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Adrian Dominican Sisters Learn of Justice Issues in Philippines

August 16, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – One of the focuses of ministry for many Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates is advocating for social justice in a wide range of issues. Adrian Dominican Sisters from the United States had a special opportunity on August 2 to learn about the justice issues facing their Sisters in the Philippines, members of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter.

Sister Antonette Lumbang, OP – Justice Promoter for the Remedies Chapter – gave a presentation on three key justice issues that her nation faces, as well as the responses to those issues by the Sisters of the Remedies Chapter. Sisters Maria Socorro Garcia, OP, and Lourdes Pamintuan, OP also took part in the presentation.

After a brief description of the history and geography of her South Asian nation – made up of 7,700 islands – Sister Antonette explained through words, videos, and slides three key issues facing her nation today. 

War against Drugs. After taking office in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte launched a war against drugs, in which suspected drug dealers and users are killed by the police without due process. Sister Antonette noted that thousands of people have been killed in drug raids – “mostly poor or simple users,” while the major players in drug trafficking have remained at large. While drugs have been a problem in the Philippines and enforcement of drug laws is an important step, “the issue here is that you don’t just kill people without due process.”

A related issue is the declaration of martial law in May 2017 in Marawi, a city in the southern region of Mindanao as a result of armed conflict between the military, security forces, and ISIS terrorists. Sister Antonette noted some of the results: people killed and wounded in the siege; a greater likelihood of arrest; and the displacement of thousands of civilians.

The re-imposition of the death penalty. About a decade after it was abolished, the death penalty in the Philippines is coming closer to being reinstated. The bill to reinstate it has passed in the House and we’re “waiting for the results in the Senate,” Sister Antonette said.  

In response to this violence, Sister Antonette said, the Remedies Sisters have been protesting through their own Walk for Life in their northern region of Pampanga, supporting the Catholic Church’s stance against any policies that oppose the sanctity of life. 

“We’re making a conscious effort in our schools to raise the consciousness of the students” on the issue of the death penalty, Sister Antonette said. The Sisters are also involved in demonstrations against the death penalty. Sister Antonette was among a group of Sisters from her Chapter who lobbied against the death penalty at the House of Representatives in January.

Climate Change. “This is the area where our Chapter has been most involved,” Sister Antonette said, noting that the Philippines has already been impacted by climate change. Families are already impoverished in the Philippines, she said, but climate change has added to their burden. “Climate change will severely affect our future growth and put our region at risk.” Her country has already experienced severe typhoons in recent years. Because of the increased temperatures, typhoons and floods will become even more common in the Philippines, Sister Antonette explained.

The Sisters in the Remedies Chapter have been involved in mitigating climate change in a number of ways. Some Sisters have signed the Laudate Si Pledge to respond to Pope Francis’ encyclical on environment by “praying for and with creation, living more simply, and advocating to protect our common home.” 

The Sisters have also responded in practical ways: through community farming, work towards zero-waste management, and setting up windmills in two of the Sisters’ communities to generate wind power.

Sister Antonette brought her update on justices issues in the Philippines to Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates in the Detroit and Chicago areas later in the week. 

 

Feature photo at top: Sister Antonette Lumbang, OP, addresses Adrian Dominican Sisters at the Motherhouse about the major justice issues facing the people of the Philippines.


Adrian Dominican Sisters Dedicate Memorial Marker for Filipina Sisters

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:

  • Sister Aleli Jose (1939-1994) was born in Manila and came to know the Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies during her involvement with the Young Christian Workers in the region of Pampanga. She entered in May 1967 and was the Congregation’s third Prioress. She was always focused on struggling people, especially farmers and fisher folks, and pioneered the Congregation’s social action ministry.

  • Sister Esperanza “Esper” Bonifacio (1933-2007) was a pioneer of the Remedies Congregation, one of four Filipina Sisters who traveled to Adrian, Michigan, for their formation. Back in the Philippines, her first ministry was as a catechist (religion teacher); later she also ministered in training catechists; coordinated feeding programs for mothers and children; and served as secretary to the Office of Archbishop of San Fernando in Pampanga.

  • Sister Lettyham “Letty” Espiritu (1965-2011) was born in Saigan, Viet Nam, but at the age of 5 moved with her family to the Philippines, her family’s native country. She met the Congregation at Mother of Good Counsel Seminary in San Fernando and entered in 1993. She taught; served as treasurer of Holy Rosary College; ministered at the Tala Leprosarium Hospital; served as Formator for Sisters in temporary profession; and as coordinator of the Dominican Social Action Pastoral Ministry.

  • Sister La Purisima “PuringCareso, the first of the Filipina Sisters to die as an Adrian Dominican Sister, died on May 29, 2016, at the age of 62. She entered in 1982 and ministered as treasurer in various parochial schools; coordinated of the Social Action Center; and ministered with the indigenous Aeta community. She was also well known as a musician and composer. 

“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.

   
LEFT: Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, right, holds a basket while Sister Carol Jean Kesterke, OP, a member of the Leadership Council, selects a hand-sewn scarf from the Philippines. Sister Frances Nadolny, OP, looks on. RIGHT: Sisters Zenaida Nacpil, OP, left, and Patricia Siemen, OP, lead a procession to the cemetery.

 


Sisters surround the memorial marker for the dedication.

 

 

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