June 2011

A spirit-filled life requires a daily choice

To live a life in the Spirit – a discerning life – requires a daily choice, writes Good Samaritan Sister Veronica McDougall. What is God calling me to now? How am I responding after listening to the movements of the Holy Spirit within me?

BY Veronica McDougall SGS

To live a life in the Spirit – a discerning life – requires for me a daily choice. What is God calling me to now? How am I responding after listening to the movements of the Holy Spirit within me?

Leaving the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit to live in the Philippines, I am faced with many challenges. Living in another culture which is predominantly Catholic, where poverty confronts me daily, I am called to journey deep within to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church where I am. What is God’s mission for me here?

Life in Bacolod City has taught me a great deal about living faith in life’s ordinariness. I have found that many of the values of our Benedictine Good Samaritan way of life are inherent in Filipino culture. What follows is just a sample.

The family, including the extended family, is the centre of life, faith and spirituality in the Philippines. Living in the present moment is not only a survival tactic for many in need of life’s essentials, it reveals an appreciation of life, of the journey to a destination rather than living life in the fast lane as I sometimes experience in my homeland. In the Philippines, time is God’s gift to be enjoyed and lived, for work and study.

The family celebrate together especially through parish fiestas for saints, for example, the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This family life echoes the Benedictine value of community and the balance of daily prayer, work, study and leisure.

Hospitality is learnt within the family. There is always a hearty welcome when you meet, attend a gathering or liturgy. The welcome is truly from the heart, given in sincerity and unconditionally as Jesus did. All visitors are offered snacks or a meal.

In the late afternoon, neighbours come out to visit, children play in the streets, adults and children converse. All are greeted, friend or stranger. There is a reverence and respect for one another.

If I am out alone I am often asked, “Who is your companion?” When I mix up the language on a jeepney, passengers help out.

The living faith of the people is borne out for me in my ministry with seminarians and women religious in initial formation. Their natural shyness soon gives way to a willing sharing from the heart, often of deep spiritual and theological truths.

Faith in a God who redeems, forgives, protects and cares is lived out in daily devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Divine Mercy. Mary, the Mother of God has a special place in Filipino lives under a number of titles and feasts. Many parish churches are named in her honour. The recitation of the rosary, novenas and processions are all part of the way of life here – simple faith lived out daily.

I recently had the privilege of attending the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the Redemptorist Church at Baclaran, Manila. I was one of hundreds packed in for the novena. I have found this living faith of the people very moving and it has renewed my own childhood devotion to Mary under that title.

Last year, it took my students and I over an hour to pray five decades of the rosary. It was one of the most prayerful experiences I have shared since coming to live here.

My own faith and spirituality have often been turned upside down through experiences and sharing stories of the people with whom I live and minister. It has been a gift from God to journey and minister here. When a person is open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, listening to the gentle, yet persuasive movements within, wonderful things happen!

Veronica McDougall

Good Samaritan Sister Veronica McDougall has a background in education. She spent a number of years in Bacolod, the Philippines, where the Good Samaritan Sisters have been ministering since 1990. Currently Veronica lives in western Sydney and is supporting asylum seekers and refugees living in the area. She is member of the Good Samaritan 'Ecological Conversion Committee’.

If you would like to republish this article, please contact the editor.