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May 9, 2016, San Fernando, Pampanga, the Philippines – Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP, Director of Formation for the Adrian Dominican Congregation, shared some key moments in late March and early April with Adrian Dominican Sisters in the Philippines, members of the Congregation’s Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter.
The Remedies Chapter recently celebrated the 50-year Jubilee of its founding. The Adrian Dominican Congregation helped with the formation of the Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies, and, in November 2011, the Remedies Congregation merged with the Adrian Dominican Congregation.
Sister Lorraine had the opportunity to accompany the Remedies Chapter during some key moments: a Holy Week retreat at the Provincial House in San Fernando; the Easter Triduum, a three-day Liturgy that spans the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Good Friday service, and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. In addition, Sister Lorraine was present for the final profession of vows of Sisters Salvacion Valenzuela, OP, and Alma Zapanta, OP. She also had the opportunity to take part in another key moment in the Philippines: the closing of the school year and graduations.
“The highlight of the Philippines trip for me was getting to know our Sisters,” Sister Lorraine said, noting that they had all gathered together for the Holy Week retreat. “I was very struck by our Sisters’ commitment to the poor and their immersion with the poor, and their awareness and involvement in issues affecting the people.”
Sister Lorraine noted the poverty that she saw in the Philippines, and the way that people live in corrugated tin houses and in polluted areas. But, after praying to see the situation through Jesus’ eyes, she said, she also saw the hope, joy, and energy of the people. “In the midst of some real poverty and chaos, I noticed all the lovely human interactions. …I thought, ‘What a drive for life!” In spite of the hardship that they faced daily, she said, the people “worked so hard in such heat and difficult conditions to survive, and I was really quite impressed by their enterprising nature and their energy.”
In spite of their work with people in poverty – and their efforts to bring relief to those suffering from natural disasters, such as the recent typhoon that struck in 2014 – Sister Lorraine saw joy in the Remedies Sisters as well. “I was struck by how much they enjoy life,” she said. “They laugh easily and have fun easily – and there’s a real gift in that.”
The Remedies Sisters share that joy with the people around them. Sister Lorraine noted the large crowds of people from the greater community who came to celebrate the final profession of Sisters Salvacion and Alma. “It was a huge celebration, with many guests, many friends, seminarians, family – just lots of people there, joyously celebrating. It felt like a real community celebration in the broad sense of community.”
Some of the cultural experiences also impressed Sister Lorraine. For example, after the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the people maintain the tradition of visiting seven churches. Sister Lorraine was impressed by the number of people who participated in this custom – and by the traffic, which limited to five the number of churches they could visit in five hours. “At every church we went to, there were hundreds and hundreds of people. It was the strength of their faith – how much that devotion meant to the people.”
Sister Lorraine was also impressed by the family values that shone through the four graduation ceremonies she attended – each different. “The parents actually go on stage with the graduate,” she said, and each graduating class sings a particular song that captures their class spirit.
Finally, Sister Lorraine came away from the experience with a greater appreciation for the Asian culture of the Philippines. She had believed that the Filipinos had adopted some of the Hispanic heritage. While the Spanish conquerors gave them Spanish last names, she said, they never took on that culture. “They took on the Catholic faith, because that fit, but they never took on the culture,” she said, adding that the Filipino culture is truly Asian.