Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 10, 2010
Franciscans leave to minister to squatters
Sisters plan to minister to Filipino poor, listen for God's intentions
RAMON GONZALEZEDMONTON - At age 69, Sister Nancy Sargent is getting ready for one of the biggest adventures of her life.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
In September, Sargent and two other Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement, both in their 70s, will move to the Philippines to open a mission among squatters in the province of Cavite, some 30 km south of the capital of Manila.
"I'm very excited going there," Sargent says. "I'm also humbled and grateful that I was asked to go."
Going with Sargent will be New York Sisters Margaret Connolly and Susan Boyle, who served in Edmonton for many years.
"We are a missionary community and we feel it's God's will that we open a new foreign mission," Sargent said in a May 3 interview at the order's home in Edmonton's inner city.
The trio will work in Paliparan, a resettlement area for over 45,000 former "informal dwellers" of Pasay City in Metro Manila. The government relocated them there to make room to build a road.
"There they have small huts, but little else," says Sargent, who, together with Boyle, visited the area in November. "The poverty is extreme, so much is lacking."
The sisters will work with two members of the religious order The Sons of Mary, who currently operate a community development centre in Paliparan.
"The people there are Catholic and very religious so the bishop is welcoming our coming," Sargent says. "We will work there listening to the needs of the people and ministering in the ways we can until God opens up other paths for us as a community."
Sargent, a native of Colorado, came to Edmonton seven years ago to lead the CAP headstart program that the sisters then operated in their compound. She is now director of her community's lay associates and also serves on the board of the Lurana Shelter Society.
DREAM COME TRUE
For Sargent, the Philippine venture is like a dream come true. "After 50 years in the convent, a big dream is being fulfilled," she said.
"I've always carried in my heart the desire to go to a poor country and work and live and share God's love with the poor."
When Sargent told her older brother Mike, a financial advisor, about her community's plan to open a foreign mission, he didn't think they could pull it off.
"I guess in the business world it doesn't make sense that a community whose membership is aging, that is short of personnel and has no new vocations, is sending and supporting three senior sisters to open a mission in the Philippines," says Sargent.
IN GOD'S EYES
"But in God's eyes, it makes perfect sense. He has called us to be a missionary community and if he wants this, he will provide and lead us."
The Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement have 160 members doing mission work in several countries, including the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Japan and Italy. They have 120 lay associates.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.