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Philippines

Nun sees vocation a lifelong Station of the Cross

Missionary Sister Evelyn Bautista has had to carry and overcome many crosses in her long mission as a servant of God

Mark Saludes, Manila

Mark Saludes, Manila

Updated: March 29, 2018 03:40 AM GMT
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Nun sees vocation a lifelong Station of the Cross

Sister Evelyn Bautista, an 80-year-old nun of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

 

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She would have given up many times, but every time challenges come her way a new mission arises for Evelyn Bautista, an 80-year old nun of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit.

Sister Evelyn's "first cross" came a month after she made her first vows in 1966 when her 23-year-old brother died at the hands of unknown assailants.

She said the loss made her realize "the real cost of discipleship." She endured the pain for years.

"I survived the ordeal and became more determined to follow God's call," said the nun. The pain provided her the courage to love teaching, a task assigned to her.

It was her brother's dream for her to become a teacher, so when the congregation sent her to teach, she went without reservations.

Her "second cross" came in the form of what she described as politics in the convent.

She had a difficult time dealing with the different cultures and background of people in the congregation. "I was unhappy and felt like a misfit," she said.

She wanted out 20 years after she entered the convent in 1963. Sister Evelyn wanted to join another congregation that she believed would give her the satisfaction of being a nun.

But the sisters advised her to face the challenge from within. She was offered another mission and was told to decide whether to leave or stay after her trip.

In May 1984, she was sent to Ghana in West Africa to become the first female administrator of a church-run medical facility in the predominantly Muslim town of Damongo.

The job did not come easy.

"All the odds were against me. I was a woman, a religious sister, and a Filipino coming from a third-world country," she said.

It was only after she was able to win over her colleagues "on a personal level" that she was welcomed. She said her sojourn taught her the value of dialogue.

Later in her life, Sister Evelyn would hold key positions that required intercultural, interfaith, and inter-religious dialogue.

Another "cross" that she carried was the "real enemy" of missionaries in remote areas — malaria attacks that not only inflict body pains but depression and sickness.

Her doctors told her she had cancer. She was sent home to the Philippines to undergo treatment.

The ordeal crushed her. She was not ready to give up her mission in Ghana.

Then the next "cross" came less than a month after she fell sick. Her mother died. But she said with a smile, "loss, pain, and suffering make us beautiful."

Expecting to live only up to 15 more years, she decided to go back to Africa. She resumed the mission she was called to pursue.

"I continued to serve God's people while battling my sickness and the pain of losing my mother," she said.

In 1990, while on vacation in the Philippines, a deadly earthquake hit, killing at least 1,621 people.

It was the start of another mission. She was tasked to help in the rehabilitation of earthquake-affected communities, leaving behind her mission in Africa.

After years of searching, Sister Evelyn found her "purpose and direction" as a religious.

As she grew more mature in her vocation, she was tasked to guide outgoing, incoming, and returning missionaries of various congregations and lay missionaries in the country.

She handled "mission orientation courses" where she used her experience and the challenges that came with it that she called "crosses" to inspire aspirants to the religious life.

Her work as a religious missionary sister became "a reflection of pure love to the church and its people," said Sister Evelyn Jose, mission secretary of the congregation.

"Even when she had to cope with illness, she gave herself readily in various functions to serve and help the many," said Sister Jose.

Her example touched the lives of many missionaries in the country. "She helped the young realize their purpose in life with the church and Christ," said Sister Jose who used to be a student of the nun.

"My mission is to serve as a living witness that with God's unconditional love, no sickness and no cross can hamper us from living a happy and a fulfilled consecrated life," said Sister Evelyn.

Today, the 80-year-old missionary's task is to open the convent's chapel every morning.

"The chapel is where you receive the first and last sacrament, right? I am home bound," she said with a smile.
 

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