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Tribute to Sr. Celeste Engutan

By Sr. Ronafel U. de Leon, CGS


Let me begin sharing her earthly journey with the values Sr. Celeste upholds in life, “To suffer in silence, great things arise”, says Saint Mary Euphrasia.

Sr. Anna Celeste Aida Ocaba Engutan, CGS was the eldest daughter among the 7 children. She was followed by her brother, Wences Lawrence and three sisters,  Sharlene, Nina and Ladonna.  Albert Felix and Carlo Agustin went home ahead to God when they were still infants. Her parents were Anastacia Ocaba and Pedro Engutan.   She went to Collegio de Sto. Nino and graduated elementary at Labangon Elementary School.  She graduated high School at San Carlos Girls High School and earned a degree Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at the University of San Carlos, Cebu.  She worked as a licensed Chemist, a researcher in Marine Oceanography and Microbiology. At San Carlos University, she was a part time faculty member.  She enjoyed her life as a young Chemist. She was a devotee of St. Therese of the Child Jesus.  At one point in her life, she asked for a Rose as a sign to what direction God is leading her.  She received a bouquet of Red Roses on her birthday.  To her, the red color represents married life, pink, for Single Blessedness and white, for Religious life.  She cried when she realized that her wish was granted. She picked one bud of Red Rose and placed it in a flower vase on top of her table.  Upon returning to her office she was surprised to see a white rose instead of the red Rose which means I am being called to Religious Life. She followed the call and was given the name of Sr. Celeste of Mary, Mother of God Engutan.

Sr. Celeste felt that she grew up in a seminary setting in her own home because her Papa was an ex-seminarian. Her mama was a faithful catechist and pious woman. As a child, she rebelled many pious practices of her parents.  However, she loved Blessed Mother, and Mary became a mother to her.  She became very much involved with the Blue Army and Youth Ministry. Being the eldest child, she helped support the family.  When she entered the convent, her brother felt rejected and abandoned until he died three months ago.

She reflected on this: Which has a greater value, “Gift of Earthly Life or the gift of Life Eternal?  What matters, birthdays or deathdays?  What is God’s Will and plan for me at this time?”

Photo: Sr. Celeste during her Silver Jubilee in 2013.

Her reflections for the past few months were focused on her intimate relationship with God. I quote: “When can we say with St. Paul, “thanks be to God! Jesus is our salvation! But when did I call for help? When pain comes and pain relievers won’t work anymore, impatience and annoyance will be my companion, but dear Lord, be with me too, bear with me until my last breath. Mother most merciful, help me.  God is within I cannot be shaken. The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear?”

Truly her strong faith and trust in God suffice. Her choice is to stop the chemotherapy and suffer lovingly and without complain for the sake of God and mission.  I quote again:  “Is martyrdom still relevant today?  Martyrdom seems to be an ancient word and is losing its meaning and importance in the modern world.  Now with all the advertisements we see in our TV sets, life of comfort is the aim of everyone, always pleasure, always the instant, always nice and pleasing.  No one would choose the “gospel way”.  Who else would choose martyrdom?  If possible, who would like difficulties and suffering?  How are we to console those who are victims of pains and sufferings due to evil deeds or human errors and natural disasters:  Trafficked people, injustices committed, modern oppression, floods, typhoons, fires, accidents and many more. How are we in globalized solidarity with them?   Unless we are willing to unite ourselves with the sufferings of Christ and enter the narrow way of martyrdom.”  At one point she also said, “ as I accept my illness, I started or rather continued to explore the depths of my soul, trying to be with the God in me, who also wants to be united with me  as I long to be united with Him.”

Until the end, she was convinced of her chosen vocation when she described “Contemplative Life as a flowing of the Light of Faith.”

Photo: Sr. Celeste, right, with Sr. Brigid and the Province Leadership Team of the Philippines.

Sr. Celeste, we cannot thank you enough for all that you are and what you have done for the Philippine Province and our Congregation.  You cared a lot for the needs of our communities as a local leader. As a first councilor, you had great concern for the re-structuring needed in contemplative life.   Your work with the Centennial Committee, Journey of Enrichment and lately as a Prep Com member enriched all of us.   You had journeyed with us in prayer and suffering throughout your illness.

With your entrance to eternal life, you have become more present to us whom you have touched and empowered by the witness of your life. From all of us, thank you for completely giving yourself to Christ and to the suffering creation.

Thank you and Good bye for now.