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.
May 1, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – In a brief but moving ritual, the Adrian Dominican Sisters on April 28 dedicated a memorial marker for Sisters in the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in Pampanga, Philippines.
Engraved on the stone marker in the Congregation’s cemetery are the names of Sisters Aleli Mayor José, OP; Esperanza Leonardo Bonifacio, OP; Lettyham Gomez Espiritu, OP; and La Purisima Alcantara Careso, OP. The names of other Sisters from the Remedies Chapter will be engraved on the marker upon their deaths.
The memorial marker is testament to the close connection between the Dominican Sisters in the Philippines and the Adrian Dominican Sisters, who helped the Filipino congregation become established in the 1960s. The Adrian Dominican congregation provided formation of the first Remedies Sisters. The two congregations merged in November 2011, on the Feast of Our Lady of Remedies.
The ritual began in the gathering space of St. Catherine Chapel, where Sister Kathleen Schanz, OP, former General Councilor, facilitated the service. Sister Rosemary Ferguson, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters at the time of the Remedies Sisters’ independence, read a letter she had written at the time.
“It is gratifying to see the fruits of our own Sisters’ ministry among these Filipina Sisters,” Sister Rosemary had written. “They are a fine and noble group of women, beautiful in the Lord – unusually so – very Asian, very Dominican. They have a beautiful fortitude and grit. … I believe that our Congregation will be blessed for our part in the formation of the diocesan community, for they seem to be a prophetic sign in the Philippines.”
As a symbol of the connection, Sister Zenaida Nacpil, OP, Chapter Prioress of the Remedies Mission Chapter, brought hand-sewn scarves of the colors of her native country. Each member of the Leadership Council – made up of the General Council and the Chapter Prioresses of each of seven Chapters – chose a scarf and wore it during the procession and dedication at the cemetery.
Noting poet John O’Donohue’s reference to stones as “tabernacles of memory,” Sister Kathleen spoke to the small group of Sisters and Co-workers gathered around the marker in the cemetery. “We stand within a circle of stone and of rich memory, at the same time surrounded by circle in this cemetery,” she said. “Circles of stone, in silence and stillness, they are tabernacles of memory for all of us as Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates, our family and our friends.”
During the ritual, members of the Leadership Council read brief biographies of the Sisters whose names are etched in the marker:
“We are reminded of the holiness and the aliveness of Aleli, of Esper, of Letty, of Puring, and of what a blessing their lives are to their people and to us,” Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, said as she began the sprinkling rite, blessing the marker.