Philippines North: A People of Deep Faith and Resilience
Moved by our passion for mission, today we arrived in the Philippines with its smiling people and deep faith. In the Philippines, we have two SSpS Provinces and today we will get to know the mission carried out by our sisters in the Northern Province.
Gifted to Give
The Philippine Church has for the past 500 years (1521-2021) been “gifted to give” with its joyful faith amidst life’s challenges and its commitment to share the unconditional love of the Triune God through evangelical works of charity.
The SSpS Congregation in the Philippines and its missionary endeavors for the past 110 years (1912-2022) have shared in the Church’s work of evangelization, immersed and on the way of always being transformed in the life of the Trinity, proclaiming the saving love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Philippines is predominantly Catholic. The people’s “gift” of a deep faith life tides us over difficult times and challenging situations (e.g., the successive natural calamities – earthquakes, typhoons, and floods; and man-made disasters – extrajudicial killings and indiscriminate war against drugs) and makes us rise above them.
We are resilient people with a sense of humor – we can laugh at our mistakes, joke about our predicaments, and wear a smile (e.g., doing a “selfie” in a relief operation during a storm). We give importance to family and relationships (wanting a good life, not just for ourselves, but for the family as well), and table fellowship marks our celebrations of life!
However, we see a growing moral degradation; confusion/decadence of values; and breakdown of family ties because of migration, ecological destruction, and development aggression. A rising problem is the prevalence of fake news through social media, silently influencing the country’s politics and economy. The gap between the rich and the poor ever widens!
But our youth remains to be our treasure and the hope of our Motherland! A big majority (29.1%) of our population is composed of the youth. Full of dreams, and growing up in a digital world, they look for good opportunities and aspire for more! Though vulnerable to information inaccuracies, they long for authenticity and experiences that have a deep impact on them and their lives, connecting them with what is right and true. They are a potent force for change, for service, for mission!
The SSpS PHN (Rosary Province in Luzon) follows the Congregational Direction: “Communities Becoming Melodies of Compassion”, through its missionary presence and service in 11 Communities, 2 sub-Communities, 6 schools (5 formal and 1 non-formal), 3 retreat houses, 7 dormitories, 4 pastoral ministries under the Holy Spirit Social Center (the social development arm of the Province), and 3 formation houses.
Sharing our gift of faith through a mission-driven education went through major challenges. Over the years, the SSpS schools faced the tide of change and dwindling enrolment, but the “gift” and call of the mission remains alive. Many of the institutions were handed over to the Catholic dioceses and are doing well. “The greatest joy of the missionary in handing over mission is to hear from the lay people, “The Spirit lives on!”
The core reason for the formation of the Unified Holy Spirit School System (UHSSS) for the remaining 5 schools of the Province is to ensure the continuing SSpS mission of ‘educating for mission’ through greater collaboration, dynamic engagement, strategic resource utilization, and development and value-adding innovation among and between the Holy Spirit schools.
An Alternative Learning System (ALS) Center provides opportunities for communion with the urban poor (out-of-school youths, dropouts from formal schools, and those who have lost hope of being able to pursue their education due to extreme poverty) in terms of non-formal education and income-generating activities.
Blue Sisters’ House and Home
Sharing our gift of faith is to make others feel at “home.” The pastoral ministries have been a fertile ground for widening the circle of faith communion with those who are searching for meaning in life.
The retreat ministry of the SSpS has opened opportunities for people from all walks of life to experience a sacred space. Our retreat house offers a temporary home wherein one encounters in a deeper way the love of God and fosters a desire for intentional discipleship according to his/her personal vocation in life.
Many retreatants experienced a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and were called to witness becoming better persons in the family, community, workplace, and as citizens.
However, there is a phenomenal demand for spiritual guidance and companionship. To meet the challenge of offering service aside from the house facilities, the Sisters are called to be engaged in retreat/recollection facilitation, spiritual accompaniment, youth seminars, and encounters.
The dormitories have been a second Christian home for the students, young ladies, and employees who are away from their families. There are opportunities to share life and faith. The Sister-in-charge and the community strive to take time to encounter them personally and organize activities to foster community spirit and unity.
Creative and Transformative Service for God’s Anawim
Sharing our gift of faith is to be deeply affected and moved to action by the struggles of those on the fringes of society. We continuously find ways of reaching out to those on the margins so that loving service becomes creative and transformative as well.
We strive to encounter people where they are, as we sustain, intensify, and explore ministries directly involved with them (e.g., Indigenous People, Urban poor, Homeless, Chaplaincy, and Church-based Counselling/Social Services).
Other concrete responses and actions take the form of attendance in discernment circles, fora, and seminars; signature campaigns; participation in prayer rallies and peace marches; candle lighting and daily Rosary; legislative advocacy; attendance in Senate and Congress hearings; Laudato Si gardens (e.g., seedling and the Earth hour).
Formation for Global Mission
Sharing our gifts and resources, the province openly welcomes SSpS Sisters from the different Provinces of Europe, Asia Pacific, America, and Africa for different levels of religious missionary life formation. International formation programs for the novitiate, tertianship, and formator’s course have been hosted in the country for several years. This is one of the unique contributions to the global mission of the Congregation.
Spreading the Faith
Rejoicing and sharing the gift of faith, the Rosary Province embarked on a new mission in Vietnam, in 2002, together with the Provinces of Java, Flores and Australia. To date, SSpS Vietnam is growing steadily with local vocations, vibrantly sharing life and mission in the orphanage, health clinics, institutions for HIV-AIDS patients and abandoned sick, as well as in tutoring children and giving catechesis.
“What you receive as a gift, give as a gift.” The province missions in the different ministries are manifestations of the gift we have received as a province, which is the same seed of faith sown 500 years ago in our shores. This seed of faith has blossomed and is now flowering and bearing fruit.
The mission continues to grow rapidly with new challenges in new landscapes. We are constantly evolving and adapting ourselves according to the signs and exigencies of the times. And we are changing to remain relevant missionaries considering our changing capabilities and composition, in consonance with the changing mission needs.
It also affords opportunities to evoke creative responses individually, as community, and province in the realization of our common dream: Communities Becoming Melodies of Compassion.
Sr. Elaine Faith Taneo, SSpS
Collated from PHN General Chapter and Provincial Chapter Reports