20th Death Anniversary of Cassandra Martyrs


Shepherding has taken many forms in the history of the Good Shepherd
Sisters. In the Philippines, on November 21, 1983, it was shepherding in a
shipwreck. Sisters Mary Consuelo Chuidian, Concepcion Conti, Virginia
Gonzaga, and Catherine Loreto were on board the M/V Doña Cassandra when it
sank in shark-infested waters off the coast of Northeastern Mindanao,
Philippines. Survivors told of the four Sisters praying, distributing life
vests, helping children put theirs on, instructing other passengers to
hasten towards the life rafts and to be ready to abandon ship, not
calculating how little time they had to save themselves – until time did run

Mary Consuelo Chuidian, 46, born in Manila, a religious of 20 years,
Superior of the Davao Community, had volunteered to document the first case
of hamletting, Vietnam-style, in Laac, Davao del Norte. She chaired the
Women’s Alliance for True Change, was coordinator of the Rural Missionaries
for Southern Mindanao, and was active in the associations of women religious
in Davao and Mindanao. Her leadership inspired her community to be open to
victims of every kind, especially those of Martial Law.

Mary Concepcion Conti, 46, born in Bauan, Batangas, a religious of 18 years,
member of the Davao Community, had organized and headed the Community-Based
Health Program in the Diocese of Tagum. She sought to train rural health
workers, thus empowering them to attend to the basic health needs of the
poor. She was an exceptional teacher and learner who brought her skills to
her Mindanao mission.

Mary Virginia Gonzaga, 42, born in Bacolod City, a religious of 9 years,
Superior of the Sapad Community in Lanao del Norte. She had organized the
Young Christian Workers in her home city and later, as a religious, worked
among slum dwellers and migrant workers before she went to the Sapad mission
among Christians and Muslims.

Mary Catherine Loreto, 39, born in Pasig, Rizal, a religious of 8 years,
member of the Davao Community, at the time of her death was coordinator of
Task Force Detainees in her area. Hers was the most difficult challenge of
standing up for those harassed by the military and their families, with the
risk of herself falling under suspicion.

    The four
Sisters were honored by Bantayog ng Mga Bayani Foundation at its annual
celebration of martyrs and heroes. In inscribing their names on the Wall of
Remembrance, 7 December 1999, the citation read:

For contributing to the
protest movement against the Marcos dictatorship and human rights
abuses, as street parliamentarians and religious superiors heading and
implementing education, health, rehabilitation and justice programs,
both through legal and extra-legal means;

For leaving the safety
and comfort of home and convent to work as rural missionaries among poor
farmers, indigenous peoples and Muslims in remote areas of Mindanao,
thus becoming active witnesses to the Church’s mission to serve the
poor, deprived and oppressed at the height of state repression of the

For putting their individual
talents at the service of country and people.


PASTOL composed for the Cassandra Martyrs on November 25, 1983
Music and Lyrics by Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros, SJ
Sung by Noel Cabangon
Ang mamatay sa sarili ay
mabubuhay sa Diyos;
Sya'y larawan ni Kristo, ang Mabuting Pastol.
At kanyang iniaalay ang sarili niyang buhay
Sa lugod at kabutihan ng minamahal niyang kapwa.
Sa paglapit ng panganib, tumatakas ang upahan;
Ngunit ang tunay na Pastol nananatili hanggang kamatayan.
At kaya't siya'y mahal din ng Butihing Diyos na Ama.
Sa pagkat handa syang mamatay
Nang ang kawan ay maligtas
Music File