by Sr Oonah O’Shea
I was excited by this opening
This time it was to be a founding member of the Congregation in an Asian context, the Philippines. In 1986 the Congregation made the decision to look beyond the countries it was already established in, to new horizons. The sisters in Australia were asked to investigate what were possibilities for us in Asia. I was excited by this opening and so was prepared to put my hand up. I had had a limited experience in Asia (India) following some courses, and thought that we had much to learn from this part of the world which is rich in peoples, cultures and is the cradle of many of the world’s Religious.
We had much to learn
After some investigation, it was decided to make a foundation in the Philippines and we decided to settle in a rural area where the majority of the people are poor and struggle to make a living. After an attempt to learn the language and becoming a little enculturated I ventured into working to empower local women by establishing an NGO (KUMARE) to assist them to begin or support existing livelihood projects. Over the years, it broadened its programmes to include ecology, disaster preparedness, education and formation for its members and scholarships for the children of members. The NGO is now over 25 years old and celebrates the fact that it has spread to five local municipalities with over 2,500 active members.
Our cultural diversity is an additional enrichment
From the community aspect, initially in 1990 we were two Australians. In 1995 we were joined by a sister from the UK. We grew to be a community of eight four Filipinas, one Brazilian, one Indonesian, one English and one Australian. Our cultural diversity is an additional enrichment to that of living and working alongside the Filipino people.