The canonical visitation of Mother Maria Goretti Lee, SPC (Superior General) and Sr. Emily Louise Castillo, SPC (First Assistant General) to Cagayan Valley on March 12-15, 2023 brought different gifts, abundant blessings, grateful commemorations, and above all, the outpouring of God’s grace. “It is by grace, through faith” (Eph. 2:8) that as one family, sharing the heritage of Fr. Louis Chauvet, the SPC Communities in Cagayan Valley gathered together to CELEBRATE GRACE:

…the Grace of Welcome:
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:2)

The arrival of Mother Maria Goretti Lee, SPC, together with Sr. Emily Louise Castillo, SPC, Sr. Lilia Therese Tolentino, SPC, Sr. Ma. Nilda Masirag, SPC and Sr. Adelina Javellana, SPC was greeted with a warm welcome. As the setting was in Tuguegarao City Airport, the warm and sunny day alluded the feeling of searing gratitude as the communities of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres (SPC) in Cagayan Valley were graced by the canonical visit of their Superior General and First Assistant General. The festive mood in the City’s gateway was fired up by the Drum and Lyre musical accompaniment of the Basic Education Unit (BEU) students of St. Paul University Philippines (SPUP) with the Mascots – Paul and Pauline. The superiors and administrators of SPC Communities, students, and teachers of SPUP led the welcoming of Mother General and company.

Arriving at SPUP, the celebratory atmosphere continued as the rest of the SPC Sisters, students and employees of SPUP hailed the arrival of Mother General and company. The welcome was made meaningful as the bell of the SPUP University Chapel tolled, just like the arrival of the Pioneer Sisters in Cagayan was announced more than a century ago. The floral offering and the singing of Magnificat signified praise and prayers as Mother Goretti and Sr. Emily graced the SPC communities with their canonical visitation.

After the welcome activities and respite, Mother General and Company were ushered in by Sr. Ma. Lirio Gavan, SPC (Local Superior) and Sr. Merceditas Ang, SPC (University President) in SPUP’s Cultural Heritage Center. This was followed by a Campus Tour of the University. Mother General, Sr. Emily and company trod around the campus as they were shown SPUP’s different learning facilities, parks and gardens, and markers and landscapes.

The day culminated with an Agape (Dinner) with Cultural Presentation dedicated to Mother General, Sr. Emily and company. The program was also witnessed by the Most Reverend Ricardo Baccay, DD (Archbishop of Tuguegarao) and some members of the Clergy. The presentation was opened by the welcome remarks of Sr. Merceditas Ang, SPC (University President, SPUP). This was followed by creative presentations, where SPUP students, teachers, and SPC Sisters showcased their musicality, artistry, dance ingenuity, sustainable and innovative attires, and international costumes. Mother Maria Goretti Lee, SPC spoke of her delight and thanksgiving for the warm welcome accorded them for their visit. She praised the SPC Sisters for doing a wonderful mission in Cagayan Valley, especially in education and healthcare. She called for new missionaries to join the SPC Sisters in their apostolate in the Philippines and in the world.  SPUP administrators, teachers, local and international students, alumni, and parents were present in the program. The community singing of Paulinian Hymn concluded the program.

…the Grace of Presence:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with grace by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom: 15:13)

The pilgrimage to the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Piat (Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de la Visitación de Piat) commenced the second day of the visit. Mother General and company were welcomed by Reverend Father Fredel Agatep (Rector of the Basilica and Parish Priest of St. Dominic in Piat). He also discussed the history of the Parish, the Basilica and Our Lady of Piat. Mother Goretti, Sr. Emily and company had the opportunity to pray to the image of Our Lady of Piat.  They had a closed encounter with the Our Lady of Piat as Fr. Fredel blessed their presence by opening the camarin of Our Lady. After the Eucharistic celebration at the St. Dominic Parish Church, Fr. Bernice Rio, toured the visitors to the Rosary Garden and the Museum of Our Lady of Piat. Before leaving, Mother Goretti, Sr. Emily and company, visited the Adoration Chapel of the Basilica.

The visit of Mother General and Sr. Emily to St. Paul Hospital Tuguegarao (SPHT) Community followed. The entire SPHT community members – comprised of the SPC Sisters, resident doctors, nurses, staff, and student-interns lined up to greet and welcome Mother General, Sr. Emlily and company with spirited exuberance. The SPHT community opened the welcome ceremonies with a creative rendition of a modern “afi” (fire) cultural dance. The resident Physicians also serenaded the visitors. Dr. Roland Mesde gave the welcome address; Mother Goretti, SPC expressed her gratitude in her message. The tour to the Hospital facility was held after the welcome program by Sr. Veneranda Santos, SPC (Local Superior) and Sr. Adelina Javellana, SPC (Hospital Administrator).

The next itinerary of Mother General, Sr. Emily and company was St. Paul School of Aparri (SPSA). Sr. Rosita Emarlin Rocoma SPC (Local Superior and Principal) and Sisters led the welcome ceremonies as a gleeful band music accompanied the cheers and waves from the students, teachers, and staff of SPSA. After their welcome rites, the enthusiastic community performed a dance number for the visitors. The singing of the Paulinian Mission Song led by the SPSA students’ drum and lyre completed the visit. After which, Mother General and company headed back to Tuguegarao City, in SPUP.

…the Grace of Mission:
“Therefore, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the grace of the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58)

The third day of Mother General’s visit provided her and company an opportunity to witness the collaborative engagement between SPUP and SPHT through a medical-dental mission to the Indigenous People’s (IP) Community in Aggugadan, Peñablanca, Cagayan. The said community is SPUP’s partner-community for students’ service-learning programs and SPHT’s healthcare program. Moreover, the said activity provided an avenue for Mother General and company to interact and engage with the members of the IP community.

Along with the activity in the Indigenous People’s Community, Mother General and company had also the chance to visit important landmarks and sites relevant to the life and mission of the SPC Sisters in Cagayan Valley. Passing through the Pinacanauan River, Mother General and company saw where the Pioneer SPC Sisters landed in Tuguegarao, Cagayan in 1907. Visiting the St. Peter’s Cathedral, Mother General and company were taken to the place (now ruins at the back of the Parish Hall) where the First SPC Sisters in Cagayan, established the Colegio de San Pablo (now St. Paul University Philippines). Reverend Father Bernard Corpuz (Parish Priest, St. Peter’s Metropolitan Cathedral) and Resident-Priests greeted Mother General, Sr. Emily, and company. It was a symbolic reminiscence of the arrival of the Pioneer SPC Sisters in Cagayan when they were welcomed by the then Parish Priest (Fr. Estanislao Mendoza) in 1907.  Dropping by the Ermita de San Jacinto Church, Mother General and company visited the Patron of Tuguegarao and was told that at a time, the SPC Sisters took care of the Church as their apostolate. Such commitment continues until today, as SPC Sisters and SPUP students render services to the Church in various ministries.

The Sisters’ Presentation provided an opportune time for the SPC Sisters in Cagayan Valley for a closed encounter with Mother General and Sr. Emily. After the opening prayer, each community was presented through an Audio-Visual Presentation (AVP). The presentations were as follows: Indigenous People’s Hospital community led by Sr. Anna Liezza Tignero, SPC (Local Superior) and Sr. Ma. Jessica Fomacion, SPC (Hospital Administrator), St. Paul School of Aparri community led by Sr. Rosita Emarlin Rocoma SPC (Local Superior and Principal), St. Paul Hospital Tuguegarao community led by Sr. Veneranda Santos, SPC (Local Superior) and Sr. Adelina Javellana, SPC (Hospital Administrator), and St. Paul University Philippines led by Sr. Maria Lirio Gavan, SPC (Local Superior) and Sr. Merceditas Ang, SPC (University President).

In the program, the SPC Sisters in Cagayan Valley also rendered a dance number and serenaded Mother General and company. The activity was highlighted by the offering of the statue of Our Lady of Piat to Mother General. In return, Mother General delivered her words of gratitude to the Sisters. The program ended with the praying of the Vespers.

…the Grace of Thanksgiving:
“As God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.” (2 Cor. 4:15)

The Eucharistic Celebration at the SPUP University Chapel marked the conclusion of the canonical visit of Mother Goretti and Sr. Emily. The mass also served as thanksgiving to God for the all the graces He bestowed during the visit. Before their departure, Mother General and Sr. Emily conducted a dialogue with the Sisters. When it was time to send them-off, a fond goodbye to Mother General and company, through waves and cheers from students, teachers, staff and SPC sisters in SPUP warmly bid and prayed for their safe travel back to Manila.

Celebrating grace brought by the visit of Mother Goretti and Sr. Emily was an opportune time to relish the SPC spirituality, tradition, and heritage. Blessings have been poured! Gifts have been received! Moments have been celebrated! But graces remain, just as Jesus’ promised: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you.” (Jn: 15:4)