Dumaguete City: Life is a Mission



“It is not always easy; we do not always see the fruits of what we do. However, we are certain that God is with us and carries out His Work according to His infinite loving plans.

filSr. Armida, Sr. Maria and Sr. Cristina with some young girls“We continue to discover poverty such as we have never known. A mother with a five-year-old son asked us to help her find a way to give her son up for adoption because she was homeless and jobless and could offer him nothing. After listening to her, I told her that our Foundress, Blessed Frances Schervier, would have done anything to help her and her little son Lanz. We did, in fact help Lanz by finding him food and shelter in an orphanage – but his mother did not ‘give’ him away.” She smiled when we helped her --and decided to keep Lanz, in the hope of finding work in the City. This would enable her to visit him at the orphanage...a small, but meaningful miracle!

“Last week a lady asked one of the Sisters: ‘Are you a nun? What is your ministry?’ Hearing that she was returning from the Shelter of Hope she asked, in tears, if we could provide help for her two-day old niece, who needed urgent heart surgery. With the help of a social worker and local public resources, we were able to help this infant – another small miracle.

“One of our friends and sponsors recycled some wood used in the packaging of home appliances, offering to build some flower containers for us. She designed the models herself and her initiative caught the interest of some of our other guests this has already brought important results. It is likely that her creativity will open other ways to change more lives: perhaps it will create opportunities for jobs, a source of income? The Lord is great; He loves His children and slowly opens new paths. The Lord asks us to be simple and remain attentive to both needs and opportunities that present themselves on our journey.”

To be a missionary…

Sister Cristina Di Nocco said: “...frankly speaking, being a missionary to the people would be impossible without faith. Every aspect of this mission has, and continues to, make my faith grow.” The needs are many and diverse, at times, overwhelming. In Dumaguete City where we are located, the people have gentle hearts and continue to welcome us -- and push us towards new horizons.

“Our first ministry, a soup kitchen (Shelter of Hope), still speaks to our hearts, and to the hearts of many who support us in this city. We are in need of an assessment and deeper understanding of how to better proceed: the soup kitchen, which now offers many other services has expanded our horizons considerably. In Dumaguete alone, and in the other four Barangays*(*A barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines and is the native Filipino term for a village, district or ward. In colloquial usage, the term often refers to an inner city neighborhood.)that surround our convent, we are being urged -- pushed -- to open new ministries. For example, a few steps from our door there are prisons for men and women, which require assistance at various levels. Furthermore, there is an increasingly strong pull that is moving us to help the women and girls who are involved in prostitution -- or at risk of becoming involved. We also have been asked to consider offering pastoral ministry as well as ministry to the pre-school/kindergarten children, especially for the poorest of the poor. Last, but not least, there is a pressing need to find a nighttime shelter for young people who live on the streets.” So, to be a missionary is to face many challenges simultaneously, to make astute decisions about where we can best place our resources, and to allow ourselves to rest understanding that, however important and however much we may want to, we cannot meet all the needs.”

Sr. Armida Sison, a native Filippina, advises us that “Being in mission entails much listening and learning before you can do anything. A missionary not only accepts new cultures, but also must be open herself to them. Otherwise she could not place herself in the mainstream of the local society. Being a missionary also means you are willing to leave your own comfort zone and your own country. You need to learn a new language or languages, which may prove difficult at times. And you need to open yourself to new perspectives in terms of the local culture by embracing their religious practices and traditions.” She goes on to say: “To be a missionary in my own country has definite advantages. I am among my own people although I am from another part of the country, which has its own regional ‘culture’ and is different from our mission territory. I speak different dialects and have different food tastes and religious practices. Despite all these differences, still it seems easier for me to adjust to the mission.”

Sr. Maria Atorino says: “God’s Providence is great in all things. In my personal experience the love of God often manifests itself through God’s providing our everyday goods, such as the gift of rice (the primary food) and various other things to eat (fruits, meat, fish) for the soup kitchen; and clothes, medicines, kitchenware, even the showers we need for the people. God has also provided qualified volunteers who help us with the teaching, and social workers who help see to it that we fulfill the various demands of bureaucracy. Another great form of God’s Providence is to bring us nurses and others who help with vaccinations and dentists to care for the people’s teeth (in one day, volunteer dentists helped 800 people). Learning to trust in God’s Providence is absolutely fundamental to being a missionary!”

According to Sr. Maria, obstacles cannot stop you from moving on to more services. “The journey traveled in these last years,” she says, “tells me that we must continue the ministries we have already begun, that is, to teach the little ones, increase the well-being of adolescents and assist the adults in learning about the requirements for good human relations. We have provided formal education to build a better tomorrow and to give all a dignified future.” She also has high hopes that her dream will be realized to build a new, larger center where the less fortunate of any age might find a sense of family by extending some practical initiatives already active in the small center. We also have provided pre- school education and human development and prepare children for elementary and middle school -- so that some of them may have access to college. We want to develop a local workshop and teach people to work with bamboo and wood; to recycle fabrics and plastics to help poor families who will be able to make them into purses. We want to make mats (which can be used for sleeping, so that people would be lifted from the floor and the ground they now share with domestic animals).”

Sr. Cristina added: “We have lived through many small and big stories in these first four years of the Dumaguete mission’s life. Some are stories lived in community and others are lived at a personal level. First, the experience of the constant presence of God’s Providence for us, and especially for our poor people.

Second, the constant and rich, loving care of God has often renewed my faith in His Word - ‘seek the kingdom of God and his justice and the rest will be given to you plentifully.’ God really is a loving Father, and while He sends us to serve his poorest and most abandoned children, He also lets us witness the miracles of healing – not only among the poor but also in the lives of our benefactors. Thus, I am witnessing one saving event in which the beneficiaries become benefactors and the benefactors become beneficiaries. Isn’t this perhaps the greatest miracle that takes place under our eyes, day after day? The wounded healers also are healed!”

So to be a missionary is to hope, trust, plan, dream of a better future – and to be healed ourselves. This is to live!


Published: June 9, 2014

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