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70th Anniversary of RGS Presence in Cebu

Submitted by: rgsphil
On: 17/07/2021

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 Kulüke, 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.”

INTRODUCTION (by Sr. M. Fe 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.

 

HOMILY by Fr HEINZ KULÜKE, SVD:

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.” (TO CONSECRATED PEOPLE, II, 2)

AN EXPERIENCE ALONG THE WAY – 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.

 

JUBILEES – A REASON TO GIVE 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 prayers… ALL OF THIS AND MUCH MORE, A GENUINE REASON TO GIVE THANKS.

 

THE MESSAGE OF THE READINGS

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: “It 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 70th 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.

GOING BACK TO BEGINNING – 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 most.

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD – THAT IS ENOUGH.