Pampanga in the Philippines, anticipates its 20th anniversary in 2018, Sister Liberty Mendoza, OP, reflects on how faculty members and staff have worked to form the students as young Dominicans.
The Dominican School of Apalit (DSA) will turn 20 in 2018. One of the lessons we have been impressing upon the hearts of our young pupils is “compatior” or compassion. The learning community, from the youngest 4-year-olds to those in the 12th grade, in collaboration with the parents and local government units, has been engaged in the process of learning what it means to give compassionate care for all of creation. It is presumed, however, that the seed of compassion was first seen, sown, and nurtured in the homes of our pupils.
To be a Dominican stakeholder means not just to acquire profitable competencies that prepare an individual for the “university of life,” but also to walk an extra mile, to be other-oriented. It means to share not just canned goods or a bowl of hot soup during disaster relief operations or peak sharing seasons, but to see, smell, and feel the holy presence of God in the people who are poor, in the faces of the indigenous Aetas, the indigent pupils in nearby government-run schools, or the out-of-school children residing at a nearby public cemetery.
The hope of the school staff is that these encounters would strike a chord in the hearts of our young Dominicans, urging them to forget themselves and change the small space where they stand. Compassion for all of creation is translated into concrete actions.
How has Dominican School of Apalit preached in terms of living out its stance on compassion for all of creation? Teatro Dominiko, the school club for students who have inclination and passion for stage-acting, has mounted well-attended plays dealing with social and ecological themes: Mommy Ko Nature in 2011, Balik-bayan Box in 2014, and Luzviminda in January 2017.
Mommy Ko Nature exhorts spectators to suffer with, weep, and even bleed for Mother Earth as she continues to experience wanton destruction. Every child of nature is awakened from its slumber caused by indifference and must pledge to nurse his Mother, named Nature.
Balik-bayan Box is a tribute to our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), in particular to the many Filipino parents who saw the heart-wrenching need to leave children behind, risk working on foreign shores, and remit crisp foreign currencies back to their families, with the hope that this will ensure a more secure and stable future for their loved ones.
Luzviminda, a contracted name for the three major islands in the Philippines – Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao – aims to remind the audience about the current ecological state of the country. The play advocates respect for the dignity of all life forms – the marginalized tribal groups, plants, animals, fish, and everything else that breathes and lives.
Providentially, this preaching medium – theater – has been helping us to send the message about the urgency of taking part in rehabilitating and healing the planet Pope Francis calls “our common home” and of being more conscious of the social ills besetting the country and the world.
In partnership with Caritas Manila, DSA – and the other schools in which the Sisters in Our Lady of Remedies Chapter serve – recently drafted an Eco-Ministry Plan. We are acting on that plan in many ways.
DSA is situated near the Pampanga River and numerous coastal spots, which have been clogged by thriving water lilies that cause flooding during rains. Our School Head, Sister Rosita M. Yaya, OP, and the Parents-Teachers Association are working with the local government of Apalit, and Senator Cynthia Villar’s Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance Foundation to solve the problem by removing water lilies and turning them into materials for handicraft weaving.
We at DSA hope to care for the legacy of the Pampanga River and other local coastal bodies so our students will understand that the river has its own life. It is our duty to keep that life flowing.
Feature photo (top): Prep students from Dominican School of Apalit perform a welcoming dance.