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New York, New York, March 27, 2023 – In the midst of Women’s History Month, three Dominican Sisters spoke of their efforts to empower women in rural areas around the world. They spoke on March 14, 2023, during the 67th Session of the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), held March 6-17, 2023.
Adrian Dominican Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, as representative of the Dominican Sisters Conference (DSC) at the United Nations, facilitated the webinar.
Sister Elsa Myriam Londoña, OP, spoke of her experiences of accompanying the people in rural Ecuador, coming into relationship with families and forming them into service to the Church and the world. “This is a methodology that we use in our work: perceive the reality as it is, embrace this reality, understand, and take action at the same time,” she said.
In her ministry, she strives to form a group of Servers of the Word in each community to celebrate the sacraments, participate in pastoral care, and work together. One focus is the celebration of life at all stages and all seasons, she said. The biggest challenges Sister Elsa sees include taking care of the environment, organizing women, and training in human and social ventures.
Sister Elsa spoke of the key role of women in protecting the planet. “The woman is the one who always takes care of the land,” she said. The women follow their ancestral practices of natural medicine, promoting food security in their communities, and taking up the struggle to maintain a healthy environment, she said.
“The mission of consecrated women today begins with the understanding of our identity and the work within the Church – a lifestyle that has to be permeated by values – values that go through listening, through the relationship of care, through radicality, through tenacity to offer life,” Sister Elsa concluded. “These are the faces of the women we accompany – women working to organize themselves.”
Sister Nicole Kabore spoke of the many challenges and inequalities that women face daily in the rural areas of Burkina Faso, in West Africa. “One of the consequences of poverty is that women are treated poorly,” she explained. “She has to take care of the family. She’s responsible for feeding, healthcare, education, and all the responsibilities of the family,” including working outside the home if the family needs more money.
Because mothers and daughters are responsible for the household tasks, they rarely have the time to attend school – and priority is given to the education of boys, Sister Nicole said. Because of their lack of education, women are often treated poorly and, when they need to work, are relegated to menial work and work in the fields, she explained.
Sister Nicole also pointed to women in Burkina Faso who face particular difficulties: those who cannot have children and are blamed for this, even if they might not be the cause of infertility, and widows who have no support. A widow “loses all her privileges,” she explained. “Familial goods are confiscated by her husband’s family.” If the husband’s family tells her to marry one of his brothers and she refuses, she is often banished from the family.
A goal of the ministry in Burkina Faso is to teach women that they have rights, Sister Nicole said. “Women have the right to express themselves but this is the real challenge, especially in certain cultures,” she said. “Very few women have a voice in the nature of decisions that are made in regard to their community. We try to help them gain their voice.”
Sister Teresa, of the Dominican Sisters of Charity of the Presentation, focused her talk on the Marie Poussepin Center (MPC), a boarding school for girls that her Sisters operate in the town of Guaimaca, Honduras. The MPC gives girls the opportunity for education that they ordinarily would not have in a society in which education of girls ends after sixth grade.
“Their education [at the boarding school] is in God, faith, and studies,” Sister Teresa explained. “Education is integral. We try to teach them things that would give them many resources so they can do better in life,” such as culinary and sewing skills, agriculture practices, medicinal plants, work in the environment, technology, and appreciation of their own culture.
“It’s beautiful to see what the girls know,” Sister Teresa said. “They don’t want to leave anybody in their family who can’t write. They’re helping to teach everybody, helping them to reach at least sixth grade.”
Sister Teresa said the boarding school has already come to a harvest. Many of its graduates go on to colleges and universities – some in the United States – and have chosen careers in areas such as nursing, agricultural engineering, business, psychology, and agronomy.
“The most beautiful part of this is that we work with a team of volunteers who put their talents and gifts at the service of others,” including many Dominican Volunteers, Sister Teresa said. She invited Sisters throughout the world who are looking for an opportunity to be of service to spend some months or years in service at the Marie Poussepin Center. “We would receive you with open arms,” she said.
In concluding the webinar, Sister Durstyne noted that a fourth Dominican Sister – Sister Monica from Pakistan – was unable to join the webinar because of technological issues. “We thank our sisters for their personal stories in working with women’s empowerment,” Sister Durstyne said. “Your work reminds us that no woman must be left behind. May we continue to raise the voice and the power of women through the help of one another and the power of God.”
March 27, 2023, Mining, Pampanga, Philippines – With profound joy and gratitude, the Adrian Dominican Sisters of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter dedicated their new Central House, which serves as a residence and office building. The celebration included Mass, formal dedication of the building and its rooms; and a festive dinner.
Celebrating with the Sisters were Florentino Lavarias, DD, Archbishop of San Fernando, and Paciano Aniceto, DD, Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga; Bishop Roberto Calara Mallari of the Diocese of San Jose (Neuva Ecija); priests from those dioceses; members of the Pampanga Association of Women Religious and of the Dominican Sisters International from the Philippines; Adrian Dominican Sisters from the United States; local officials; lay Dominicans; and students, co-workers, and friends of the Our Lady of Remedies Sisters.
The Central House replaces the original Motherhouse of the Our Lady of Remedies Dominican Congregation, founded in the 1960s with support in the formation process from the Adrian Dominican Congregation. In 2011, the Our Lady of Remedies Congregation merged with the Adrian Dominican Congregation.
Left: A happy crowd gathers for the ribbon cutting of the stairs leading to another floor of the Central House. Right: Sisters process through the corridors of the new Central House.
In 2022, the Sisters in the Philippines were asked to vacate their Motherhouse – located on land owned by the Archdiocese of San Fernando – so the Archdiocese could use the space to expand its seminary.
The three-story Central House is located near the Dominican School of Angeles City in the town of Mining, Province of Pampanga, Philippines. The building includes nearly 40 bedrooms, offices for the Chapter Prioress and the Treasurer, a chapel, a conference room, archives, refectories (dining rooms) for Sisters and guests; a kitchen; a community room; and outdoor areas, such as a labyrinth, grotto in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a greenhouse. It also will include solar panels and improved Internet and Wi-Fi.
Left: Long view of the chapel. Right: The dining room.
In an earlier interview, Sister Maria Yolanda G. Manapsal, OP, Chapter Prioress of Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, spoke of the Central House as a place that can serve the people of Mining. “We are planning to extend our ministry to the street children of Mining,” she said. “It will be a great opportunity to work with people who are poor.”
In her address to the assembly toward the end of Mass, Sister Yolanda expressed deep gratitude for the Central House. “Our hearts are filled with joy and gladness with this dream come true,” Sister Yolanda said. “After saying good-bye to our Motherhouse where we lived for almost 50 years, God has surprised us with this edifice.” She described the Central House as a “beautiful home we can call our very own,” and credited the “grace; divine providence; and the outpouring love, mercy, and compassion of our God.”
Sister Yolanda thanked all who helped in the funding and construction of the Central House: the 2016-2022 General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters; other benefactors, sponsors, friends, and family whose donations made the building’s construction possible; local government officials; the construction company and the landscaper; Sisters in the Mission Chapter who solicited donations and helped in the preparation of seedlings for the garden; members of the previous Mission Council, headed by former Chapter Prioress Sister Rosita Yaya, OP; members of the Construction Committee; and other Adrian Dominican Sisters.
“God will surely bestow upon you hundredfold blessings,” Sister Yolanda said. She concluded by asking God to “make us worthy of this place by being blessings to others, too, and give us the grace to become the best version of ourselves for others.”
Sister Elise D. García, OP, Prioress of the Congregation, offered her own words of encouragement to the Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter and to all who were involved in the construction of the Central House.
“The construction of this convent is a sign of hope in our world – not just here in Mining, not just here in Pampanga or the Philippines, but truly a sign of hope for our entire world that there is a presence of our beautiful Dominican community here – a witness to the love of God that is within us and that is manifested by each and every one of the Sisters who will call this Dominican house home from this day forward,” she said.