In 1991, about 8,000 lives were lost in flash floods in Ormoc, Philippines due to the deforestation of the mountains and the wanton destruction of the environment. Religious of the Sacred Heart felt the need to respond to this terrible tragedy, and I was sent to help in the rehabilitation of the families that had lost their shelters and their loved ones, most of whom were exploited workers in a sugar cane plantation. From the beginning, Philippine Duchesne served as my silent guide and provider, for I felt that this mission frontier would be close to her heart.
Sacred Heart provinces around the world had spontaneously sent financial help, so we were able to acquire a one-hectare property and subdivide it among the families. For the first time in their lives, they could settle down in homes they could call their own. They continued to live simple and laborious lives, but they found hope for their daily needs in the words of Philippine: "God knows our need. He knows what we want and in His own time He will grant it."
A community gradually was organized with childhood education as its center. Here the children could receive the love and care of Philippine transmitted to them. Through their new life together, the whole community experienced a taste of the reign of God through peace and stability and a brighter future for their children.
After 26 years in Ormoc, the RSCJ are handing over the administration of the St. Philippine Duchesne Ormoc Workers Foundation Incorporated (SPDOWFI), assured that the people have been empowered and that Philippine's mission will continue. As I leave, Philippine's words are etched in my heart: "We cultivate a very small field for Christ, but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements but a heart that holds back nothing for self ... The one who has Jesus has everything."
Iraida Sua-an, RSCJ, District of the Philippines
Image: St. Rose Philippine Producers' Cooperative Logo depicting the community sailing on with Philippine to new frontiers