In the days leading up to her perpetual profession as a Sister of the Good Samaritan, Grace Marcelo confessed to being nervous, but says that on a spiritual level she was ready for this momentous step in her life.
The ceremony took place at Holy Family Parish in City Heights, Bacolod, the Philippines, on Saturday April 14, in front of Grace’s family and friends, as well as co-workers at the Good Samaritan Outreach Centre, people from the local community, and Good Samaritan Sisters from the Philippines, Australia and Japan.
“In my heart, I am ready,” said Grace before the profession. “I am ready because I believe I am on the right track.
“I am scared about some of the practical things in the ceremony but I believe that the grace of God will come in perfect timing and I look forward to making my profession and living my life as a Sister of the Good Samaritan.”
Grace made her first profession in Australia, so it was extra special to her to be making her perpetual profession in front of her family and friends in her home country.
“We are a big crowd when we all get together,” she said. “There are six siblings as well as extended family. It is good for them to come and see the other sisters and see how we are, and get to know the Good Sams more.”
After Grace’s first profession, she had a further two years of formation, which she said was a period of learning and growth.
“It helped me to get to know even more deeply the congregation’s charism, the Benedictine spirituality and to have more experience with the sisters,” she said.
“I love hearing their stories, it really inspires me and it helps me to become more inculturated with the Good Samaritan values and culture, and the ministries that I do are my response to the invitation of being neighbour to others.”
Grace is Coordinator of the Good Samaritan Outreach Centre in Bacolod, a ministry working with women and children particularly in the area of skills development, values and spiritual formation, economic and social enhancement, educational assistance and nutrition.
In addition, the Outreach Centre runs an environmental awareness program, which focuses on training the local people to be aware of environmental degradation issues and empower them to take action in their own community.
Among those who have come to know Grace in Bacolod is Good Samaritan novice, Donna Ferrer, a fellow Filipina woman, who attended Grace’s final profession.
“I lived with Grace in Bacolod in my pre-novitiate and we became close,” she said. “Grace is very open. I’ve learned a lot from her and received encouragement to continue, to persevere.
“I’m so glad that I was given the chance to go home during the time of her profession and to be there for it,” said Donna, who is completing her novitiate in Australia.
“For me to attend the final profession, or any profession, with the Good Samaritans is always a blessing. I’m looking forward to seeing myself as a Good Samaritan Sister one day.”
Sadly unable to attend, due to a long recovery from knee surgery, was Sister Yoshi Suzukawa, a Japanese Good Samaritan Sister who came to know Grace during her years working in Bacolod.
“I first met Grace in 1997 at the Al-Foundation, a charity in Bacolod which helped many children in the poor districts through scholarship programs, day-care centres, children’s library and sometimes a feeding program,” she said.
“When I met Grace she was receiving a scholarship and studying at university, helping with Al-Foundation activities. I attended her graduation from university. In my early days in the Philippines she helped me by interpreting the language, which I really appreciated.”
A few years later, during a visit to the Philippines by the then Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, Sister Sonia Wagner, Yoshi invited Grace to attend a Good Sams’ gathering.
“Then, after we opened our Kinder School, Grace visited us and Sister Fran Nolan became a spiritual mentor to her.
“I was so happy when she decided to enter religious life and of course I’m disappointed not to be at her final profession. I’m praying for her to keep deep faith in her life as a Good Samaritan.”
In her formal admonition at Grace’s perpetual profession, Congregational Leader Sister Patty Fawkner reminded Grace that she could only be admitted to the Good Samaritan way of life if she truly sought God.
“You have been journeying with the Good Samaritan Sisters for nearly 10 years, and over this time, we believe that, to the best of our knowledge, you are truly seeking God in our way of life.”
Commenting on the Gospel reading chosen by Grace, of the Samaritan woman at the well, Patty said it held three movements or themes which gave important lessons for consecrated Good Samaritan life.
The first is that the woman confronts her true self.
“Grace, the first movement of being a consecrated religious woman is self-knowledge,” Patty said.
“If you do not know yourself well, you can cause great damage within community and within your ministry. But it will cost you to be faithful to who you are and what you believe. You grow in knowledge by being self-reflective.”
The second movement in the story of the woman at the well is that she experiences God’s grace.
“What a beautiful name you have Grace! Your name means God’s blessing, God’s favour, God’s gift,” she said.
“Being given a Good Samaritan vocation is a wonderful grace and gift. It can be life-giving water. Your vocation is a call within your heart to love Jesus Christ within this Good Samaritan community.”
The third movement Patty identified in the story of the Samaritan woman was that she shared the Good News.
“The presence of so many here today reminds us that your profession is not something private. It is a public act. Your vocation is a call not just for your sake, but a call to you to share Good News, and indeed be Good News to God’s people.”
After singing the Suscipe and professing her vows, Grace was welcomed as a Sister of the Good Samaritan and a joyous celebratory meal was held in the parish hall with family, friends, sisters and the people of the local community.
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Photo credit: Ramon Consing