December 1, 2016, Bodǿ, Norway – Sisters Racquel P. Rones, OP, and Alma Zapanta, OP, both Adrian Dominicans from the Philippines, minister in what many may see as an unlikely place: a parish in Bodǿ, Norway. The Sisters are there for a specific reason: to reach out to the Filipino immigrants, who work in hospitals, hotels, and the fishing industry.
Sister Racquel has served in the northern Norway parish since April 2013, and was joined by Sister Alma in July 2016. They are pastoral workers at St. Eystein Menighet Parish.
“Because of my ability to speak [the Filipino immigrants’] language and my understanding of the practice of the Catholic faith in the Philippines, I am able to work with the parish priest and staff to minister better to their needs,” Sister Raquel explained.
Sisters Raquel and Alma assist parish catechists who prepare children for first Communion, counsel parishioners, visit the sick and those who live alone, help with the financial aspects of the parish, and facilitate special events such as Advent and Lenten recollections.
The Sisters also help with coordination Masses. The first and third Saturdays of each month they travel three hours with the parish priest to offer Mass outside of the parish; once a month, they help facilitate English Masses, which includes leading choir practice. On weekends, the Sisters serve people who come for prayer and counseling, go on visitations, follow up on parish activities, and attend meetings.
Along with their vigorous ministry, Sisters Racquel and Alma also have a structured regimen of prayer: daily Mass at different times and places on different days of the week and communal Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer.
Both also spend much of their time in formal study of the Norwegian language.
“At first the biggest challenge is the language, weather, and culture, but with God’s grace we learned to adapt and love our ministry because the community is simple,” Sister Raquel said. The parishioners are “helpful to one another. They see the graces and blessings in spite of their hardships.” In addition, she said, they are respectful and show their love for the Sisters and the parish priest.
Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter have served in Bodǿ, Norway, since June 2005, when they were still a separate Dominican congregation. Sister Zenaida Nacpil, OP, currently Chapter Prioress, heard about the need for Sisters to minister in Norway through her involvement with Dominican Sisters International. After visiting St. Eystein Parish in 2004, Sister Zenaida became one of the first missionaries to serve there, along with Sister Bibiana Colasito, OP.
Feature photo: Sister Alma Zapanta, OP, poses with the Norwegian flag