MANILA, Oct. 4, 2012— One hundred years ago today, the first two Irish missionaries from the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS) arrived in the Philippines.
Coming from a mission in Burma, Mother Constance Phelan and Sr. Mary of Alphonsus Liguori Burke crossed the seas for 20 days to attend to the education needs of Filipino children.
In January 1913, they opened the St. Bridget’s Academy, now known as the St. Bridget’s College, in Batangas and was the first Catholic school in the diocese.
As the years went on, they embraced the girls and women who were to be protected from moral danger or who needed help to reform their lives and started the first Good Shepherd “home” in Sta. Ana, Manila in 1921.
More nuns from the Mother House in France also arrived in the country as they opened other communities in Manila, Baguio, Cebu, Tagaytay, the Bicol Region and Mindanao.
To date, they are known for their ministry to the neglected, abused and marginalized, particularly girls and women, and their involvement in issues like human rights and environment.
In Baguio City, the Sisters are best known for their unique kitchen products like peanut brittle, strawberry jam and ube jam.
As they marked their centennial presence in the Philippines Thursday, the RGS brought together some 160 Filipino Sisters serving in 22 apostolic communities and 4 contemplative communities in the country.
In a celebration held at the Good Shepherd compound in Aurora Boulevard, Quezon City, they were also joined by 18 of the more than 30 Filipina missionaries serving in foreign missions.
Sr. Brigid Lawlor, the Rome-based congregational leader of the RGS, also joined the festivity with the theme “Weaving compassion, embracing challenges, forging hope.”
The celebration started with a Mass officiated by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle and was followed with a program and the giving of recognition to several “Centennial and Service awardees.”
The activities were preceded by regional celebrations that featured the journey of the “staff of the Shepherd” through the different regions where the Good Shepherd Sisters are present.
In addition to communities around the Philippines, the Good Shepherd Sisters have also sent missionaries to Macau, Hongkong, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Kenya, Burkina Faso, United States, Canada, Japan, the Mother House in Angers, France and the Generalate in Rome.
There are also contemplative Filipina Good Shepherd Sisters in Austria and Angola and more apostolic Sisters in Mozambique, Sudan, and the United States. [CBCPNews]