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Luminaries

Luminaries PEOPLE By Joanne Rae M. Ramirez Sr. Rosalima, R.A. (Conclusion)
As we reflect on the Good Fridays and Easter Sundays of our lives, we can reflect on the lives of people who lifted their fellowmen from the Good Fridays of their lives. They were people who showed that, indeed, Christ is Risen, as they took by the hand those in despair and in the depths of poverty. To celebrate the bicentenary birth of its founders, St. Marie Eugenie and Mother Therese Emmanuel, the Assumption Convent proudly mounted a Gallery of Holiness , which puts on a pedestal people who have spread the light of God and contributed to the transformation of their communities. Most of them are sisters from the Religious of the Assumption, one is a graduate of the school — but two of them are male. Last Tuesday, we featured three of them: Sister Milagros Dayrit , who established the Assumpta Technical High School in Pampanga; Lizette Gustilo , a new college graduate who gave up her life in an effort to save her mother and grandmother from a sinking ship; and Acharn Samai who helped establish St. John’s Church, now a fully active parish in the Archdiocese of Bangkok. This Gallery of Holiness exhibit, which was inaugurated in the AC San Lorenzo campus two weeks ago, will culminate in a Gallery of Holiness in France in August. Three of the luminaries will be part of the exhibit, which will include people nominated by the other Assumption communities around the world. Sister Maitel Roceles , who spearheaded the project in the Philippines, says, “May we, like our eight luminaries, live our vocations faithfully and joyfully that even when we are gone from this earth, we may give light to others.” Sr. Rosalima, R.A Once upon a time, the Assumption’s presence in the Philippines was limited to exclusive girls’ schools in Manila and Iloilo City. The church, through the Archbishop of Jaro, asked the nuns to venture out to the provinces to share their skills of teaching with a Christian dimension. Sr. Rosalima , r.a. was called to lead this new mission. On June 13, 1955, San Jose Academy in Antique opened its doors. This set the groundwork for more Assumption mission schools to be set up across the Philippines. In the following decade, the call of the times prompted Assumption sisters to go beyond school-based education to venture into evangelization of the poor. Sr. Rosalima lived with the poor in the outskirts of Iloilo, in a place called Barrio Obrero. She saw that “to prepare the mind and heart to accept Christ, the body must first be nourished.” Therefore, she started the Community-based Health Program, and trained potential leaders to drive programs for the growth and development of the community. Today, Barrio Obrero is progressive, with the erstwhile poor families counting professionals and entrepreneurs among their children and grandchildren. Sr. Rosalima continued with her work of developing community and student leaders across the country. In the late 1990s, she zoomed in on the problem of injustice and insurgency as she established Assumption’s Justice and Peace Desk. She designed Assumption’s Peace Education modules and collaborated with the government and non-government sectors in training facilitators in Visayas and Mindanao. Mother Rose According to Assumption College president Carmen “ Pinky ” Valdes , in the 1970s, holiness began to mean “whole-iness.” French-born Mother Rose , after whom the iconic Mother Rose Hall at the San Lorenzo campus is named, “was that.” She was Superior of Assumption Herran from 1936 to 1953, vicar of the Far East Vicariate from 1947 to 1953 and Provincial of the Far East from 1953 to 1960. According to Pinky, “She was whole, holistic. She was so well balanced.” Mother Rose was a visionary and a pioneer. She could always see ahead of her time while being very much in the present moment. She knew what society needed. She was holy and practical — it was she who allowed the students to wear short-sleeved blouses and shorten their floor-length uniforms. St. Marie Eugenie once said about her girls: “Don’t clip their wings, direct their flight.” Mother Rose made this real. She encouraged the dynamic Mother Ezperanza , who had an independent spirit, to establish a college in the San Lorenzo campus. Mother Rose never forced Mother Ezperanza to stay inside a box. Mother Marie Marthe True daughter of Marie Eugenie that she was, Mère (Mother) Marie Marthe lived the motto engraved in her ring: “They saw no one but Jesus!” (from the Transfiguration account). It must have been her fidelity to long hours of daily prayer that enabled her to do just that — see Jesus in everyone and everywhere. Where else could she have learned to be kindness and goodness personified? Even when pupils were brought to her after the then feared Lecture of Notes (a report of how each student performed per Grading Period read before the entire academic level) in the hope that Mother Marthe would give the students concerned a stern warning, it was gentleness that shone through her, often punctuated by questions like, “You have a hard time memorizing names and dates?” or, “Don’t you like Mathematics?”, in a sincere effort to understand the child’s failure to perform better. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, when the San Lorenzo security guards were more lenient towards allowing the needy to enter the village to go to the sisters, Mother Marthe often had a queue asking for alms. She never allowed anyone, especially the disadvantaged, to go home empty-handed. Someone once described a saint as someone who allows the Light of Jesus to shine through her/him! Mother Marthe must have been convinced that holiness consists in just that: letting Jesus shine through her to all! She did not give eloquent speeches, because she felt more at home in her native French than in English, and neither were her spiritual talks theologically or psychologically touching, because she was not primarily an intellectual…but she loved Jesus and allowed Him to reach out to all in love, especially to the last, the least and the lost! Miguel “Mike” Magsaysay A successful businessman, Miguel “ Mike ” Magsaysay held a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University, New York, was president of the giant shipping line Magsaysay Lines and was active in many business and professional organizations. Mike was guided by a deep Christian spirituality and an enlightened Christian conscience as a businessman. He started the scholarship program at the Ateneo to provide poor students the benefit of the Jesuit education. He conceived the Marine School for Seamen run by the Salesian priests in Tondo. He devoted much of his time to the self-help projects in San Simon, Pampanga to work with the Mother Rosa Memorial Foundation, which he was director of from its inception. He helped in the establishment of the Assumpta Technical School. The floods of 1972 drew him into deeper involvement in San Simon, helping the farmers organize themselves into what later became the San Miguel Riverside Irrigation Association, which other barangays followed. In all these, Mike focused on the development of the individual farmer and every Saturday he was in San Simon humbly listening to the problems of the people, conducting seminars for farmers and teachers on value formation, finance and management skills, visiting them and sharing his life with them. In 1981, the Ateneo de Manila proudly presented the Ozanam Award on Mike, calling him a “Christian business man, zealous co-worker of the Assumption sisters and distinguished alumnus of the Ateneo de Manila.” Sr. Teresita, R.A. She lit up many lives with her tarts, the now-famous “Assumption Tarts.” Sr. Maria Teresita Ledesma sent many scholars through college and helped alleviate the poverty of many families with the sale of her sweet brainchild, the Assumption Tarts — a crunchy, flaky crust topped by gooey guava jelly. She was one of those sisters who were happily in the background, serving quietly through their God-given talents. In Sr. Teresita’s case, the work of her hands, the tarts. Who would have known that a seemingly ordinary recipe could be the recipe to a better life for those touched by Sr. Teresita’s generosity? Sr. Teresita came from an affluent family but her life of poverty was remarkable in the way she handled the finances of the community she was assigned to. Frugal with herself but generous with others, she supported many poor families. She passed away in 2011 on the day of the Assumption Bazaar, at which her Assumption Tarts were selling like hotcakes. She lives on, not just through the tarts that continue to help support poor scholars and indigent families, but through the memory of her everyday acts of kindness that were ordinary to her, but extraordinary to everyone else. Happy Easter! Wishing you all the blessings bestowed by Christ’s Resurrection.

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com .)

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