Cornerstones of vision, values, and vitality

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Saturday, February 8, 2014


ST. Theresa’s College (STC) Cebu turned 80 this school year. It traces its roots to the time when Bishop Gabriel Reyes asked the Belgian sisters of the Missionary Canonesses of St. Augustine to put up a school for girls in Cebu. At that time, their school in Carcar, St. Catherine’s, was already 10 years old.

In 1933, Mother M. Clement, provincial superior of the Philippines, yielded to the request and sent six sisters to Cebu to open St. Theresa’s College on Sikatuna St.

Mother M. Lawrence was the superior and, at age 35, was the oldest among the pioneering STC nuns, the others being D.M. Eleonora, D.M. Verene D.M. Prisca, D.M. Monica and D.M. Noella. They opened the school on June 7, 1933, and had a total of 175 school children, from kindergarten to second year high.

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The following year, STC bought the two hectare property where it is now located from Don Ramon Aboitiz. By the time the school had its first high school graduation, in 1936, it had an enrolment of 500.

In 1938, Msgr. Gabriel Reyes, then already an archbishop, requested the nuns to offer college courses for girls, and also to accept boarding students. Schooling was interrupted during World War II but classes immediately reopened when the war ended, in nipa-roofed classrooms from the ruins of school building which was bombed in the later part of the war.

STC has evolved, developed into what it is today during these past 80 years, with more buildings, more students. At one time, the school accepted boys in grade school, then that was phased out. Now it is again accepting them, and accepting them also for college which now offers courses in accountancy, business administration, communication, education, social work, psychology and diploma courses for second coursers in professional education and teaching special education.

If the school has evolved, so have the nuns whose congregation was founded by Mother Marie Louise de Meester in 1897 as the Missionary Canonesses of St. Augustine. In 1963, this was changed to ICM, which stands for Immaculati Cordis Mariae, meaning the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, because most of nuns’ work was allied with the work of the CICM priests. With Vatican II, they have also dropped their habits. And the nuns in STC Cebu are no longer Belgians but Filipinas.

In an interview, visiting ICM governing team member, Sr. Lieve Stragier, says: “We are looking into a way to prepare our lay collaborations to continue our ministry,” in the light of an aging and declining ICM population.

She emphasizes that ICM is a missionary congregation that goes to places only if it has been asked, and each nun has to be willing to accept an assignment away from her native country. She reveals that Filipina ICM sisters are in Taiwan, Mongolia, India, Congo, Cameroon, Burundi, Brazil, the Caribbean, Guatemala and the USA. But there are fewer and fewer vocations. She herself is among the last Belgians to enter the convent.

If STC at 80 has its vision of “a better world for all,” values “of faith, justice, truth, service, integrity of creation and peace” and vitality “to form men and women of faith, character and creative leadership,” the ICM nuns also have their own vision of a restructured community. Sr. Lieve says this must begin with the restructuring of each individual nun.

“We need restructuring—spiritual, inner—of each nun in the community so that each member participates in the life and leadership of the congregation. When the realities around us change, we have to look at how we can best respond to the present circumstances and participate in the life of the congregation. Each takes up her responsibility so we can all see where we are to move. It is no longer superiors lead and members follow. Now we sit together and see our direction for the future.”

That direction will surely help ensure that St. Theresa’s College, Cebu, will achieve its 80th founding anniversary cornerstones of vision, values, and vitality.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 09, 2014.

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