October 29, 2019, San Fernando, Philippines – Adrian Dominican Sisters from North America – the Dominican Republic and the United States – experienced inspiration, joy, and many graces and memories when they attended a Congregational gathering with the Adrian Dominican Sisters serving in the Philippines and their Partners in Mission.
This summer, July 31 to August 4, 2019, the Adrian Dominican Sisters held a congregational gathering, Embracing the Future / Encuentro con el Futuro / Pagyakap sa Hinaharap, during which Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, and Partners in Mission from sponsored institutions gathered in Adrian, Michigan, to celebrate the present and look together toward the future. The Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in Pampanga, the Philippines, hosted its own Pagyakap sa Hinaharap at University of the Assumption in San Fernando October 5-6, 2019, with 300 Partners in Mission.
Special guests of the October gathering included eight North Americans from the United States and the Dominican Republic: Sisters Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, who spoke at the event; Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor; Carol Jean Kesterke, OP, Chapter Prioress of the Great Lakes Dominican Mission Chapter, based in Detroit; Basilia De la Cruz, OP; Marilín Llanes, OP; Carolyn Roeber, OP; Maria Eneida Santiago, OP; and Nery (Luchy) Sori, OP.
Read the reflection on Pagyakap sa Hinaharap, written by Sister Liberty Mendoza, OP.
Three of the North American visitors reflected on what they learned at the gathering, their experience of the culture of the Philippines, and the ministries of the Sisters: Sister Carol Jean; Sister Marilín, a school psychologist at the Joliet, Illinois, School District; and Sister Luchy, who ministers at Espíritu Santo School, Sección San José de Arroyo Hondo in the Dominican Republic.
Sister Luchy said she benefited from the presentation by attorney Alex Lacson. “The presentation helped us to understand the situation in the Philippines,” she said. “He explained very well what the problems are and where they are, the political and economic situation.”
She noted similarities between the economic challenges of the Philippines and the Dominican Republic – extreme poverty, with people owning small businesses to make some money, and a “deep division between the rich and the poor.” Sister Luchy said the division is greater in the Philippines than in her own country.
Sister Luchy also noted the situations of many families in both countries in which one parent has to leave home to earn money to send back to their families. “The children feel abandoned, and they don’t feel the same love from an uncle or aunt or brother or sister,” she said. “They understand that their parents have to go out of the country to make money so they can survive, but it isn’t the same.”
Sister Carol Jean also spoke of this challenge. “So many leave their country to support their families, which is so disruptive,” she said. She spoke to two lay co-workers who had once been in that situation, one working in Jerusalem and the other in Taiwan, both to support their families. “Their economy didn’t support them,” she said.
Sister Marilín, also reflecting on the presentation by the attorney, said she learned how the economy of the Philippines “plummeted” in 50 years. “This is happening because of 40 families in the Philippines who own the Philippines,” she said. “It’s a dynasty and they insert themselves in all the circles of power.” Sister Marilín also learned of the daily violence caused by extrajudicial killings – drug dealers, but more drug users who are targeted by the government and killed as part of the nation’s war on drugs.
Sister Marilín was also impressed by Father Quirico Pedregosa, OP, and his encouragement to Dominicans to follow their call to preach to people on the peripheries of society. “At the end he says that every time the [Dominican] Order flourishes, it’s when we respond to the peripheries,” to people who are cast aside or neglected by society.
The Sisters from North America also recognized many admirable qualities in the Filipino culture. Sister Luchy noted that one of the biggest differences between the Filipino and the North American cultures is the respect that the people in the Philippines have for their elders. She said she was especially impacted by the way children and young people come to the Sisters and humbly ask for a blessing.
“To experience another culture was just personally enriching,” Sister Carol Jean said. “It kind of changes you. You take in these beautiful people and you learn something of the sufferings that they endure.”
Sister Marilín was struck by the hospitality of the Sisters. “The Filipino culture is the most welcoming and so attentive to detail and to making sure you feel at home,” she said. “The minute I stepped into their house, I felt at home.”
The guests from North America also had the opportunity to come to know the Sisters from Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, their various ministries, and the influence they have on the people they serve. The Sisters teach and administer in various schools; teach catechism and serve in a feeding program for students at Villa Maria, a private school that serves the indigenous Aeta people; reach out to street children; and advocate for justice and peace for their people.
“It was just such a gift to be with the Sisters and to be with the people they minister to,” Sister Carol Jean said. “[Ministry is] their life, and you can really see that – and how grateful the people on the panel were on Saturday to have the Sisters in their lives.” But, recalling the injustice and the difficulties that the people in the Philippines face, she added, “It’s hard for me to imagine how our Sisters carry the pain that is so prevalent there.”
Sister Luchy saw that the greatest gift the Sisters in the Philippines can give is hope. “They bring hope to the people they have in ministry,” she said. “Our Sisters are doing their best to bring hope to those people who are very poor.”
“It was a rich experience of integrating our Dominican charism in Asia and beyond, and then to understand how together we are embracing the future,” Sister Marilín recalled. “I was so honored to have had the opportunity to go.”
Feature photo (top): Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, left, and Sister Carol Jean Kesterke, OP, speak to some of the school children who danced for participants of Pagyakap sa Hinaharap.