Letter of the Provincial Chapter 2022

(Shorter Version)

The 3rd Provincial Chapter of the APP opened with a spirit of newness and vibrant energy that was unlike the previous ones. We were in virtual space! The smiling faces of all delegates from the 4 different countries visible on-screen gave a warm ambiance that immediately dispelled what was unfamiliar about this gathering. The Opening Liturgy set the tone from the onset: Gathered in the love of Christ, we are formed to be goodness and light in the world.  The prayer spoke to the heart of each one. 

In her Welcome Message, Sr. Lerma Victoria Pangantihon, Provincial Superior, invited the Chapter Body to see this as a special moment of discernment. How are we called to be faithful to our charism in this day and age? “We must beg God for a discerning heart and ask for the gift of wisdom.”

The Reports of the Provincial Superior and the Lay Reference Person, Ms. Inez Polotan, served as a re-reading of what the past 2-3 years were like. They included not only the “dying and birthing moments”, the celebrations, the milestones, but also the low points and crises moments, most especially those experienced by our young Province due to the pandemic. Amidst the sorrows and sufferings, hope, kindness, and generosity prevailed.  These moments clearly defined our capacity for embracing the NEWNESS that God was presenting to us. They were invitations to listen, see, and understand this newness.

The 7-phase discernment process of the Thabom community (Thailand) from April to November 2021, accompanied by Sr. Regina Victoria Yulo and Fr. John Ceferino Ledesma, sdb, was presented to the Chapter Body. It was a moving experience as everyone listened to and watched the Thailand mission story unfold on-screen. Is God asking the Religious of the Assumption to continue its mission in Thabom? What do we see? What do we hear? What does God want for the Province?

The second part of the afternoon was held in Break-Out Rooms (BORs). Like magic, the delegates were automatically transported to another sacred space for their small group sharing. They were asked to answer two questions: What are the 3 calls/elements that we want to see in our Provincial Plan? What are the main causes of dying, discomfort, letting go, resistance?

Sr. Marian Murcia, the External Facilitator for this Chapter, brought the day to an end by giving us more thoughts to ponder over. Be attentive to what is coming in different moments. What are the prophetic calls that need attention? What resonates with me after this day?

SECOND DAY:
Listen…Listen…Listen

“Put out into the deep!” The words of Jesus to Simon Peter Sunday’s Gospel seemed to be addressed to the Chapter body as the second day began.  What are we hearing and seeing so far? The group was constantly reminded, “Do not just listen to what is always repeated. Pay attention also to what may have been mentioned only once but may also be as important”.  The invitation of the Spirit is to recognize the NEWNESS! Be open to the Spirit. Listen…listen. The first Workshop of the day began on that note.  

As we entered the initial phase of writing the Provincial Plan, two tasks were given us: identify the frontiers/peripheries, and the proposed elements for the new Provincial Plan. The newness was to be included in each country’s context.  

A moment for the sharing of the lay delegates on their experience and perception of the “new” was provided.  It was a glimpse into their experiences, insights, and even their dreams for this shared mission with the Sisters.  Sr. Maria Josefina invited the whole Chapter Body to launch further into the deep as we entered once again into BORs to continue the sharing begun earlier about the newness that was beginning to surface and be recognized.

After highlighting some significant realizations that had surfaced during the sharing and everything that had taken place during the day, Sr. Marian gave the delegates an assignment for the following day: Choose three (3) important elements that the whole Province needs to respond to today. With that clincher, the Second Day came to a close.

THIRD DAY
Listen… See the Signs of Hope

The Chapter is mid-way! Everyone was again invited to pay attention to all that they would experience during the day: the old, the new, the familiar, and the unfamiliar. What are the signs of hope in all these?

The first Plenary Session was focused on ASSUMPTION TOGETHER.  The question posed was: What is your NEW understanding of Assumption Together in the Province today?

Among the features of the new face of Assumption Together mentioned were: ONE family that is borderless, inclusive, with universal values, living synodality in an intercultural/inter-faith context, defined by a new way of living and being.

The second task in the small groups set another layer in drawing up the Provincial Plan. But before proceeding, Sr. Lerma Victoria presented the existing structures of animation in the Province, particularly in the areas of leadership and governance and teams that aided the realization of the Provincial Project in the past three years. 

Continuing with the task of making the Provincial Plan,  the delegates were asked to reflect on the questions: After 3 days of listening and sharing, what are the three elements that you would want included in  the Provincial Plan?After all we have lived these past three days, what is the newness that will give life to the Province?”

It was becoming clearer to us that the path to newness is not easy nor smooth!  It may bring discomfort and feelings of vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, but with our God of Surprises, we dared to hope, to dream, and to journey onward!

FOURTH DAY
Understand the NEWNESS! 

Sr. Anna Carmela Pesongco was the Moderator of this most anticipated day in the Provincial Chapter. She aptly called it, “our putting-it-all-together day!” Even across the screen, one could feel the expectant and pulsating energy flowing through the Chapter body as the day began. Today, everyone would get to see the First Draft of the new Provincial Plan that will animate the Asia Pacific Province during the next three years!

Invoking the God of Surprises and Possibilities, the group was urged to maintain a disposition of openness to welcome whatever God had in store for us.  As always, God’s message was delivered loud and clear in the Opening Prayer, “… in understanding the present time, TRUST IN THE LORD!”

The Writing-Editing Team composed of Sr. Fidelis Estrada, Sr. Deanna Combong,  Sr. Elnora Perez, and Sr. Mary Denyse Libutaque presented the First Draft of the Provincial Plan.  Sr. Fidelis described the process that guided their Team and the gospel passage from Luke 5:1-11: “Put out into the deep” that inspired them.”  Voila! All the words looked very familiar, but there was a distinct freshness to it all. It generated mixed comments and suggestions, insights, and a few questions that did not require answers. Even in its raw form, what was put together evoked a sense of awe, delight, and gratitude.

How do we proceed further? What will help the Editing Team give the Plan its final touch? The delegates were again led to the BORs. Sharing in plenum followed. After a few more clarifications, the Writing and Editing Team began the daunting task of finalizing the form and content of the new Provincial Plan for the next three years.

Two simultaneous meetings took place while the Writing -Editing Team worked on the draft of the Provincial Plan. In one Breakout Room, all the Sisters gathered to discuss the Desiderata presented at the opening of the Chapter. In another room, the lay delegates who were coming together for the first time answered another question: What is our dream for Assumption Together in the Province today? 

Moving into the task for the second half of the day, Sr. Anna Carmela reminded everyone that our God of Surprises continued to walk with us.  The agenda for the afternoon was full.  It was also the last moment that our Lay Delegates would be joining the Chapter proceedings. 

The Send-off Program and Liturgy for the Lay Chapter Delegates followed. The first moment was done in new BORs where the Lay shared briefly their experience of the Chapter.  Then the second moment was in plenum where two videos were shown, expressing the Sisters’ profound thanksgiving, appreciation and love for each of our Lay Delegates.  Finally, the Send-off Prayer and Blessing was led by Sr. Lerma Victoria.  Although their participation in the Chapter 2022 had come to an end, our unique identity of being Assumption Together had surely deepened and would continue to bring us to an ever-expanding shared vision, living synodality to bring about the fulfilment of the Father’s Dream!

After our Lay Delegates left the Chapter Room, Sr. Estela Marie Roceles presented her Provincial Bursar’s Report which was brief, but comprehensive, marked with substance and novelty.

Right after her presentation, the Process of the Election of the Provincial Councillors, one of the main agenda of the Chapter, was introduced by Sr. Lerma Victoria. To end the presentation of the Process of Preparation for Election of Provincial Councillors, Sr. Marian also gave her input to guide the Sisters in their prayer and discernment.  Everyone was invited to enter into personal time and prayer for the rest of the afternoon until the next day.

FIFTH DAY
Lower down your nets

“…at your command, I will lower my net”. This response of Peter in Luke 5:1-11 captured the essence of the attitude and disposition that was asked of each one of us as we entered into the last day of the Chapter.

On this day of the Anniversary of the Beatification of Marie Eugenie, we received the gift of our new Asia Pacific Provincial Plan and the gift of our three (3) newly-elected Provincial Councillors: Sr. Maria Josefina Matias(1st); Sr. Mary Fidelis Estrada (2nd); and, Sr. Mary Ignatius Vedua (3rd).  When our session resumed in the afternoon, Sr. Lerma Victoria announced her choice of Sr. Giuse Gam Nguyen (4th) to complete the Council in her second mandate as Provincial Superior. Indeed, it was an auspicious day for us!

The New Provincial Council of the APP

The 3rd APP Provincial Chapter has come to a close.  As we return to our ordinary daily life, we are invited to make the shifts that this Provincial Chapter has invited us to embrace.

Put out into the deep”, an invitation to “enter into a new space, to tread water where one’s feet would no longer touch the bottom”. It is a space  marked by a new vocabulary, new meanings, and new ways of perceiving that would lead us to a new way of being.”   May we have the grace to respond with courage to Jesus’ command and say: “Yes, Lord, I will lower my net.”

Screenshots from The 3rd Provincial Chapter of the Asia Pacific Province