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In these past few months, a few Sisters have had the opportunity to share in the life of our Mission in the Philippines. We have asked them to update us on their wonderful adventure…


f05Sr. Cristina, Sr. Armida, Sr. Domitilde and Sr. Maria Lucia
When Sister Licia visited Brazil and participated in our Area Assembly, she extended to me an invitation to serve in our mission in the Philippines. I was still recovering from Dengue Fever which had left me feeling very bad.  I inherited from my father this taste for challenges; thus, I placed myself in God's hands before answering that call. A medical checkup revealed that I had regained my health, which I saw that as a sign from God to say "yes" to this invitation.  And here I am, Lord! God has been so generous to me!  Whenever I get disheartened with the routine, there comes a call like this to challenge me.

It had never crossed my mind, not even in my wildest dreams, the possibility of one day serving as a missionary in an Asian country.  Nonetheless, I went to the Philippines with an open heart, to serve in whatever way was needed. The result is rich in encounters with people of all social and cultural levels. 

f09With the children in the Nutrition Program Our plans are definitely not God's plans!

 Sometimes I am a little frightened about the language barrier: How can I talk to these nice people?  But then I remember the symbolic language – that is,  body language and the language of the heart – which is universal and knows no barriers.  I'm helping in the Shelter of Hope, the program that our Sisters started here for the people living on the streets of this city. The Shelter gives them a place where they are treated with dignity: they can bathe, wash their clothes, receive two hot meals, pray together, and participate in various social activities offered to them by the Sisters and our collaborators. 

When I arrive to serve the soup, the children come running to me with smiling faces.  I see the purity of their gaze, their joy and their serenity even though they do not have a roof under which to sleep.  They live as Saint Francis wished for his traveling companions. Yet, we, his followers, sometimes complain if we lack something! 

We could learn from these children how to live the Gospel in our everyday lives. While the rich may have many possessions, they also may not get a peaceful night's sleep because they are afraid of losing their property!  The people at the Center of Hope are more fortunate than they. Poverty is not what God wants for any of his children. 

f13Sr. Armida and Sr. Maria Lucia picking sweet corn f08Sr. Armida and Sr. Maria Lucia with the young students f12 Sr. Maria Lucia

Rather He wants everyone to share at the same table.  And, indeed, some local wealthy families are generous and have been helping our Sisters maintain the services we offer to the needy. 
I have opportunities to go to different places around this beautiful city with our Sisters, a city as full of contrasts as any of our Western cities. I thank God and the Congregation for this new opportunity. I left my comfort zone to serve the God through His beloved poor – and I have never been more grateful. "Whoever receives one such child in my name, receives me" (Matthew 18:5).

Sister Maria Lucia Barbosa de Oliveira, SFP

 

"Everything works together for good for those who love the Lord."

With these words I hope to translate my awe and gratitude to God who has allowed me to live with "Our Lady of Hope" Community and the Filipino people.  
f10A Filipino familyI arrived in Dumaguete City some weeks ago, and my time here has been rich with divine grace delivered through encounters with people, and sharing time and thoughts with the people of God in Dumaguete.  f02bSr. Cristina, Sr. Armida, Sr. Domitilde and Sr. Maria LuciaI was struck by their hospitality, and by the greatness of heart of the people of this city -- both rich and poor. My personal faith was strengthened by their way of expressing their faith in God during the solemn Eucharistic Celebrations or their special local devotions.
I am very grateful to God and to the Congregation for giving me the opportunity to share in this ministry of nurturing the poor of the streets through community, just as Mother Frances did. Today I participated in the Nutrition Program: I thought to myself, “for all these people without a home, I am not at all useful.” And yet there I was, washing their shower robes, doing laundry for the young people and hanging their clothing out to dry. It came to mind that, although we cannot do everything, we can do something! Moreover, it is not what we do that counts, but rather the way in which we do it, the love we invest in the gesture. This thought gave me peace of heart and consoled me.  
I would like to add that seeing this ministry of our sisters and living it in person has made a huge difference for me. It is truly a noble task!!! And I feel fortunate to participate in it.


Sister Domitilde Manga, SFP

Published: February 12, 2015