This morning I attended the First Profession of four Religious Franciscan Sisters of St Anthony in Pontevedra, Negros Occidental, part of the Diocese of Bacolod and about an hour's drive south of Bacolod City. Srs Farrah B. Partol, Lisel T. Genes, Jelanie P. Gonzaels and Elsie M. Larrot are the first sisters to do all their formation in the Philippines. The Sisters, an Italian congregation, came here in the 1990s with a small group from El Salvador and Colombia. They've had many ups and downs over the years but, thanks be to God, now eleven or twelve young Filipino Sisters.
The Mass took place in the parish church and Bishop Vicente M. Navarra of Bacolod was the main celebrant. Mther Gaetana Maria Nicolaio RFSA, the Italian Superior General, received the vows of the young Sisters.
The Sisters have only two convents in the Philippines, that in Pontevedra and the novitiate in the Diocese of San Pablo, Laguna, south of Manila. They serve both children and old people and visit these in their homes in the areas near the convent in Pontevedra, which is three or four kilometres south of the town proper. We went there after Mass for lunch and most of the guests were the people the Sisters serve. We all shared in the simple lunch of chicken, pansit (noodles) and rice, with some roast pig added. I was touched by the fact that it was such a simple lunch,m very Franciscan.
Please pray for the Sisters.
The familiar words of St Francis in Italian and English, in a setting by contemporary Filipino composer Ryan Cayabyab and sung by the Chinese University of Hong Kong Chorus directed by Leon Chu. St Francis is surely one of the most universal of all saints in his appeal.