October 07, 2004

RSM-Philippines Golden Jubilee

Hurrah for Jubilee celebrations! They make the old young and the young merry! This slight adaptation of Catherine’s words capture something of the joy and festive atmosphere that prevailed when the Sisters of Mercy of the Philippines held the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of their foundation at the Holy Infant Convent in Tacloban, Leyte this week. The Convent grounds were resplendent with buntings and flowers of every colour. On arrival at the Convent the air was filled with the sound of music provided by the Holy Infant College band dressed in their beautiful green and white band costumes, colorful ornate garlands made from shells and the national flower were bestowed on the guests.

The celebrations continued for three days. They included an excellent pageant on the life of Catherine McAuley, the planting of a Jubilee tree, an evening of cultural dance and music, a drama presentation of the invitation of Bishop Lino Gonzaga to the Sisters of Mercy from St Maries of the Isle Cork, Ireland in 1954, the departure of the first six sisters from Ireland and their arrival in Tacloban, and the dedication of the Holy Infant Social Hall in honour of the late Bishop Lino Gonzaga.

A moving ceremony was officiated at by Bishop Pedro Dean in the unveiling of a life size statue of Venerable Catherine Mc Auley in the Convent grounds. Just before the planned ceremony commenced Catherine with a little help from nature decided to unveil herself and you could almost hear her chuckle. Sr Annunciata Desmond who was one of the founding sisters from Cork travelled from the Turkana desert in Kenya for the celebrations. She was given a very special welcome.

The presence of representatives of the Sisters of Mercy from Ireland, Great Britain, Newfoundland, New Zealand, U.S.A. and Illigan added a truly global mercy dimension to the Jubilee celebrations.

On September 24th the Archbishop of Manila Msgr. Gaudencio Rosales with the Bishops and priests from the parishes where the sisters minister, celebrated a special mass of thanksgiving for the sisters, benefactors, faculty members, students and alumni. The celebrations were planned, organized and sponsored by the alumni and benefactors of the Mercy Schools and the Mercy Associates.

Many tributes were paid to the sisters for their contribution to the people of Tacloban during the past fifty years. These tributes included a special message from the Governor of Tacloban who thanked the sisters for their enormous contribution to the spiritual, cultural, educational, moral and social development of Tacloban city.

The whole atmosphere of the celebrations was one of joy, exuberance, and gratitude. This was tangibly present in the openness, the welcome, the hospitality and the collaborative efforts of each and everyone. There was no doubt that it is in God's Mercy we serve with joy and gratitude.

Sr. Rita Twomey RSM - Philippines

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