May 1, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – In a brief but moving ritual, the Adrian Dominican Sisters on April 28 dedicated a memorial marker for Sisters in the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in Pampanga, Philippines.
Engraved on the stone marker in the Congregation’s cemetery are the names of Sisters Aleli Mayor José, OP; Esperanza Leonardo Bonifacio, OP; Lettyham Gomez Espiritu, OP; and La Purisima Alcantara Careso, OP. The names of other Sisters from the Remedies Chapter will be engraved on the marker upon their deaths.
The memorial marker is testament to the close connection between the Dominican Sisters in the Philippines and the Adrian Dominican Sisters, who helped the Filipino congregation become established in 1960. The Adrian Dominican congregation provided formation of the first Remedies Sisters. The two congregations merged in November 2011, on the Feast of Our Lady of Remedies.
The ritual began in the gathering space of St. Catherine Chapel, where Sister Kathleen Schanz, OP, former General Councilor, facilitated the service. Sister Rosemary Ferguson, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters at the time of the Remedies Sisters’ independence, read a letter she had written at the time.
“It is gratifying to see the fruits of our own Sisters’ ministry among these Filipina Sisters,” Sister Rosemary had written. “They are a fine and noble group of women, beautiful in the Lord – unusually so – very Asian, very Dominican. They have a beautiful fortitude and grit. … I believe that our Congregation will be blessed for our part in the formation of the diocesan community, for they seem to be a prophetic sign in the Philippines.”
As a symbol of the connection, Sister Zenaida Nacpil, OP, Chapter Prioress of the Remedies Mission Chapter, brought hand-sewn scarves of the colors of her native country. Each member of the Leadership Council – made up of the General Council and the Chapter Prioresses of each of seven Chapters – chose a scarf and wore it during the procession and dedication at the cemetery.
Noting poet John O’Donohue’s reference to stones as “tabernacles of memory,” Sister Kathleen spoke to the small group of Sisters and Co-workers gathered around the marker in the cemetery. “We stand within a circle of stone and of rich memory, at the same time surrounded by circle in this cemetery,” she said. “Circles of stone, in silence and stillness, they are tabernacles of memory for all of us as Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates, our family and our friends.”
During the ritual, members of the Leadership Council read brief biographies of the Sisters whose names are etched in the marker:
- Sister Aleli Jose (1939-1994) was born in Manila and came to know the Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies during her involvement with the Young Christian Workers in the region of Pampanga. She entered in May 1967 and was the Congregation’s third Prioress. She was always focused on struggling people, especially farmers and fisher folks, and pioneered the Congregation’s social action ministry.
- Sister Esperanza “Esper” Bonifacio (1933-2007) was a pioneer of the Remedies Congregation, one of four Filipina Sisters who traveled to Adrian, Michigan, for their formation. Back in the Philippines, her first ministry was as a catechist (religion teacher); later she also ministered in training catechists; coordinated feeding programs for mothers and children; and served as secretary to the Office of Archbishop of San Fernando in Pampanga.
- Sister Lettyham “Letty” Espiritu (1965-2011) was born in Saigan, Viet Nam, but at the age of 5 moved with her family to the Philippines, her family’s native country. She met the Congregation at Mother of Good Counsel Seminary in San Fernando and entered in 1993. She taught; served as treasurer of Holy Rosary College; ministered at the Tala Leprosarium Hospital; served as Formator for Sisters in temporary profession; and as coordinator of the Dominican Social Action Pastoral Ministry.
- Sister La Purisima “Purim” Careso, the first of the Filipina Sisters to die as an Adrian Dominican Sister, died on May 29, 2016, at the age of 62. She entered in 1982 and ministered as treasurer in various parochial schools; coordinated of the Social Action Center; and ministered with the indigenous Aeta community. She was also well known as a musician and composer.
“We are reminded of the holiness and the aliveness of Aleli, of Esper, of Letty, of Purim, and of what a blessing their lives are to their people and to us,” Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, said as she began the sprinkling rite, blessing the marker.