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150th Anniversary of the coming of Daughters of Charity to the Philippines and 147 years of service at Hospicio de San Jose

OPENING REMARKS OF SR. MARIA SOCORRO PILAR G. EVIDENTE, DC during the Launching Ceremonies of Hospicio’s celebration for the 150th anniversary of the coming of the Daughters of Charity to the Philippines and 147 years of service at Hospicio de San Jose.


Good morning and a very warm welcome to all of you who have graced this significant event in our life of service with your presence.  We are most grateful especially to our very own Mayor Alfredo Lim of the City of Manila,  Fritz Lim, the Executive Director of the Madrigal Foundation,  Barbara Bowden and Jean Marcucci from the US Embassy Club, Mr. Jameson Chua, Executive Vice-President of Manila Business College, the representatives sent by the Sponsors and our fellow Daughters of Charity from the NCR Communities.
Sr. Justine earlier has given us a comprehensive review of our beginnings.  So, I need not go far back to our history since 1810.  I would just like to focus on the background and rationale behind our 150th anniversary projects.  As I reflected on the basic inspiration that has brought all these about, a particular quote reverberates in my mind and heart: “Faith is daring the soul to go beyond what the eyes can see”.  What do we see with our naked eyes?  Wherever we go, whether in daylight or in the late hours of the night, we see people/families sleeping on pavements, thinly clad, dirty and apparently have not been able to wash themselves and get a new set of decent clothes, at times with only a small pack of clothes serving as a pillow.  And yet, we remain unmoved, we pass by like the Pharisee in the story of the Good Samaritan.  Why?  Because most often we feel helpless.  We don’t know how to concretely be of help.  We are overwhelmed by the magnanimity of need that we are called to respond to.  And so, we ignore and erase what we have seen from our memory. St. Vincent and St. Louise, our Founders, because of their Faith that God is in the hungry, the beggar, the homeless, were never overwhelmed.  They responded to the cries of these people and that is why we the Daughters of Charity came into being.  Similarly, following the footsteps of our Founders, it was Faith in the hearts of my Sisters in this community that moved us to make a common stand and decision in 2007, during our Domestic Assembly,  to respond to the cries and appeals of our brothers and sisters sprawled along the streets of Manila, with no roof to shelter them in the midst of rain and cold, beaten by mosquitos and feeding on garbage bins.  The time of blindness and deafness is over.   We told ourselves that procrastination is the thief of time.  We asked ourselves:  If not we, who will do it?  If not now, when? We can’t expect God to do what He has empowered and enabled us to do.  At that time we dreamed big dreams.  We envisioned a Shelter for Street Peoples to be built on Hospicio’s property in Pasay.  In fact we already have a plan and quotation for a three-storey building.  But, as plans for Pasay developed, the Shelter seems not feasible.  However, that did not stop us.  W e believed that when we take a step towards a dream we open ourselves to creative ideas and solutions.  Taking a step gives us hope and optimism, which are essential elements in creativity.  So, in 2008 we decided to go to the Streets even just once a week to give a hot meal to our brothers/sisters sleeping on pavements and parks as our DC Constitutions urges us:  “Seek out the poorest and most abandoned……No type of distress should be foreign to the Daughters”.  This was our way of relaxation on Wednesday nights. We decided that we would save on our own food budget and use our savings for the meal.  With 100 packs of food on hand we searched for them.  Even if most often they were already sleeping, once we handed them  the pack of food, they would immediately get up and give us a big smile and word of thanks, proof that they went to sleep hungry.  Most often after going along three or four main streets of Manila, all 100 packs have been distributed. Every week we would go to other streets and find the same situation.   That is a gauge of the magnanimity of poverty in this area, a cause of concern.  They evangelized us and converted our once indifferent hearts and comfortable lifestyles.  They became our friends and part of our lives.  We planted the seed with vision, fertilized it with hope and hard work and continued to water the seed with enthusiasm and by late 2010 we were blessed with a partner – the Century Pacific Group RSPO Foundation, who provided us with their products and trusted us to help them fulfill their own vision to provide 1 million meals to the hungry.  Last December, they gave us a plaque of recognition for having served the biggest number of meals to persons living in poverty situations, hence, they were able to fulfill their own vision/mission. 
In February 2011, the project further developed into the Rendu Community Center where Hospicio partnered with San Juan de Dios Hospital and Sta. Isabel College to provide a free clinic for street dwellers and informal settlers of Pasay and Manila at our Pasay Property.  This was the first 150th anniversary project launched by the three institutions.  Hospicio brought the street dwellers from here to the clinic every day accompanied by our nurse, Bianca Pascua who also accompanied them through their laboratory examinations and hospitalization while the doctors of SJDH provided free consultations and medicines, when available.  This is still on-going…..the development of the project into the health component was again taken by us as a sign that God was putting His stamp of approval on our humble efforts.
Today, faithful to the origins of Hospicio de San Jose which was intended to remedy mendicancy and rid the city of Manila of beggars,  we go further……….a daily lunch for 150 street peoples/families in two batches:  the first group of 150 on an M-W-F schedule and another batch of 150 on a T-TH-S schedule.  Hopefully, the temporary relief from hunger can lead to more sustainable programs and services like “Balik-Probinsya”, counseling, skills training, livelihood programs, referrals to agencies for children, etc.  Having enough time to converse and interact with these people will lead to a deeper analysis of the causes of their poverty and can lead to better solutions.  Feeding them at night on the streets somehow inhibits time to converse with them as much as a daily program can allow us.  We have thrown our hats into the ring and started pursuing our goal.  Now, we campaign for its accomplishment the best we know how, define our stance, stay true to it and maintain a positive attitude even in the face of difficulties and oppositions.  Nothing is lost in God’s economy.  He uses all our efforts that are motivated by goodwill and a generous and faithful heart.  Sometimes the reward is immediate.  Sometimes it can take years but our faith tells us it will definitely come.  In my seven years as Administrator I have experienced how God blesses every risk that we take, even without the security and assurance of funding for the project, if it is in accordance with His will.  And today I proclaim once again my conviction that God will make this project flourish.  Chevron/Caltex and Century Pacific Group are willing to sit down with us on how they can partner in this project.  Just last week, two of our very simple and assuming benefactors contributed P388,000.00 as a seed money for the project.  God will send more people to provide other services beyond the feeding program.
Our second project for this year is the recruitment of 150 sponsors for our children and elderly.  In the past HELPAGE LONDON was helping us in our Program for Older Persons but they terminated their subsidy last April.  The sponsorship program will give us the stability of funds and a more wholistic intervention for our clients in residential care. It will enable us to reunite children, temporarily sheltered due to poverty to their parents accompanied by sponsorship so they can continue their studies or find a decent place to have their family life.  Similarly, our children in residence are assured of quality education prior to adoption, our special children and older persons are assured of their medical needs.   Today, we already have 70 sponsored children and elderly and with similar hope and optimism I know that we can meet our target before the end of 2012.  This is our ardent prayer and wish.  Thank you.