Mother Ig­na­cia, Mother Marie Louise and Marie Be­len

Cebu Daily News - - OPINION -

In this time when there is fo­cus on those in the con­se­crated life, let us re­call reli­gious women who had a heart for fe­males. Philip­pine His­tory books cite Mother Ig­na­cia Del Espiritu Santo who set up a place for the ed­u­ca­tion of girls be­cause this was ne­glected in the Span­ish colo­nial pe­riod. She was a real rev­o­lu­tion­ary. She re­fused to fol­low the tra­di­tional ex­pec­ta­tions of a Chi­noy fam­ily — mar­riage. Hav­ing been guided by the Je­suit, Fr. Paul Klein who pro­vided her the Spir­i­tual Ex­er­cises of St. Ig­natius’ Spir­i­tual Ex­er­cises, she even­tu­ally de­cided to leave her home and lived near the Je­suits. Many na­tive young fe­males chose to join her be­cause there was no con­gre­ga­tion to ac­cept them.

The new com­mu­nity ex­pe­ri­enced many chal­lenges. They had very lim­ited re­sources: “they even had to beg for rice and salt and scour the streets for fire­wood.” Although they had or­ga­nized them­selves into a com­mu­nity, recog­ni­tion as a reli­gious con­gre­ga­tion took time. “The ex­pul­sion of the Je­suits (their spir­i­tual guide) was a big blow to them.” But they per­se­vered “to live al­ways in the pres­ence of God and to de­velop a great pu­rity of heart.”

Re­al­iz­ing the need and de­sir­ing to go be­yond per­sonal spir­i­tu­al­ity and ex­tend to the com­mu­nity, “the beat­e­rio ad­mit­ted young girls as board­ers who were taught Chris­tian doc­trines as well as works proper to them.” Mother Ig­na­cia Del Espiritu Santo, founder of the Reli­gious of the Vir­gin Mary, has been de­scribed as “God’s hand­maid who opened the door of the reli­gious life to na­tive women in the Philip­pines.”

We get to know about the founder of the ICM con­gre­ga­tion Mother Marie Louise de Meester from Sr. Delia Coronel’s book, Re­mem­ber­ing Mother Luisa. The book con­tains nar­ra­tives re­gard­ing the en­try and es­tab­lish­ment of the ICM, start­ing with Tagudin in Ilo­cos. Al­bert Depre, CICM re­vealed how the nuns came to be in the Philip­pines, start­ing in the North: “De­spite all the suc­cesses scored in Tagudin, an an­noy­ing prob­lem re­mained to be solved: the ed­u­ca­tion of the youth, the Chris­tian re­newal of fam­ily and home. This prob­lem ex­isted in all mis­sion sta­tions. For the boys, schools were be­ing opened here and there, but the girls were some­what over­looked. It was felt that only Sisters could han­dle this task with hope of suc­cess.”

An­other CICM Fr. Carlu de­scribed the early days of Mother Marie Louise in the Philip­pines: “The mis­sion would un­doubt­edly have failed had they not been har­nessed with the ar­mor of the un­lim­ited trust of the Foundress in Divine Prov­i­dence and of her un­par­al­leled ex­am­ple of courage and de­vo­tion. She her­self taught classes daily and still found time to di­rect and sus­tain teach­ing ef­forts of her young and un­ex­pe­ri­enced com­pan­ions and to lis­ten to the tales of hu­man mis­ery which the peo­ple did not de­lay in com­ing to pour into her sym­pa­thetic ears. Daily af­ter classes were over, she went to the homes of the poor and the sick and brought heal­ing and ma­te­rial help to them while com­fort­ing them and rais­ing their hearts to God who com­pletely filled her own.”

“No la­bor was too mean nor too stren­u­ous for her zeal. The Sisters could not af­ford to pay a ser­vant to keep house for them while they were in the class­rooms. Con­se­quently, they di­vided the work among them and Rev­erend Mother Foundress was as often as any of her com­pan­ions sweep­ing and scrub­bing floors, do­ing the wash­ing and the cook­ing. Yet, in spite of their ex­treme poverty and ex­ces­sive la­bor which char­ac­ter­ized those first months in the mis­sion, they were very happy, for they were very fer­vent.”

Le­gal Al­ter­na­tives for Women Cen­ter, Inc. worked with the Cebu Provin­cial Women’s Com­mis­sion in pro­duc­ing in 2006 Her­itage Cards, Ce­buana Trail­blaz­ers (Sug­boanang Tag-una). Here Mother Marie Louise’s fol­lower, Sr. Maria Be­len Al­coseba has been de­scribed: “Sr. Maria Be­len “Mabe” is the first fe­male reli­gious to or­ga­nize a woman’s group Pun­dok sa Hi­galang Kababayen-an to work not only for women’s wel­fare but also to be the cat­a­lyst for com­mu­nity up­lift­ment in Balam­ban, west Cebu. As she worked with them and their con­cerns in Balam­ban, she un­cov­ered their tal­ents, in­spired and de­vel­oped them for per­for­mances to pro­mote their self­con­fi­dence, and in­spired them to open th­ese with prayers in in­dige­nous and fe­male­friendly liturgy.”

“With Balam­ban as their base, she worked with the women’s prob­lems and re­al­ized that their vic­tim­iza­tion in do­mes­tic vi­o­lence often re­sulted from drug abuse. She then linked with Ka­matuo­ran, Inc., an anti nar­copol­i­tics group. The col­lab­o­ra­tion reached the level of the mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment. With th­ese link­ages Sr. Mabe and Pun­dok sa Hi­galang Kababayen-an mo­ti­vated lo­cal of­fi­cials to use both power and re­sources to ac­tu­ally serve the peo­ple.”

In­spired by th­ese beau­ti­ful women, let us work to­gether to build com­mu­ni­ties where both women and men can have gen­uine em­pow­er­ment.

She Voices sofiel­og­a­rta@gmail.com

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