Our beloved foundress, Blessed Mary of the Passion, once said: “We have but one country. The whole world is ours.” As we attended the celebration of the 90th foundation anniversary of the Province of Vietnam on 6 January 2023 and had the chance to visit almost all of the communities there, Mary of the Passion’s words could not have resounded better than during those precious eleven (11) days for us three (3) sisters from the Philippine province. What a graced experience it was for the three of us to represent our province in the absence of our Provincial Superior, Sr. Marilen Oliva, FMM, who could not attend the celebration because of the perpetual profession of Sr. Labelle Bucol, FMM, which took place on the same day.
As I reflect on our Vietnam journey, I couldn’t help but echo what the author said in 1 John 1:1 “We declare to you… what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…” The experience of going from one community to another, meeting the sisters and the people whom they serve and briefly having a tour of their particular mission, gave flesh to what we only saw on the computer screen as powerpoint presentations during zoom meetings that were held as we move towards becoming the SVP Region on our path of transformation as an institute. Because of this trip, I realized that my preconceived ideas about Vietnam as a country and as a province prove to be inaccurate representations of the real situation there.
In those eleven days in January we shared life with the sisters whose loving and warm hospitality knew no bounds. We prayed with them both in Vietnamese and English. We are grateful to the sisters who translated to English the homilies and other announcements in the communities that were spoken in their own language. Once, thanks to the taxi driver, our ears were treated to beautiful Vietnamese music, not knowing that we were listening to love songs that spoke of triumphs and heartaches. Of course we ate healthy food in the communities as the table is always filled with leafy vegetables, meat or fish, fruits, noodles and a variety of sauces and condiments. Rice is the staple food just like in our home country.
Our journey was further enriched by the presence of three sisters from Sri Lanka, namely, Sr. Elsie Rodrigo, the Provincial Superior, Sr. Thushari Fernando and Sr. Sahila Fernando. Srs. Kim Anh, Ngoc Bich, Agata Lien, Ngoc Lan and Thuy Dung of Vietnam province took turns to act as our travel companion. Thus, wherever we went, we were traveling as SVP.
I am deeply grateful to Sr. Marilen and the Provincial Council for choosing to send us to Vietnam. The journey will forever be etched in my mind and heart, as I cherish the time that we spent with the sisters, the lepers, girls and adults belonging to different tribes, the kindergarten pupils, the patients and volunteers in the clinics and the blind young students. We heard, saw, looked and touched them, as they all conveyed to us that indeed, the Word of Life is alive in them, in every place where the compassionate face of God is made present in our suffering world.
Sr. Angelita Santos, FMM
“One more year” this text from the Gospel of Luke (Lk13:8) is indeed a beautiful image of the preparation for the regionalization that will take place in our Institution. As stated in the Introduction of Sister Eufemia’s letter, this preparation is accompanied by all the emotions and hopes of what tomorrow will look like.
I was fortunate to be allowed to attend the celebration of the 90th FMM presence in Vietnam Province, an opportunity to feel the emotions of slowly saying goodbye to the province and embracing the Region. It is also an opportunity to know better the members in our Region of Sri-Lanka, Vietnam, and the Philippines because among those invited to this celebration were Sr. Elsie Rodrigo, the current Provincial Superior of Sri-Lanka, along with Sr. Tushari Fernando and Sr. Sahila Fernando. During a ten-day visit to 12 communities in Vietnam, many things were clarified in my thoughts, feelings, and perspectives on how to go about this new face of the Institute. When the concept of Regionalization was introduced, I had many doubts, the question “How?” lingers in my thoughts and this opportunity somehow facilitated clarifying those questions. There are still some questions, but they are probably not important anymore, the only clear thing that this opportunity has brought is trust in the ability of each member of the Region to continue the Mission started by Maman Passion. One significant encounter I witnessed in my journey to Vietnam is the generosity of the people who in one way or another were touched and blessed by the FMM presence for 90 years. This encounter is an assurance for me that no matter how difficult it would be to begin this new structure; grace abounds and God’s generosity will never be outdone. This trip to Vietnam also gives life to the concept paper which the Young Gen of the region discussed several times thru zoom meetings. “One more year” will soon be over, but I am now standing upright with open arms, to embrace the hope, joys, and challenges this Regionalization will give.
Sr. Olivia Villanueva, FMM
Gratitude is the song that beats in my heart as I recall our visit to Vietnam with our Sri Lankan sisters. It was my first time being in a foreign land. We finally met the sisters with whom we worked, talked, and shared through zoom meetings for the last two years. I saw with my own eyes the sisters of different ages and different communities in the mission. Celebrating their momentous event of 90 years was a privilege given by God and my sisters to renew my commitment and my “Fiat” with the life I promised to live until I die. I praised God for what he did in the province of Vietnam. The sisters courageously continued the mission, and by his grace, they were helping many people in need. I can attest to many possibilities if we allow God to lead us toward regionalization. Our worries and fears would hinder us from more surprises to come. Let us follow and be open to where God’s leading us as Mother Mary of the Passion says. We can trust in each other’s strengths and accept our vulnerabilities. Together we can say “Fiat” as Mary did. Let us make room for the Holy Spirit to recreate our Institute and encounter Jesus with others.
Sr. Concepcion Jomen, FMM