Celebration mixed with the mourning of lost innocence

Fr. Bernie Rosinski (center) was the main celebrant at the Kasanag Daughters Foundation anniversary Mass

Fr. Bernie Rosinski (center) was the main celebrant at the Kasanag Daughters Foundation anniversary Mass

As noted previously, Fr. Bernie Rosinski has been writing blog posts from the Philippine Region where he has been teaching English since early April. The following is about his recent visit to the Kasanag Daughters Foundation, an SCJ program for abused women and girls.

I was invited to be the principal celebrant at an anniversary Mass on May 10, the 14th anniversary of the establishment of a refuge for abused girls called the Kasanag Daughters Foundation. The work was begun by Fr. Eduardo Agüero, SCJ,and has been carried on by SCJ successors ever since. The most recent is Fr. Boboy, whom I met two years ago when I made my first trip to the Philippines.

I had never been to this house of refuge. However, I knew that since my last Philippines visit it had gone through severe damage from a typhoon which caused such extensive flooding that over 1,000 citizens of Cagayan de Oro, in northern Mindanao, died. Though no girls from the refuge perished, for a period of several months they lived in a building on SCJ seminary grounds while their building was cleansed of the mud and debris that infested it and then restored to a livable condition. On our way there, Fr. Andrew Sudol, SCJ, showed me the level the rampaging river had reached. It went over the rooftop of the residence.

Young girls in the Kasanag program

Young girls in the Kasanag program

The Mass was to take place at 5:00 p.m.; due to a road accident that blocked our way, we arrived at about 5:30 p.m.. No one seemed terribly upset. Time has a different importance here. The refuge building has a small terrace-like yard outdoors and it was here that we found chairs neatly set and a table for an altar before the Virgin’s shrine. There was the inevitable loudspeaker system that seems a part of every Filipino parish or mission. Once we were vested, I was handed the microphone and Mass began.

We observed the usual opening rites and I was seated as the first reading took place and the responsorial psalm was sung. During that period, I noticed a very young girl sitting in the first row. I am guessing she was six inches shorter than her 20 or so “sisters” and could not have been more than 10-11 years old, definitely younger than the rest. All of the girls were wore a tee shirt of uniform color as did she. However, they seemed so eager and joyful whereas she seemed so weary and burdened; almost old. She had no smile on her face. Because she seemed so unlike the others this struck me forcibly. I drew some conclusions about her that I hesitated as an outsider to verify with the staff, but I surmised that she had arrived only recently and had been only recently been delivered from some horror whose effects still dwelt with her. I decided to keep an eye on her for the rest of the evening. Apart from one event at which she was animated and even laughed, she maintained that somber note as long as I observed her.

Mass proceeded through occasional drops of rain. The rain picked up at about communion time. And so our outdoor church conducted a rite for which the Roman Catholic Church has no guideline: we moved the outdoor altar to a place under a porch. It was there that we distributed Holy Communion and concluded with a blessing. The blessing seemed to affect the weather for the rain hesitated and then stopped entirely.

The entire Kasanag Daughters Foundation board and staff were introduced with a slideshow to the clergy and guests present. We learned that at the refuge there are college level students, high school students, and elementary school students among the girls. The refuge has a computer classroom that is very well equipped. One way up and out of poverty is by being computer savvy and thus employable. The slideshow was a PowerPoint presentation the girls themselves put together.

It was after all these introductions that that slideshow concluded with an exhibition of photos from the life of the girls at the refuge and the events they held and the places they visited. There was a lot of giggling as they recognized themselves in the photos. I saw that Fr. Johnny Klingler,  SCJ, was featured in some of them. He was the ESL teacher last year and had visited the refuge. It was during the slideshow that this youngest girl seemed happiest as she would hold up her hand and point her finger to various slides where she recognized her new friends from the refuge. I watched her new friends, too.  They seemed exceptionally kind and solicitous for her. My visit, however, was unlike anything I had expected. I am still mourning what seems like a child’s lost youth and innocence.

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