Finally: Oct. 2, Saturday, 2021. The day dawned bright and clear.
After months of planning, weeks of inviting and days of finalizing details, Assumption Together Philippines (ATP) would get to sit down with Sr. Rekha and some members of her General Council. And that was the “bonus” that the ATP’s Assembly had: Sr. Rekha’s presence! The AT Core Team (ATCT) purposely designed that afternoon’s assembly to resemble a “Kumustahan”, the ATCT’s term for our zoom get-togethers with the various AT communities around the country. A Kumustahan usually began with a prayer, then an exchange of warm hellos that segued to a video that held a question to reflect on. After a few minutes of reflection, the group would share their personal insights with one another or if the group was large, break-out into groups to do the same, assigning a reporter to do the summary. The entire Kumustahan then ended with an AT Core member synthesizing the experience.
We wanted Sr. Rekha and her Council to experience what an AT Kumustahan meeting was like. And it happened, by God’s grace! A video whose theme was centered on the History and Life of Assumtpion Together in the Province, was specially prepared just for that afternoon. Sr. Rekha, Sr. Isabelle and Sr. Martha were made part of the different break-out groups and had the chance to taste the exchanges that occurred in a Kumustahan.
The question posed at the end of that afternoon’s video was simple: “As lay or Religious, what has been the impact of my relationship with the Assumption, in my life?” Five AT members, three Lay --representing the 3 largest island groups of the country --and two Religious of the Assumption, shared their reflections.
To summarize they shared how the community life with the Assumption nurtured their Spirituality. This Spirituality sustained them to face the challenges of life especially during the pandemic. It is also this Spirituality that gave the Old Girls the dedication and passion to do their mission.
This being their first experience of a Kumustahan, Sr. Rekha, Sr. Isabelle and Sr. Martha responded with very warm, inspiring and positive feedback. Sr. Martha commented how it was such a gift that the lay and Religious affirmed and complemented in each other’s’ respective vocations. She also said that although the Kumustahan occurred online, it felt like a Congress. Sr. Isabelle expressed her astonishment at the social commitment that the lay of ATP had in themselves and that with generosity, creativity and some audacity, ATP can go even further -- but to do so, together and with prayer. Sr. Rekha remarked that ATP is a special gift to the Assumption family, making life more grace-filled. She went on to say that the lay and Sisters have the same vocation to be disciples of Christ but in two different ways that complement each other and that the reciprocity between the two is a source of joy and life. However, what left a mark on and resonated with many ATP members was her re-phrasing of an Asian tradition: “If you feel pain in your body, you are alive. But if you feel the pain of the other, you are human. If you feel the need to do something to lessen the pain of others, you are a disciple of Jesus. If you feel that what you have done to lessen the pain of others is not enough, then you are the sons and daughters of St. Marie Eugenie as St Marie Eugenie says ‘Love never says, I have done enough.’ Love is creative and demanding. Thank you for being joyful and faithful disciples of St Marie Eugenie.” Many of the AT members wrote similar sentiments in the chatbox:” That it was an inspiring afternoon, beautifully spent and well worth the hour and a half.”; “Our hearts are full. We are now being sent. Thank you Sr. Rehka and Council.”; “Grateful for the gift of community.”; “A beautiful encounter- a genuine palpable communion. Emmanuel- God with us.”
The afternoon however, was not yet over. The ATCT was fortunate to still spend a little more time with Sr. Rekha and 2 of her Councilors and Sr. Lerma and her Provincial Council. This second half of the afternoon was more personalized, meeting with a much smaller group. The ATCT is comprised of merely 8 individuals, representing different sectors of the ATP: lay representatives from the alumnae, AMA, CLAy, MEI and the Sisters. We, the ATCT, wanted to share – in a word (or phrase) or two -- with the Sr. Rekha and Sr. Lerma and their Councilors– what the last 2 years of being in the AT Core Team meant to us. And though “big words” were exchanged, one could not doubt the simplicity and sincerity with which they were shared. It simply shone through the individual sharing. Among the big words shared were: “gift of spirituality and friendship, communion and transformation”, “a grace-filled period; a contemplative and active spirituality”, “a strong sense of belonging; family: love and acceptance, a haven”. “spiritual accompaniment: by God to accompany others”, “nurture, nourished faith life, continue to love, know and serve God”, “communion: we are one in this together”, “reconnecting: to one’s AC roots, to one’s faith”.
As with the AT Assembly earlier in the afternoon, the responses of the Sisters were greatly reaffirming. Sr. Marie Emmanuelle said ATCT was “a gift to the Province, doing God’s work”. Sr. Maitel encouraged us to be in communion, “to always do things together”. Sr. Marjo stated that ATP is “very much a new province”. Sr. Lerma noted how we were “women of faith and action, with discerning hearts with inspiration from God”. Sr. Martha echoed that “the 5th Gospel was the Gospel according to the ATCT”. Sr. Isabelle encouraged us that “everything comes from listening, not control”, to listen and to have faith. Last but certainly not the least, Sr. Rekha emboldened us more when she vocalized that she was “full of gratitude and admiration for who and what you are and what you have been”. She further instructed us to “radiate the presence of God in the world … how our presence can make God present to many people.” Her last advice: “If you really want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, journey together.” With God’s grace, the ATCT intends to journey together with the other AT communities, in faith and in prayer, to bring the God in the lives of others, however way we can.
On a personal note, my journey over the last two years has been and still is, a spirit-filled and spirit-led experience.
The pandemic would have been an easy way out of animating the Province; after all, physical encounters could not happen. Then in one of the zoom meetings I attended, I was motivated by my Boss saying, “Do not put this crisis to waste. Do not allow COVID to bring you down. No one should be left behind.” A Gospel reading provided further impetus. “….. If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” The idea of the “Kumustahan” came in one of my moments of solitude and prayer.
After animating the province for almost two years, I feel the change in me. The speedy, aggressive and competitive banker had to change her ways. It was difficult but I held in my heart the saying that “The task ahead of us is never greater than the strength given to us.” I was totally reliant on the GRACE given to me. This grace allowed the Holy Spirit to diffuse in me and to receive what God wants to do in me. I realized that this empowerment brought wisdom, direction and bore fruits.
Decisions and actions had to be fruits of discernment, patience and simplicity. “Slowly, but surely” is now is my way of life as a homemaker, banker, treasurer and animator. Whereas as a banker, numbers
and money-making activities mattered most to me, today, it is the number of hearts that I touch that matters more.
I also discovered that a SMILE is quite powerful. With a smile and eye-to-eye contact, a connection is built with another. Our hearts were speaking to each other. There was healing and signs of hope. It is life giving.
Look the photos here