Planting the Seeds
In June S. Mary Barbara Philippart was invited to the 50th anniversary celebration of Colegio Chino-Peruano Juan XXIII where the Sisters of Charity served from 1962 until 1972. S. Mary Barbara was the first principal of the school, originally established to educate Chinese students, and the only living member of the ‘founders,’ who included Bishop Horacio Ferruccio, S. Stephanie Lindsey and S. Mary Gerard Cheng.
Three special events were celebrated to close out the year of celebration. A birthday party for the students in the school was held Friday, June 1. All of the students (more than 1,500) were assembled in the main playground-patio for a prayer service followed by a program in which two teachers read the history of the school and other teachers and children acted it out. As each part was told, a huge banner with pictures unfolded on one of the buildings. The program was funny, serious and educational. After the program S. Mary Barbara visited the classrooms of the seniors, spoke to them and answered questions. Before the birthday party Sister visited with “Padre Pachi,” now Bishop Adriano Tomasi Travaglia. An Italian Franciscan from the same community as Bishop Ferruccio in Trent, Italy, he came from language school in China in 1986 and became the successor of Bishop Ferruccio. With the parents he is the one who has developed the school, created the Franciscan spirit within the school and has created ways of having the school support itself, meet spiritual needs and serve the needy.
That evening there was a meeting of all the living ex-principals, presidents of the PTA, parents, alumni and representatives of organizations that had supported the school. After prayer, the history of the school, and remarks by the principal, PTA president and Pachi, gifts were given to the above mentioned people and representatives of the various organizations. The Sisters of Charity received two medals: one for the first principal and one for the congregation. Everyone was then invited to a program of music, dancing and refreshments and fireworks.
On Sunday, June 3, a solemn Mass was celebrated in the large school chapel with Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, cardinal-archbishop of Lima, as celebrant accompanied by a small group of Franciscan bishops. Parents, alumni, students, faculty and guests participated in the Mass led by an adult choir. The Mass was bilingual; readings and hymns in Spanish and Chinese. At the reception following S. Mary Barbara met many who had graduated, some she knew, some she did not. All expressed gratitude for the work of the Sisters.
On Tuesday, June 5 Sister flew to Juliana, Puno, and was met by Alina, the Helping Hands team coordinator, and members of the team. They went to Puno where Sister stayed in a hotel run by friends. On Thursday, June 7 Sister traveled to Mañazo where she worked for 20 years.
In the course of two weeks she met with everyone connected to the four projects that she helped begin and continue today. The parents, children and teachers in the Educate-a-Child program in both Vilque and Mañazo performed a program for her. The 30 elderly and 30 children of the Comedor lunch program who receive free lunch daily danced and ate with her; the women who borrow from the loan program met with her; and she had two meetings with the women of the Artesania Pachamama, a women’s cooperative.
S. Mary Barbara was invited to live in the parish house where she had lived and where two young Josephite fathers now live and care for the parish. “They are an answer to 15 years of my prayers,” she said. “The two priests before them did very little for the people, were absent most of the time and robbed the parishes. Fathers Hugo and Jhon are anxious to work with the projects and the people and said they wanted to ‘resurrect the work the Sisters had done.’ They have begun by helping in the four programs, by taking care of the church which we rebuilt, by beginning to use the parish center and the library again, and by developing a plan for the hotel-retreat rooms that had been built.”
“It was wonderful to see the result of seeds planted long ago,” S. Mary Barbara concluded. “All that we did was done with the people suggesting and working with us. The Congregation at that time was encouraging ‘empowerment,’ which to us meant leadership development, and work with mothers and children. I believe we did that. The leaders whom I left in charge have all trained others and passed the work on – which is beautiful to see. Each of the programs has an evangelization element.”