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firstfruits 01Cutting of the first fruits with discerning woman Marina RatnarjIf you have ever tried your hand at gardening, you likely have experienced the delight of watching the first fruits of a tree come to fruition. Besides the enjoyment of observation there is also the pure pleasure in tasting the produce and knowing in some small fashion you assisted with the process.

In my recent visit to Dumaguete, as liaison to the mission, I had the opportunity to enjoy with the Sisters their first produce of the trees that had been planted on their grounds. One morning, we took something of a solemn stroll together to cut the fruits, prepare them for our breakfast and share among ourselves. On reflecting on this occasion, I cannot help but think there have been many “first fruits” from God from this beginning mission effort of the Congregation in these few years.

Some of the fruits I experienced on this particular visit included hearing the stories of a group of young women who firstfruits 02Discerning woman Marina Ratnarj with Sr. Marilyncome to the monthly “Come and See” program directed by Sr. Armi. Most of these women are in college and some are involved with our scholarship program which assists them in financing their education because of limited resources. There is another group of professional women who come regularly for an evening of prayer and fellowship along with a shared meal which is overseen by Sr. Cristina.

On that particular evening of their attendance, I was asked to share with them and decided to speak of our Direction Statement and Calls from our recent Chapter. After sharing with them, one of the women made the reflective comment that she could easily connect her own journey with the Calls, especially the one related to embracing change. It was quite obvious from her sharing that this simple gathering was significant for those who came.

As is the custom in the Philippines, there were gracious invitations from local supporters of our mission to enjoy a breakfast or a dinner in their homes. Usually on these occasions, besides the social exchange, our conversation seemed to consistently return to the blessing of having contact and engagement with our Sisters and a deep appreciation of their presence and service in ministry.

Of course, besides the opportunities of meeting others in a variety of settings, we had some needful communal meeting days devoted to the present and future direction of the mission. Within these same meetings we arrived at a mission and vision statement which sets a direction for the ongoing development of the mission.
I also had the chance to spend time at the Shelter of Hope Soup Kitchen which is directed by Sr. Maria. Within this visit I experienced firsthand the expanded ministry. A new effort is the training of homeless youth to acquire a trade for income. Through the assistance of a guide they are creating an assortment of decorative boxes made from recycled wood. There is not only money in their pockets but also a sense of pride on their faces. These are rich fruits indeed!

dotfirstfruits 03Sr. Marilyn serves guests at the Shelter of Hope firstfruits 04Children at the Shelter of Hope

But a visit to the Philippines would not be complete without taking advantage of a festival of some sort. One evening we went into the city to take in a folk dance competition made up of young college aged women and men. Dressed in colorful native costumes they managed to offer us incredible movements in dance, including dancing on benches that reached high into the air and the challenge of dancing with a pottery bowl on one’s head. One could only watch with a sense of awe.
So as you can see, the fruits of the mission continue to produce wonderful accomplishments for God. I feel privileged to have been the liaison for this beginning mission which will always have a special place in my heart. Thank you, Sr. Cristina, Sr. Maria and Sr. Armi for your continued “yes” to plant yet another seed for all of us with your lives.

 dotfirstfruits 05Srs. Armi and Marilyn with the young women from the ‘Come and See’ Programfirstfruits 06Sunflowers blooming

dotfirstfruits 07Native fruitsfirstfruits 08Papaya grows on the grounds

 Sr. Marilyn Trowbridge, SFP

Published: November 5, 2013

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