– by Mandy Lee, Associate of the Columban Sisters, Hong Kong (Sept 2010)
Have you ever met someone who harbors the stereotype that Catholic Sisters are naive, out of touch relics? Sisters have long been depicted in pop culture as followers, expected to be silent.
I’ve been an Associate of the Friends of St Columban for almost 5 years. I am always amazed at the energy of the Columban Sisters. The more I get involved, the more I know how they toil in areas that are suffering from natural disaster, serving the HIV positive patients and their families in the most remote areas and numerous innovative projects to serve the smallest and the poorest.
It was accidentally on purpose – our visit to the feeding center in Manila run by a team of volunteers and the 90 year-old Columban Sister Letty Talanay. We were a group of 8 people from Hong Kong, and although I was the only associate of the Friends of St Columban among them, my friends had previously visited the Shek O Retreat Center (Hong Kong) and were impressed by the work being done there by Sisters Patricia Byrne and Isobel Loughery.
The visit to the feeding center took place on a sunny Saturday morning in July. We met Sister Letty at 9am who briefed us about the Feeding Center Project – how it is operated by the Board of volunteers who are mostly retirees of Malate Catholic School School and the alumni who are now doctors. The feeding center provides free food for about 60 children twice a week. Then there is a medical check-up for the children every 4 months to check on the progress of their health, and the diet changed accordingly. Sister Letty is such a funny soul. She is still sharp in mind, funny and witty. She is still so young at heart.
After the briefing, we met the volunteers and helped out with the cooking. We chatted with the volunteers and were surprised by how young looking they were. They joked that the best skin care was to serve and to be faithful to God. Isn’t it the Wonder of God!
The bell started to ring at 10:30am. The parents and children came in with big smiling faces. Some of us mingled with them. And we held a singing competition among the group. They were really gifted with voice and dance. They were very involved and their happy feet tapped with every beat.
While they sang and tapped, I realized that the song they were singing was one I sang when I was a kid:
“Jesus loves all the Children, all the Children of the World,
whether they are yellow, black or white, they are precious in His Eyes,
Jesus loves all the Children of the World…..” It is so true.
When we waved goodbye to Sisters Letty, Minerva, and Mercedes and all the people at the center, we expressed the hope that we will be back with some long term serving ideas. I know in my heart that there are seeds in us to serve the needy which hopefully will blossom one day. It’s the best nutrient for being a member of the Friends of the St Columban Sisters
For more photos of Sister Letty and the volunteers in action click here