CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 September 2017

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The habit of commitment

HONG KONG (SE): Two members of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, Sister Maria Corazon Liwanag and Sister Maria Francis Lee Kar-yee, made their final profession at a Mass at St. Alfred’s in Tai Wai on August 11.
 
Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing said there is no need for any explanation other than love for Jesus and God to describe the determination of the two sisters, or others who lead a consecrated life, to make their final profession.
 
He added that he believes such determination is driven by constant communication with God through prayer.
 
As the two sisters have been teachers for years, the bishop said that their real achievement lies not in imparting knowledge, but bearing witness to God’s love and they will forever be remembered for the way in which their lives have affected the lives of others.
 
Before the bishop, their mother general, Sister Anne Marie Warren, and their religious community, the two sisters professed the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The bishop then imparted a blessing and presented each with a ring as a sign of their commitment.
 
The two sisters joyfully embraced members of their religious community to the applause of the around 500 people present at the ceremony, including their families, friends and students.
 
Sister Lee has been teaching English and religious studies at Immaculate Heart of Mary College in Shatin since she made her first profession together with Sister Liwanag on 11 August 2012.
 
She is also part of the pastoral care team and the Catholic Student Association of the school. Before joining the convent in September 2009, she had been a secondary school teacher for five years.
 
Even though she is still teaching, she believes the habit makes it a different job, as it witnesses to a special dedication. She said that more than ever, she now needs to set an example of Jesus’ love.
 
She explained that the students often question her, as they are curious about her identity as a sister. She explained that they ask things like, “Do sisters get a salary? What do you eat in the convent?”
 
But as there are not many Catholics at the school, she meets with questions about religion like, “Why do we need to pray?” Her students also expect to learn more about the bible from her.
 
Sister Lee said another difference is that as a religious sister, she can spend more time in spiritual study and prayer.
 
She encourages her students not to study for fame or glory, or good results in public examinations, but instead to pray more and try to appreciate their strengths and what God has done for them.
 
She believes that they can fight for their future better if they have a general idea of a direction in life and work with a peaceful and grateful heart.
 
Sister Lee thanked the priests and sisters for the kind and gentle manner she experienced when she was in secondary school at St. Francis Canossian College and Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish  school in Wan Chai.
 
She said that they are really the ones who motivated her to think about her vocation and are still a good model for her as a sister.
 
Sister Liwanag shared that she felt happy and peaceful before her final profession and she had been waiting for the moment with great excitement. “It means I will be forever in love with Jesus,” she said.
 
From Rizal in The Philippines, she came to Hong Kong as a domestic worker in 2000. Her main duties were taking care of children and she really liked her job.
 
But she recalled that when she first met the sisters of her congregation in 2007 and visited them on a Sunday of May, she was not scared when she entered the convent compound, even though there were four big dogs at the gate. She felt she belonged in the place.
 
Sister Liwanag then spent most of her days off at the sisters’ convent in Tai Wai and eventually joined up in January 2009.
 
In July 2015, she finished a course in children’s education at the Open University. The ever-smiling sister is now teaching English at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Kindergarten in Tai Wai.
 
She said while she is not teaching religion at the kindergarten, she can still set a good example by her patience and showing the love of Jesus along with her love for the children.
 
She believes a Catholic school imbues children with the value of respecting the dignity of every human being and that value formation starts with simple tasks, like giving respect to elderly people and helping the needy.
 
She believes it is also important to teach children to love others as Jesus loves us. “Just show them that they are loved and cared for, then they will feel the effect of it until they reach maturity,” she said.
 
Her younger sister, Jill Mataro, who came to the ceremony from The Philippines with her mother and two brothers, said they are proud of Sister Liwanag for her commitment to serving God and teaching children.

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