On Open Seas Sisters Travel with the Word
“When the boat arrived at the island, how many children and people came out from those poor simple homes to greet them!” Sister Marissa Maraya recalled. “This was how the Lord brought us to Iling!”
A member of the Missionary Servants of the Blessed Sacrament, Sister Marissa and her community serve the poor in her native Philippines. These sisters first visited the island of Iling, a one-and-a-half hour boat ride from Mindoro. When they arrived, they found the poorest of the poor and great suffering. The week before, the villages of the island had been devastated by an epidemic disease which caused death in almost all the families. Many died because there was no doctor, nurse or treatment available. In fact, the island also had no electricity, safe water, sufficient food, or education opportunities.
“But our Sisters’ new friends welcomed them with flowers and gratitude, and somebody quickly got some coconut milk for them to drink,” Sister Marissa said. “The people quickly took our Sisters to see their small chapel, and there they went to pray. They thanked the Lord for bringing the Sisters there, and they prayed for all who had died in the recent epidemic.” “At that moment, our Sisters decided to do something for the people here according to our little possibility – but with lots of love,” she remembered.
The sisters returned every week. In a small one-room building near the chapel – both of which were made possible with support from the Society of St. Peter the Apostle – the sisters taught village children basic school subjects while always reminding them of the Lord’s great love. They brought simple medicines, and those of the sisters who had some medical training administered routine care. There were also sewing courses for women and young mothers in the area. As time went on, the sisters started a scholarship program, helping to give hundreds of poor children from Iling the opportunity for an education.
“Poverty remains the problem,” Sister Marissa observed. “But there have been changes, improvements, especially in education.” And the people on this predominantly Catholic island have also changed – they have discovered the beauty and joy of being missionaries themselves. By way of illustration, Sister Marissa shared the story of Nene, a young girl the sisters taught in the school they set up. The first time they met Nene, she asked the sisters to visit her mother who was sick and couldn’t leave the house. They found the woman lying on a bamboo bed, weak and tired. On that first meeting, and every time after that, the sisters encouraged her to offer her prayers and sufferings for missionary work. Before she died, she wrote this message to the sisters: “My sickness forced me to stay in bed the whole day and stopped me from caring for my children and family. For many years, I felt useless. And then you sisters brought me hope, and helped me to understand that I can help the mission. During my day, I travel in my thoughts from one place on earth to another, visiting the Missions by accompanying missionaries with my prayers. I who never thought of going out of my little village,” Nene’s mother said, “have reached other continents through prayer.”
That first journey on open seas launched new ways for a group of sisters to serve the poor – and started an island community on the journey to being missionaries themselves. Today in the missions, young men and women novices are preparing to serve their people as religious brothers and sisters. Each receives annual help for their formation through the Society of St. Peter Apostle.
Also throughout Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands and remote regions of Latin America, there are seminarians in formation. They have heard the Lord’s call to the priesthood, but lack the financial help to complete their seminary studies. Like those preparing for religious life, these seminarians need your help.
From Supermarket to ‘Sign of Hope’
Chanakila Lubasi was once the manager of a local supermarket in his native Zambia. Five years ago, he was ordained a priest. “I want to be a sign of hope that Christ is present in the joyful and sorrowful mysteries of life,” Lubasi said as a seminarian. Reading the Gospels, he was particularly struck by the Lord’s call to “proclaim the ‘Good News’ to the whole world.” “These words,” he explained, “eventually compelled me to go to the seminary.”
Zambia is a country marked by extreme poverty and a place where the HIV/AIDS epidemic has left thousands of orphans. “My role as a priest would be to point to Christ – for strength, for hope,” observed Lubasi. A fellow seminarian Aaron Njobvu agreed. “I am becoming a priest above all to serve,” he says. “I want to be a sign of the love of God for all.” Njobvu stressed the importance of the Eucharist in his service. “In the Eucharist especially the broken connect with Jesus and His love,” he explained. “It will be my privilege to celebrate the Eucharist among my own people.”
Today, young men are preparing for the priesthood at the seminary where Fathers Lubasi and Njobvu studied, St. Dominic’s Major Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia. Each seminarian receives $700 in annual support through the Society of St. Peter Apostle – about $5 a day. Throughout Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands and remote regions of Latin America, there are some 30,000 major seminarians in formation. They have heard the Lord’s call to the priesthood, but lack the financial help to complete their seminary studies. They need your help – to be “signs of hope,” to “serve” – and to help the poor and most vulnerable in our mission family “feel the hand of the Lord on their shoulders.” Through donations to the Society of St. Peter Apostle, these young men receive that support, and the poor of the Missions are reached with the powerful, hope-filled presence of our Lord.
Pray for them; give generously to support their studies with your donation to Society of St. Peter Apostle.