Staff Immersion to the Philippines

Sep 11, 2017

During the sixteen years I have taught at St Patrick’s, a number of opportunities for the Staff Immersion have come up and I have always thought about applying to go. However; small babies, sick parents, work commitments and life have always prevented me from being able to take part. So when a chance to go to the Philippines in July came up earlier in the year and I saw a space in my life to be able to do something I have wanted for so long, I quickly responded to the call. I am very blessed to have been given the chance, along with 10 other travellers from Good Samaritan schools, to visit Bacolod last month.

Led by Sister Meg and Rosemary from St Scholastica’s in Glebe, we left chilly Sydney on the 1st July and embarked upon a week of experiences which will I am sure will stay with me as some of the most confronting and yet fulfilling, times in my life. It quickly became apparent that I was going to be in great company for this trip, surrounded by energetic, vivacious and compassionate women who immediately made me feel at ease.

Our week in Bacolod was incredibly rich and we were treated with the greatest sense of hospitality. From arriving at Mass on Sunday morning at the Conception Church in the mountains and being greeted with a lavish morning tea, to the excited faces of the children upon our arrival at the Kinder School on Monday – everywhere we visited we were surrounded by a wonderful sense of welcome.

The children and the staff at the Kinder School are full of a great zest for learning and life. We witnessed a joyous love of play and friendship every day we visited and were most lucky to be in Bacolod for the Kinder School Benedict Day Celebrations. This was the day that the Kinder School also marked their 14th Foundation Day and to be a part of such a happy occasion was a privilege. The countless hours that the teachers, Sir Joffrey and Miss Jean, had put into creating costumes and dances and songs, to mark the day, and the utter joy of the children who performed for us and their parents, was truly something to be witnessed.

Amongst the joy were moments of complete disillusionment, sadness, anger and helplessness. Our visits to The Boulevard and an orphanage that the Sisters regularly pay visits to, were places that will stay with me forever. Weeks after my return I am still left with multitudinous questions about fairness in life, equitable distribution of wealth and resources, but mostly – how in our world which is so full of everything we can ever ask for – are there so many people who are living in complete poverty? And yet, while having so very little – the people we had the privilege of meeting were so very rich in joy, hospitality, pride and a love of Christ.

One of my strongest learnings from my immersion experience is the greater understanding and deep appreciation of the endless work that the Sisters are doing and have done for so long now, in Bacolod and further afield. In every conversation that I had with Sister Leonie, Sister Grace and Sister Anne – there were more and more things that I could not have even thought of, that the Sisters are working on, helping the community with and searching to make a difference. The Outreach Centre is an exceptional example of this. What a wonderful resource and community the Sisters have created for the people of Bacolod. The Feeding Program at the Boulevard is faith and community in action. This is a program which seeks to feed about 300 people five times a week, while also teaching the local women about nutrition and cooking while simultaneously building community and friendship. It was here and all the many places we were visitors of that week, that I truly saw Benedictine work in practice and found the face of Jesus in so many who I met.

 

Katherine Power
St Patrick’s College for Girls, Campbelltown