Golden Jubilee in the Philippines
On September 24th 1954, six Sisters of Mercy from St. Maries of the Isle Convent in Cork established a mission at Holy Infant College in Tacloban City in the Philippines. Since that time, the Sisters of Mercy have continued to minister at Holy Infant College and in other areas of the Philippines. They are now a Congregation in their own right and Sr. M. Lourdes Amascual is the Congregational Leader.
This September marks the Golden Jubilee of the first foundation and Sr. Annunciata Desmond, one of the founding members, will travel to attend the Jubilee celebrations. Annunciata now works in Turkana , Kenya . Sr. Breege O'Neill, Leader of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy and Sr. Loretto Crowley, Provincial Leader in the Southern Province of the Congregation(Ireland) will also attend along with other Leaders from Mercy International Association. Srs. Celestine Forrest and Rita Twomey, who also ministered in the Philippines , will travel from St. Maries of the Isle, Cork to be with their former colleagues in the celebration of the Jubilee event.
Sr Canisius Murphy, a member of the founding group, recalls the Mercy Mission to the Philippines:
Fifty years ago, when six of us left Cork to found a mission in the Philippines, we could not have foreseen how the seed of Mercy would spread beyond our wildest dreams there. In August 1954, we set out from St. Marie’s of the Isle, for the Philippines, visiting Baggot St., the cradle of Mercy, on the way. We went at the request of Bishop Lino Conzaga.
We set sail from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead. There were lonely moments as the gangway was raised. Slowly the coastline receded and the shores of Ireland were covered as the rain fell. We prayed together and rested until we reached Holyhead. Next day we boarded our ship at Southhampton, for the Philippines. “A Vincentian priest met us and prior to boarding he kissed us goodbye. A culture shock for us, not being as liberated as he!”
On our way we saw many historical landmarks. We finally reached our destination and were ready to set foot on Filipino soil. Manila was covered in drizzle, but before we disembarked, we went on deck to see this new country, our new home and the field of our labours for years to come. A local judge took care of our immigration papers. We rested there for a while.
On September 22nd 1954, we boarded a vessel for Tacloban, Leyte, our final stop. What a relief it was to inhale from the wide open sea! Crowds awaited us on the wharf. They cheered, and students from Holy Infant Academy adorned us with bouquets. Church and state dignitaries were present to welcome us. One woman said, “When we saw the boat coming with six sisters on board, we had the same joy in our hearts as when General McArthur landed in Leyte with the American troops.” We were escorted to St. Nino Church by motorcades. There we were led to six prie-diex in the sanctuary. The ‘Te Deum’ was then sung. A welcome concert was put on for us in the Holy Infant Academy. The highlight of this was an Irish-American’s rendering of ‘Mother Machree’. All wept!
Foundation Day in the Philippines was September 24th 1954. The Filipino Mercy Sisters now number fifty. They follow in the footsteps of Catherine McAuley, carrying out the various works of Mercy. Some young women came to Cork to do their novitiate. The strong bond between us will always be there.
The story of the Mercy Mission to the Philippines has been reprinted with permission from Mercy Live, the Newspaper of the Sisters of Mercy (Congregation), Issue 9, June 2004.
Messages to the Religious Sisters of Mercy Philippines should be emailed to Sr Maria Villegas rsm Web Communications Contact (Philippines)
Messages to the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy should be emailed to Sr Ailish O'Brien rsm Communications Co-ordinator (Congregation)