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June 11 1997

The image of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM) has changed since their foundress, Marie-Louise De Meester, began her mission among orphans in India in 1897.

During the Philippines´ martial law years, ICM sisters became involved in justice and peace issues and marched with laborers and farmers in protest rallies, resulting in some being called "madreng kalye" (street nuns).

"When it is needed, you do not hesitate to change," said Bishop Carlito Cenzon of Tabuk, who studied as a child with ICM sisters. He was principal celebrant at a thanksgiving Mass here for the ICM centennial.

Bishop Cenzon recalled how the sisters did away with the two-tiered school system and combined rich and poor students in one class, making him the classmate of the wealthier Camilo Gregorio, now bishop of Bacolod.

On May 10, some 700 clergy, Religious, family and friends joined the ICM Philippine District at their St. Theresa´s College compound in Quezon City, just north of Manila, to celebrate 100 years as a religious order.

Songs, dance and a drama enhanced the two-and-a-half-hour Mass as the congregation re-enacted its experiences in the country.

In 1910 Mother Marie Louise and four others arrived in Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, 260 kilometers northwest of Manila, where they set up the first of the 17 schools the ICM now runs in the country.

Mother Marie Louise led missions to Bontoc in the Mountain Province, Manila, the Caribbean and the United States of America before she died Oct. 10, 1928.

Besides education, ICM apostolates include parish-based activities, hospitals for leprosy patients, care for crippled children, and work with non-government agencies helping the disabled and victims of calamities.

The sisters also dialogue with indigenous communities in the northern Philippines and Muslims in the south and work with laborers in Manila.

According to the 1997 Catholic Directory of the Philippines, there are 158 ICM sisters in the country, 109 of whom are Filipinos, with 44 more in foreign missions.