Saturday, October 23, 2010

St. Gemma’s Orphanage

We were scheduled to have an exposure here 2 days after Bp. Fellay’s visit. However, it was cancelled due to the death of our grand uncle and was re- scheduled 2 weeks after.

Our teacher told us beforehand that during our orphanage duty, we’d be having no co-students with us. And CIs normally don’t accompany students here - so the protocol of the school says. Hence, we were only 2 (my sister and I) and we had a 3 day duty from 8am to 4pm.

It was school time and so we only had 2 kids to look for and one handicapped who’s always on his wheelchair. The house matron is from Luzon and barely speaks Illongo too. Thus, we had an easy time going during our stay since the kids are familiar with speaking Tagalog. Anyways, as she toured us around and advised us of our expected work, I observed the place with a keen eye. Boys’ rooms are separated from the girls’ while the children of both genders are allowed to have one big room with a house help to sleep with them as well. They had a lawn in the center that quite became the children’s playground. They also had a library but rarely been used. One can put his fingers there to see how thick dust accumulated there already.

One thing that crossed my mind upon entering here was the Servi Domini orphanage in India. St. Gemma’s orphanage is run by the Passionist priests. (Actually, the rehabilitation center is also theirs.) And I learned that every night they have to recite the Rosary. Plus on Sundays, they are required to hear Mass. No one is exempted even if some are Muslim and Protestants. This was indeed a great option for the youths out there who’re otherwise living immoral lives. But of course, there are many lacking. There were 2 TVs around. One was on the children’s room while the other one was on the living room. When I asked why the children has a TV of their own, I was told that the older kids use the TV on the living room that sometimes the small ones are being deprived of it. So they set up one there. Such a horrible explanation. I’ve even seen that kids are allowed to switch TVs on and even manage the remote control. They also have less regard on sanctity and quite ignorant of the Catechism. Modernism is indeed present here.

During our first morning, we had to get along with the kids first. TV was on and I insisted on closing it and instead focus on wholesome things. It was a good thing that we had a power cut and so they had no choice but to follow us. Afterwards, we taught them basics - from how to write numbers and alphabets to adding and subtracting. We also tried to teach them about God, like what’s the Holy Family’s Name and then pointing out some of the religious statues there and asking them who it is. Sometimes, they were right and when they’re not, we patiently correct them.

10am came and we thought of cleaning their room. There was a pile of clothes in one of the beds and it’s obvious it needed folding. So, we did it while taking turns on looking after the 2 kids that were entrusted to us. Inside was very hot and it gave me a terrible headache. I was about to succumb out but I pitied my sister who’d be left alone. It was more than a hundred pieces of clothes! After 2 hours of folding clothes, it was finally finished. It was already 12 noon and with my head really heavy, we already left for lunch.

We had lunch in one of the huts there outside. It didn’t give me any relief at all since there was a foul smell. We later found out that it was the handicapped’s room that was adjacent to the hut. Hence, my headache only turned worse and worse even though I had drunk medicine already. I decided to rest in the living room first without doing anything but my Rosary prayer.

Thankfully, I was relived after praying the Rosary. As my head became quite normal, I joined my sister already in tutoring the kids. But they insisted on playing. And so we did. Their games were very simple and poor. No scrabbles or chess but just piece of rocks and a small marble (one that resembles those in Chinese checkers). I had no idea of how to play it and so I’ve to ask first. Gradually, I learned and happily played with them. It’s really wonderful to see their ingenuity just to have something to play with.

Our 2nd day began with a visit to the nearby chapel first. It was our mother who discovered that there was a novitiate within the grounds and hence an open big chapel was built. We also brought the kids here and found out that this is where the kids gather to hear Mass on Sundays. Here, we thought of touring the novitiate’s vast grounds. Of course, we weren’t able to go inside the main premises of the novitiate as it is not allowed. The kids pointed to us the novitiate’s chicken farm and we’re able to see their dogs too. Some were in cages and some were looming around but all of them were in unison in barking at us. It caught the attention of one of the religious there and we apologized for the disturbance. He was quite happy anyway to see that there were students taking care of their orphans. Also, the kids helped us in going to the 3 Crosses that were built in the hilltop. It was majestic. I also found out through my own wanderings some old and broken but precious picture frames depicting the priesthood life of St. Paul of the Cross. It was placed in one of the hills there but it seemed neglected already. Here, I tried to teach the kids about the sanctity of life. There were also Stations of the Cross all around the novitiate’s ground but it’s the modern Stations.

Anyways, we continued on tutoring them how to write and color stuffs. Sometimes, they just wouldn’t listen and draw or write something we didn’t ask them to do. I sensed that maybe it’s their way of letting us know that they’re tired of studying. So, we had a give and take process. And in the long end, it worked out.

We decided to have lunch on the beautiful hut which is just a few meters from the chapel and in front of the novitiate. Actually, we already planned it earlier when we first visited the chapel. Even though it was a 10 minute walk from the orphanage, it was well deserving. The lush green trees and the soft wind blowing pure air on us were terrific. We truly enjoyed the scenery as we ate lunch. Afterwards, we thought of spending the rest of our break praying inside the chapel.

At 1pm we walk towards the orphanage and found the 2 playing as usual. We joined them while at the same time we gave them lessons to study. We also informed them the need to pray in the chapel later on. They kept on playing around but we persisted and managed to bring them in the chapel. Inside we taught them how to genuflect, make the Sign of the Cross and pray the basic prayers. They’re indeed familiar with those prayers but sometimes they failed to complete it. After that and bringing them back to the house, we cleaned any mess around and the clock struck 4. It was time to go.

During our 3rd and final day, my mother brought them gifts and Rosaries too. They were very excited but we told them they have to go to the chapel first before opening them. This time we also brought the handicapped boy as our mother thought so. She was the one who pushed his wheelchair all the way. This boy is only 17 and had a cerebral palsy ever since the orphanage took him. I tried to teach him about Pedro Calungsod of which there lay a book about him. I explained to him of how this Filipino martyr died for our Faith but he just couldn’t comprehend. Plus, he always talks nonsense and mimics everything he sees in us. I tried to tell him that’s not right but it’s useless. I really pitied this guy.

Anyways, this day we had other students from a different school. They too did work there and helped in teaching the kids. However, they decided to leave around 2pm. As the day progressed, my sister thought of cleaning the jalousies of the children’s room. Then after her, it was my turn. The 3 students cleaned other rooms as well.

When lunch time came, we left for our hut while the others left for the mall nearby. As usual, we prayed inside the chapel again after eating lunch. After our break, we returned and gave in to their play as this was our last day. Still, we never forget to teach them about God. We visited the chapel and prayed with them again. Since it was Lent, there were many people doing the Stations and it gave them a deeper sense of holiness. I know that 3 days weren’t enough to mold a child’s heart to sanctity yet I also know that we did our best. We leave to God everything now. As St. Augustine rightly puts it, work as though all depended upon yourself and hope as though all depended upon God.

Oh Lord my God, Thou hast said, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” Grant that Thou move Thy priests to teach these little ones Thy loving ways so that in the long run they may accept Thy sweet Cross! Amen.

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