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.
September 28, 2015, San Fernando, Pampanga, the Philippines – The Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter of the Adrian Dominicans, based in Pampanga, the Philippines, will close their special Golden Jubilee Year with a special Mass, held at 10:00 a.m. Friday, October 2, 2015, at the Virgen Delos Remedios Chapel. The Most Reverend Florentino G. Lavarias, DD, Archbishop of San Fernando, Pampanga, will preside.
Helping the Sisters of the Chapter to celebrate during the Closing Mass will be their family members and friends; people who have worked with the Sisters; Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation; Sisters Kathleen Schanz, OP, and Rosemary Abramovich, OP, General Council members; and Adrian Dominican Sisters Marcine Klemm, OP, Rose Ann Schlitt, OP, and Jean Marie Lehtinen, who has been living with the Sisters for several months.
The Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies began in the 1960s with the help of the Adrian Dominican Congregation, who provided formation in Adrian, Michigan for interested candidates. The first Sisters arrived in the Archdiocese of San Fernando in 1965. Sister Rosemary Ferguson, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, transferred the authority to the new Congregation in 1972.
The Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies have served in education, catechesis, and pastoral ministry; ministered with indigenous people and people who are needy; and served in missions in Norway and Taiwan. The Remedies Congregation merged with the Adrian Dominican Congregation in November 2011, continuing to minister to their people as a separate Mission Chapter.
The Golden Jubilee Year opened on October 2, 2014, with a Mass celebrated at Mother of Good Counsel Seminary Chapel. Most Reverend Pablo Virgilio S. David, DD, Auxiliary Bishop of San Fernando, presided. This special Mass was followed by a simple banquet and a short program, “mostly a tribute to the Sisters who have served in different parishes and schools,” said Sister Zenaida Nacpil, OP, Chapter Prioress.
Throughout the Jubilee Year, “every month we had a Golden Jubilee Celebration in a local community,” Sister Zenaida explained. The first of the monthly events took place in the Florida Blanca community, during the 8:00 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph Church. Five of the Sisters -- including Sister Zenaida and Sisters Rosita Bernardo, OP; Rosita Yaya, OP; Ines Evangelista S. Manuel, OP; and Myra Dalisay, OP – had studied at the local school, St. Augustine Academy. The Mass was followed by a simple breakfast
At Assumption University in San Fernando, the Sisters celebrated a First Friday Mass with the students from grade school to the university level. The program included a talk on the history of the Sisters’ involvement with the school, given by Sister Arsenia Puno, OP, who had been involved in the school in a variety of ways for more than 30 years.
In January 2015, the Jubilee celebration was held at Holy Rosary College in Tala, an elementary school, high school, and college owned by the Dominican Friars, who invited the Sisters to administer the school. The school serves a low-income population, but particularly the children of people who suffer from leprosy.
The celebration at Dominican School of Apalit – the first school owned by the Remedies Sisters – included the launching of the second edition of the Sisters’ songbook, Handog Awit (“Offering through Songs”). “We collected different songs that we use for liturgy, prayer, or group study” in English; Tagalog, the national language; and the local dialect, Pampango, Sister Zenaida explained. Attending this celebration were members of the Apalit Chapter of the lay Dominican tertiaries. The celebration included performances by the children: dancing and a skit on the life and services of the Sisters.
Celebrations also took place at the Dominican School of Angeles City in the Mining neighborhood. The four-year-old school already has about 200 students, Sister Zenaida said. Mining is also the site of the Sisters’ new farm, established as “part of our care for creation” emphasis Proceeds from the farm will help to pay the expenses of the school, which charges very low tuition.
In September, the Sisters celebrated in the Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija, where they have been involved in pastoral and liturgical ministry and the family apostolate for the past three years. Their ministry there “is a Jubilee gift to the diocese,” the original home of two of the Pioneer Remedies Sisters, Sisters Esperanza Bonifacio and Evangelina Fernandez.
Sister Zenaida said the Jubilee celebration also focused on the Sisters’ ministry to the Aetas, indigenous people who fled from their farms to the mountains because of the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. The Sisters helped the people to establish a school in the mountains, and in addition offer a feeding program three days a week to keep the children in school. Currently, she said, 13 children are attending the high school on Villa Maria, staying in a dormitory during the week so that they can focus on their studies.
The various celebrations throughout the year focused on the unifying theme, “Fifty Years of Weaving the Mystic and Prophetic Dimensions of Dominican Life.”
Feature Photo: Site of the original convent on the fourth floor of a building owned by the Archdiocese of San Fernando.