70th Anniversary of RGS Presence in Cebu

Villa Maria Cebu celebrated its 70th founding
anniversary last July 15 with a Mass at the Chapel in Banawa Hills. The
presider was Fr Heinz Kul
üke, SVD, a long time friend and partner in mission.
Sr Leah Ann read in the introduction the beginnings of the community. Sisters,
apostolic and contemplative, mission partenrs and program beneficiaries were in
attendance. The theme of the celebration: 
“Pito ka Dekada sa Mahigugmaong Pag-alagad sa Maayong Magbalantay.”

Mendoza, RGS)

Today we celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Foundation of Villa Maria, the place that is called Villa
Maria and the Community of Good Shepherd Sisters that calls itself Villa Maria.

It is said that the persons
who do not know their past will not know how to move to their future.

So where did Villa Maria
come from? How did it all begin?

In the year 1951, our
Mother General, Mother Ursula Jung, accepted the request of Archbishop Julio
Rosales to found a place for our Sisters and the children under their care.
Thus began the search for this property.

1950 was the year we were
able to have this property. It was bought for us by the Lions Club of Cebu
whose President was Don Ramon Aboitiz. It was bought from the Parish Priest of
San Nicolas, Fr. Venerando Reyes, who happened to own what he deemed inferior
property which could be reached through a Makadam road built after World War II
by the US Air Force Communications Forces at Mactan Air Base. They say it was
“bought for a song.” But the song still cost a good amount of money which had
to be sourced from the United Stated through Mother Provincial. That was 70
years ago.

The next question is: Where
do we go from here? The future beckons.



GRATITUDE: “You were there
for us and one with us when we needed you most…” this is what we would like to
tell you today, dear sisters, representing all these people for whom your 70
years in cebu became a genuine blessing.


JUBILEES – Celebration of
god’s faithfulness throughout the years. God was, is, and will remain faithful,
- an important message – in spite of our limitations and sinfulness .

JUBILEES -  A time for renewal – Pope Francis: a simple
renewal program: put jesus/the good shepherd back at the center, conversion,
mission – becoming prophets again like our founders.

Prophecy is essential to
religious missionary life. Pope Francis writes:
“Prophecy makes noise, uproar, some say ‘a mess.” But in reality, the
charisma of religious people is like yeast: prophecy announces the spirit of
the Gospel.”

“Prophets receive from God the ability to
scrutinize the times in which they live and to interpret events: they are like
sentinels who keep watch in the night and sense the coming of the dawn (cf. Is
21: 11-12). Prophets know God and they know the men and women who are their
brothers and sisters. They are able to discern and denounce the evil of sin and
injustice. Because they are free, they are beholden to no one but God, and they
have no interest other than God. Prophets tend to be on the side of the poor
and the powerless, for they know that God himself is on their side.”

– It is not the missionary converting the people but the people converting the
missionary – only after the missionary has been changed by the people, can she
start working on changing the people –The future of religious congregations
will depend on whether the members will find their way back to the people – We
have to learn, to talk about God in the streets and about the streets in the
Church … Both are sacred places and cannot be separated.


THANKS – 70 years – A long time – 50%, meaning 35 years I have been part of
that – Sr. Marcia, Sr. Vincent, Sr. Sol, Sr. Tonet, Sr. Regina, and many others
who have gone ahead of us… And many of you who are with us… Sr. Deena, Leah,
Virgo, and many others…

I really had fallen in love
with the congregation, the commitment and dedication of the sisters I met, the
hard work, the fighting spirit… fighting injustice… the Spirit of the Good
Shepherd taking care of the individual and guiding the flock… Each time a young
women looking for meaning in life, I would refer her to the RGS… I wonder
whether anybody survived THIS VOCATION WITHIN AN VOCATION.

Besides the street
children, the unwed mothers, the children in your centers, the urban and rural
poor, the preparation of OCWs and other Filipinas leaving the country, the
victims of human trafficking and exploitation… The prevention work, the
welcome, the REHA, and aftercare ministries, OSEC... So many things would need
to be mentioned… The contemplative group of sisters supporting the work with



The mission of the shepherd
remains… Go to my and your people, tell them I have seen your suffering and
injustice, it’s enough, I care for you and will not abandon you (Ex. 3:13-20)…
Come all to me who are carrying heavy burdens (Mt. 11:28-30)… I will be there
for you… A simple, short and yet very powerful message.

Recently a confrere
diagnosed with Parkinson told me: “
took me some time to realize that there is only one thing I can do, I have to
learn to love and serve God from within this new context.”
The contexts of
religious life and mission, as well as that of the church, are changing and
require renewal. However, God’s invitation to learn to love and to serve Him in
his new context remains.

The most important people
are the victims… Without you, without your stories and sufferings… the RGS
would never have been founded and they would also not have existed in Cebu for
the past 70 years… They will also not need to exist within the coming 70 years…
This insight teaches us a very basic lesson, that is, without being close to
the victims we will lose our way as religious… The smell of the sheep… With
fewer sisters the Lord shows us another way…
Lay mission partners… Knowing that some 99.87% of all the faithful
are “lay” people, it is obvious that they need to play an ever greater role in
our Church and in the work of religious congregations.

It is with deep gratitude
and a grateful shepherd’s heart that we are celebrating your 70
th anniversary
today. May the Good Shepherd continue to open wide the doors for all those
women, girls, and children in need of help... May He too open the doors of our
heart to a different future with changed ministries welcoming those with
different needs…

Working together for the
people at the margins as done in past decades, the Lord surely will continue to
bless your congregation. I want to thank your leaders and all of you for your
touching, and often times, lifesaving commitment and witness to the Good Shepherd
in serving the poor in Cebu – A MANTRA: “The world without religious would be
much poorer”… “Cebu would have been much poorer without the RGS, without you.

The simple woman recalled the difficult times in the aftermath of the hurricane
trying to rebuild their lives.
“But all
this misery there was a sign of hope”,
she concluded. And pointing at the
religious present, she added,
“When we
needed you most you were there for us, and you were one with us.”

Any renewal of the church
and religious life can have this as objectives to make God’s presence felt
among His people; to be there for them and one with them when they need us