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Centennial Celebrations launched on October 3

Submitted by: regina
On: 14/10/2009

A Eucharistic Celebration at the Good Shepherd Chapel in Quezon City to launch the three-year preparations for the centennial of  Good Shepherd Sisters’ presence in the Philippines, was held on October 3.

The Mass was participated in by representatives of various Good Shepherd communities in the country, lay affiliates and friends.

During the introduction, Sr. Mary James Wilson RGS traced the beginning of the foundation of the community in the Philippines reminding those gathered that the first Good Shepherd missionaries who came to the country were the Irish sisters missioned in Rangoon.

Sr. Cecilia Torres, province leader, also announced the names of the members of the Centennial Committee that will collaborate with various working groups regarding province and community level activities for the centennial.

The members of the Centennial Committee are Srs. Juliet Abrigo, Aida Casambre, Celeste Engutan CGS, Bernadette Guzman and Regina Kuizon.

A group of consultants will also be available during the preparations for the centennial. The consultants are: Srs, Marion Chipeco, Teresita Fiel, Socorro Galvez CGS, Fe Mendoza, Regina Pil and Mary James Wilson.

The working committees formed for the centennial include: Research/Publication/Archives, Souvenirs/Calendars, Spirituality, Logistics, and Awards.

In his homily, Fr. Antonio de Castro SJ, emphasized that the celebrations “is just the beginning of a three-year period of telling stories, describing in brief narrative form what you, the Good Shepherd sisters, have been doing ever since your first group of sisters arrived almost 100 years ago.”

He continued, “During this three-year period, we hope to encourage one another then to tell stories, stories of the Good Shepherd sisters you have known, stories about how these sisters have collaborated in making the apostolic works of the Philippine Province what they are today, and to draw the appropriate lessons from them for the present and for the future.”

During the Mass, the representatives of various communities and ministries also gave their initial contributions to “Pondong Euphrasia”, a project that aims to generate funds to be turned over the to St. Mary Euphrasia Scholarship Fund that hopes to support 100 scholars by 2012.

The launching on October 3 was attended by Good Shepherd sisters, lay affiliates and friends. Snacks followed at Bahay Ugnayan.  Mr. Rey Sison of the Manila Symphony Orchestra who earlier played the flute with the Good Shepherd musicians led by Sr., Madelein Nicolas, during the Mass, also rendered several musical pieces for those gathered for the occasion. He later played another music with Sr. Evelina Coronel, who played the piano.

From Rangoon to Manila:
The Good Shepherd comes to the Philippines

Introduction of Sr. Mary James Wilson RGS


Since 1910, the then archbishop of Manila, Msgr. Jeremy Harty, had been in communication with the Good Shepherd Mother House in Angers to request a foundation in his archdiocese.  Two years later, on October 4, 1912 the first two Good Shepherd Sisters set foot on Philippine soil, after a 20-day voyage from Rangoon on the boat SANG-CHOON.  So what are we doing now, gathered here at the Good Shepherd Chapel almost a hundred years from that historic voyage on a Chinese boat?  Well…in today’s jargon, we are celebrating a special mass for a “soft-launching” to begin the 3-year preparation of the actual centennial on October 4, 2012. 

         

The 2 sisters, Mother Constance Phelan, superior of the Rangoon convent and Sr. Mary Liguori Bourke, destined for the new foundation, were sent to assess the situation.  Since they did not know anyone in Manila they planned to request hospitality from the French sisters in Assumption Convent.  Great was their surprise when they were met at the pier by the Mother Superior of the St. Paul de Chartres sisters with a carriage drawn by two horses. Everything had been arranged by the Bishop of Lipa who was waiting for them at the Apostolic Delegation. 

Lipa?  But the request had come from the Archbishop of Manila two years earlier!  Well, in God’s calendar, almost anything can happen in two years.  And things did happen.

After Mother Domitilla LaRose, the Superior General, responded favorably to the ardent appeal of Msgr. Harty for a foundation in Manila, the affair was placed in the hands of Msgr. Ambrose Agius, the Apostolic Delegate.  On his return to Manila, Msgr. Agius made a stop-over in Malta, his homeland, where he fell ill and died soon after.  Thus the relevant documents never reached the persons concerned. 

In the meantime, Bishop Joseph Petrelli of the Lipa Diocese, who also desired to have a Good Shepherd house in his vast diocese which at the time included the provinces of Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, Mindoro, Marinduque and Quezon, sent his brother, Abbe Gustave Petrelli, to the Mother House in Angers in November 1911 to plead personally for a foundation in Batangas.  He must have been such a good envoy that Mother Domitilla readily acquiesced and promised to send sisters the following autumn of 1912.  Fr. Petrelli sent the good news immediately to Lipa and Bishop Petrelli, practical Italian that he was, enclosed a check for 3,000 francs for the sisters’ trip together with his letter of thanks.  He had also specified that the sisters coming to the Philippines should know how to speak English.  Thus the two sisters who arrived in 1912 were Irish sisters from our thriving St. Bridget’s School in Rangoon, Burma.  

From their overnight stay at the SPC Sisters, they were accompanied to Batangas by Bishop Petrelli himself, taking the 7 am train on October 5 and arriving around midday.  Their triumphant arrival from the station on two carriages to the ringing of the church bells and a band, is a story in itself.  But we shall leave that tale to our sisters of St. Bridget’s to tell themselves.

And what about poor Msgr. Harty who had been waiting for his shepherdesses since 1910?  That again is another story that must be told another time as it took eleven more years before the Manila fold was opened in 1921. 

For today, we simply want to recall and thank God for the safe arrival of the first Good Shepherd Sisters in the Philippines and to prepare for the anniversary of 100 years of shepherding in this Pearl of the Orient.|


The Function of Story Telling:

Points from a Homily by Fr. Tony de Castro, SJ

What is it that we are celebrating this afternoon?  It is rather simple: this celebration is just the beginning of a three-year period of telling stories, describing in brief narrative form what you, the Good Shepherd sisters, have been doing ever since your first group of sisters arrived almost 100 years ago.   During this three-year period, we hope to encourage one another then to tell stories, stories of the Good Shepherd sisters you have known, stories about how these sisters have collaborated in making the apostolic works of the Philippine Province what they are today, and to draw the appropriate lessons from them for the present and for the future. But why should we be sharing stories with each other?  What is the significance of engaging in this narrative activity?

In his study of Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy, Richard Kearney helpfully outlines four central tasks of “narrative.”

1) First, he says, we tell stories in order “to realize our debt to the historical past,” indeed to honor the memory of our dead, of those who have gone ahead of us...

2) Second, Kearney notes that we tell stories in order “to respect the rival claims of memory and forgetfulness.”  The stories we tell reflect decisions made about what is worth remembering and what is to be consigned to being forgotten.

3) Third, we tell stories in order “to cultivate a notion of self-identity.”  The stories we tell about ourselves nurture our sense of who we are, affirm and reaffirm it, inviting us to grow ever more profoundly into the persons we are called to be.

4) And fourth, we tell stories in order “to persuade and evaluate action.”  Implicit in this fourth task, I submit, is a profound engagement with the present and a proleptic concern for the future.

What then are the stories we tell each other as Good Shepherd sisters and lay partners?  What is the context of our story-telling today?  I am sure the stories we tell each other are stories that honor the memory of our dead, that are crucial to our understanding of who we are, that enable us to negotiate the rival claims of what demands to be remembered and what needs to be forgotten, and that allow us to gauge in some way how far we have come in our apostolic works and institutions and how far we still need to go, given the shifting frontiers of our changing times.  We are perhaps not conscious that these are in fact what we are doing when we engage in story-telling.  But the celebration of an anniversary such as the one we have in the arrival of the first Good Shepherd sisters in these islands 100 years ago very often awakens us to the significance of a basic human need and activity.

 Unfortunately, I misplaced Kearney’s article when I was writing this paper and can no longer find it.  In any case, for a helpful account of the voluminous and diverse works of Richard Kearney , some of which are dedicated to the philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, one may profitably consult his page on the Boston College website: http://www2.bc.edu/~kearneyr/RKpublications.htm (accessed at 9:00 p.m., 29 September 2009).