A Latin saying goes, "Veni, Vidi, Amavi." “We came, we saw, we loved.” This was precisely what happened to us in our fourth session as Juniors under the wings of our formator, Sr. Sheryl. Imagine our excitement when we discovered that we were to travel together to a place we had yet to set foot - Kawayan Cove, Nasugbu, Batangas, last July 25 - 29! Imagine the awe and gratitude that covered our whole being the entire time because of the unimaginable goodness of our Lord unfolding before us through His wondrous creation, be it people or places.
From the very first day of our session, God was with us, making us feel that we were His favored daughters. Upon our arrival, the Lord gifted us with a majestic view that only God's hands could have painted. Thanks to the generosity of the Gustilo family, for opening their vacation place for us to stay for 4 grace-filled days!
Our session officially started with vespers and sharing, focusing on the newness that we have experienced in the past year. Listening to my co-juniors filled me with delight and gratitude.
The second day was special - our recreation day! Personally, it was extra special for me, as I commemorated the anniversary of my first vows with Sisters Maria Thao and Anne Emmanuel. We began the day with a mass at Our Lady of Wawa. The rest of the day gave us the joy to indulge ourselves in fun and laughter at the Kawayan Beach, and even in the family pools at our hosts’ place, playing, eating and chatting into the night, enjoying each other’s company.
On the third day, we had Sr. Sheryl and Sr. Jo, who talked about St. Marie Eugenie’s love for the Church and one’s life experiences as a missionary, respectively. The group’s sharing proved very enriching as we also listened to each other's stories and learnings from our respective "mission" areas. Indeed, it was filled with thoughts that one should love and serve the Lord in everything. And YES, we are ‘apostles by vocation’!
On the fourth day, we had mass officiated by Fr Francis Gustilo, sdb, who also gave a talk on Synodality. We were reminded that we must embrace a way of life that creates a "one world," to learn to walk with someone different from us. With these in our hearts, we ended the day marveling at God’s goodness, as we gazed at the setting sun at the Meditation Point, prayed Vespers and sang, and captured those precious moments in photos and videos.
While savoring God's abundant love for us, we prayed for our brothers and sisters in Northern Luzon, who were affected by the strong earthquake. We also prayed for our fellow sisters who were ill and Sisters Lerma and Fe, who were preparing themselves for their respective adventures with God. We especially asked the Lord to envelop them in His loving embrace and cover them with the mantle of His protection.
We came to a place we thought we would never get to visit due to the pandemic. We saw, felt and lived God's presence through the people He gave us as instruments for this wonderful trip to happen and through the majestic creation of His blessed hands. We loved; we fell in love with God, His Church, His people, and His creation all over again.
Indeed, we, the Junior Sisters of the RA Asia Pacific Province, have again been reminded of St. Marie Eugenie and her love for Jesus Christ and His Church. With this and all the many blessings we have received these days, the embers of love and service are again burning in our hearts, and like, our Mother Foundress, we are reinvigorated to serve others and our Lord, who has loved us first. "Veni, Vidi, Amavi." "We came, we saw, we loved."
Still More Echoes:
To Love Christ is to Love the Church (Sr. Mary Blessiline, r.a.)
One of the topics that we discussed during the Junior Sisters’ Formation was St. Marie Eugenie’s experience of the Church. Sr. Mary Sheryl, r.a. shared with us the events that led our mother foundress to know and love the Church. Since her First Holy Communion until she died, she had given her all to the Church that she loved despite the challenges that she faced. I was struck by her unconditional obedience to the Church authorities even though she thought she would find apostles but instead all men. In the coursed of her life and teachings, St. Marie Eugenie showed the same passionate love for Jesus and His Church.
When I was reflecting on my own experiences, I realized that the Church has become a big part of my life since I was a child and I believe that it planted the seed in my heart to love and serve Jesus. My faith was nurtured by the Church. Being actively involved in different Church organizations and activities deepen my desire to follow Him in the religious life. Like St. Marie Eugenie, I was taken deeply and I remain steadfast to our mission— to know and love Jesus Christ and His Church, and to make Him known and loved.
All for Jesus (Sr. Agnes Cecilia, r.a.)
Listening to Sr. Mary Joseph’s sharing on the Apostolic Life, I was so inspired to know more about our mission. I was so touched about her zeal for the mission especially through her sharing that “Everything we do is all for Jesus Christ. We have to find the meaning in whatever we do.” Yes, wherever I am there is a mission that is entrusted to me to bring Jesus Christ to others. The sharing of sister Mary Joseph makes my heart become bigger for my future mission. My heart is ready to give love, especially to make Jesus known and loved by all those that I encounter and will encounter. What I take home after the session is the readiness of my heart not only for 2 years but as long as God wants for me.
How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! Ps.33 (Sr. Mary Teresa, r.a.)
One of my most memorable moments was listening to Father Francis Gustilo discuss Synodality.
I understood more clearly how I can contribute to and embody synodality in my community and with the people I have the chance to encounter. Pope Francis explains the new lifestyle promoted by synodality and exhorts us to adopt it. We cannot live alone; we cannot walk alone in the journey but as a community we walk together.
This challenges me to see it through the lens of my community. The easiest moment for me to walk with people, to share what I have and who I am is when I feel loved by my community. On the other hand, I ask myself if I still have the strength or courage to walk with others when there are difficulties, hardships, or painful moments, or will I opt to walk by myself and act independently. I have come to understand that synodality is the flame that must burn in my heart to go past my boundaries and walk with others who are young like me right now and those who are young at heart. In a broader sense, I believe that synodality means enhancing the church and helping her to be her best self every day. Through this way of life, the members of the Church are urged to work toward creating a good community in addition to trying to be good to one another, not just in the Church but anywhere else.
I realized that synodality is opening my heart and my mind, and to be sensitive to others. I feel that I can only walk with other when I know who they are, how they feel, what they want and what they desire and fear. And while traveling with others toward God, one crucial thing is to ask God to use me as His instrument of peace.
Gratitude – Glimpses – Guided (Sr. Christine Emmanuel, r.a.)
Gratitude: The mere fact that we were allowed to go out of our respective communities was a breath of fresh air since some of us have actually had limited “going-out” the past two years. The atmosphere was overwhelmingly jubilant as we share about each other’s lives and journeys. The next four days became a series of moments of remembering and recollecting as well as expressing our desires and dreams over the next few years. I am blessed to have listened to 18 voices and sacred stories waiting to be heard.
Glimpses: The session gave us a glimpse of the Assumption Apostolic life – and yes – religious life is actually demanding – not only of one’s time and energy, but as well as one’s passion and commitment. Mother Marie Eugenie was clear about the Apostolic Life of the Sisters from the beginning of the foundation – our mission is but an outflow of our deep and rich prayer life. Had she not had deep foundation in her relationship with Jesus, she and our fore-mothers would not have been able to survive the series of crises that surfaced one after another. What struck me as well was Mother Marie Eugenie’s clear and unshakeable love for the Church. The Church that almost caused her to lose her vocation. And yet again, because her love for God is much bigger than what she witnessed “inside the Church,” she saw the bride of Christ as worthy to be loved and nurtured – no matter what.
Guided: It is always an assuring feeling that someone is holding your hands whatever situation one may find herself in. And in our case, there may be moments that we are not sure, but, we can always be assured that together with our fellow juniors, someone is holding our hands as we go through the dark tunnel and emerge better versions of ourselves after.