Filipina Franciscan Sister: Witnessing and valuing the virtue of charity
By Rechilda Estores
Sr. Helen Palacay, a Filipina former social communication head of Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Infant Jesus (FMIJ), in Quezon City, Philippines, has expressed the importance of charity and educational works of the Franciscan sisters by immersing with the people and helping the society.
“Our congregation is answering the needs just like what our Mother Foundress Barbara Micarelli did during her time,” she continued. “Trying to help others whether it is in emotional or psychological growth, academics, helping the needy, guiding the young, forming people in different forms of evangelization and so on.”
She recalled that the congregation in the country “started in 1982 and the congregation delegation in the Philippines was established in June 1998.”
Sr. Palacay said that the service of the Franciscan sisters is “by answering to the needs of the Church and the society with the high regard for the virtue of charity, doing everything in a Christocentric and Franciscan way, remembering that we are instruments of God’s love and compassion.”
In her 11 years of practice as a professed Franciscan sister, she also shared that the FMIJ “seeks to respond to the needs of the society in the mission of the educational and charitable sphere of the children, and evangelization through catechesis, pastoral care in parishes in collaboration with priests and lay people as well as with service to the sick, including within hospitals.”
She emphasized that the Franciscan congregation is participating in teaching young people.
“It should be noted that the FMIJ is currently engaged in a process of reorganization which has led to the closure of educational structures and still in progress of collaboration with dioceses or cooperatives of lay people entrusting some of our structures for a continuity of the educational mission.” Sr. Palacay said.
“The Institute addresses its service to children, young people, especially the poor and without family support, to the sick who are especially in need,” she added. “It responds to the needs and urgencies of the brothers, in the spirit of the Foundress to serve society in all its needs,” she told Vatican News.
Sr. Palacay also highlighted the life mission and vocation of the Franciscan sisters as a Catholic.
“As sisters we become the visible sign of God’s charity, therefore we must become witnesses of this light to others,” she furthers. “I can see that our faith was really built in a strong foundation of universality and unity, and that for me that is what makes us steadfast as Catholics.”
She explains that the FMIJ is also involve in “educational service through our schools or by inserting ourselves into the schools of the State and the Dioceses,“ she added that they provide “a proper service for the homes of disadvantaged children, after a long tradition of the Institute of service to orphans and abandoned.”
Sr. Palacay also talked about poverty as one of the major problems in the society.
“Poverty is one of the biggest challenges in the society. This is not just the external poverty that I am talking about but the new faces of poverty in the society. Material poverty affects the growth and mindset of an individual but even materially rich people have their own poverty, a poverty that is deeper, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, etc." she shared.
She pointed out that in order to help the people we need to “recognize that each one of us carry our own crosses, offer sacrifices to God, live simply and choose to be in solidarity."
The Filipina sister said that “it doesn’t have to be a big change but with the little efforts that each one has, we can enrich each other and see that this movement comes from God’s grace.”
She said that the living a Franciscan life is living in simplicity and in poverty like St. Francis.
“It is not easy but it is also a gift and responsibility. It is an opportunity to embrace what are essential in life,” Sr. Palacay said.
She said that she continues to spread faith through the social virtual platforms.
“I promote and advocate the evangelization through social communication formation and using different social media platforms,” Sr. Palacay said.
She believes that in using the social platforms “with the right formation and usage I know that God’s word will be proclaimed in creativity, zest and be able to reach more people but as I said this must be done cautiously and with the right discipline.”
Discovering Life of Faith
Sr. Palacay shared that a life of a Franciscan sisters is embodying the Word of God.
“As a Franciscan the first rule of St. Francis for us is to live the Gospel,” she said.
She also expressed the importance of children in “following the lead of Jesus,” she added. “We must know that children bring us hope, the future of our faith depends also in them, in their littleness we try to teach them about life but in their innocence, they teach us what life is all about. A life to enjoy, a life to appreciate and a life to be lived.”
Sr. Palacay said that children “are reminders that God keeps on sending us members in our universal Family, the Church.”
The Filipina sister encourages everyone to engage in prayer life.
“For me prayer is a very powerful act that brings us closer to God. Communicate and tell God your whereabouts, emotions, preoccupations, happiness, sadness, agitations, etc. Tell him everything,” she said.
Sr. Palacay concluded the interview by reminding everyone to “never forget to pray,” she explained. “Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated but it has to be sincere and deep because God knows what is deep within our hearts.”
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