WHENEVER I introduce myself as a Good Shepherd Sister, the response I get is “Good Shepherd Baguio? Ube jam?” So I smile and reply, “Yes, that is one of our Houses here in the Philippines. But I am assigned to Welcome House in Paco, Manila—a shelter for girls and women in crisis.”
The Good Shepherd Sisters arrived in the Philippines a hundred years ago. Bishop Petrelli in Batangas had requested our congregation for Sisters to set up a school in his diocese. Our Generalate in Rome assigned some Sisters in Burma to go to the Philippines and begin a mission here. That was in 1912. Although the Sisters came from Burma, they were all Irish Good Shepherd Sisters. A couple of rooms in the sanctuary of the church, now the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Batangas City, was their humble beginnings. Today, visiting the Sisters in St. Bridget College, Batangas, one can just praise the Lord for the generosity of the Batangas people who have assisted the Sisters to establish the school from kindergarten to post graduate levels, graduating no less than His Eminence, Cardinal Rosales, dozens of priests and Religious Sisters, community leaders who excel in their professions, and model families now active in spreading the charism of the Good Shepherd of mercy and compassion to the least, the last and the lost in society.
This year, we began the celebrations which will end in October 2012 or next year. The symbol that our Province leaders have chosen for the ‘Journey of a Hundred Years” is the Good Shepherd Staff. They had a six-foot staff made, much like a bishop’s crosier, although ours is made of wood, not gold or silver!
When I first read of the shepherd’s crook and staff in Psalm 23, I did not know its purpose or significance—the Philippines is not a sheep country. Our pastors (or pastol) take care of cows and goats. But being named after the Good Shepherd, our congregation has seen to it that we were provided with many readings and reflections on the life of the GOOD Shepherd as found in the scriptures. And indeed, I learned of how important a staff is for the shepherd to bring back the lost and the stray sheep.
Our wooden staff will journey to all the houses of the Good Shepherd Sisters around the country this year. It started in Batangas City last July. At present, it is at our main compound in Aurora Boulevard where we have the Provincial House, Heart of Mary Villa Maternity Home, Euphrasia Residence for troubled girls and women, Center for Overseas Workers, St. Bridget School, the Formation House, the Infirmary and Retirement Home.
On Oct. 28, the staff will come to Welcome House. We will also set it up at our parish, Our Lady of Peñafrancia de Manila in Paco. It will then “travel” to Our Lady of Assumption Parish in Leveriza, Malate and the Holy Family Parish in San Andres Bukid where we have Sisters involved in the BEC programs.
By next year, the staff would have travelled to our Houses in Northern and Southern Luzon, in the Visayas and in Mindanao. At present, we have 24 foundations in the Philippines, including the four convents of our Good Shepherd Contemplative Sisters located in Tagaytay, Cebu, Virac and Butuan.
The past one hundred years have been a time of grace, not only for the thousands of students in our schools but also for the hundreds of girls and women we have assisted to reconcile with their families, move on in life after much abuse and battering, take their place as leaders in their tribal communities or live the charism of the Good Shepherd within their rural and urban poor areas. The past hundred years have been above all, a life of Love, Joy and Commitment to the over 150 Filipino RGS vocations here and in the foreign missions.