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Contemplation, Compassion, Mercy Indispensable for Empowering Communites

CARRYING forward the beautiful mission of Jesus Christ in the world today, contributing to the work of the Church connotes healthy balance between head, heart and hands, or between thought, feeling and action, returns to the soul. Those who contemplate, discover the tenderness of God’s gaze and that each one is important in the eyes of God. Each one can transform a little world polluted by human voracity into the good reality willed by the Creator. The fruit of contemplation is compassion. We become compassionate when we see with the eyes of God and regard others as brothers and sisters of a single family living in the same house. Compassion is the opposite of our indifference. Those who have compassion go from “I don’t care about you” to “you are important to me” creating a new bond with the other, just like the Good Samaritan who, moved by compassion, takes care of the unfortunate man he does not even know. Pain of many people who are “discarded without compassion: the elderly, children, workers, people with disabilities abounds in these present times. Thus, everyone is urged to fight against modern indifference and demand political choices that combine progress and equity, development and sustainability for all so that “no-one is deprived of opportunities, services and programs for empowerment and growth.

The Sisters of the Little Mission for the Deaf (SLMD)-Naga Community, a Religious Congregation for women founded in 1872 that oversees the Joseph Gualandi School for Hearing Impaired, Inc, work together with GOs, NGOs, Socio-Civic Organizations toward a shared vision of empowering communities regardless of religion, gender, color, race and social status in assisting holistically the deaf and hard of hearing in the Bicol Region with preferential bias towards the margiallized and poorest in society. People with disabilities face several challenges to fully participate in society and its development, including discriminatory social attitudes that culminate in marginalization. It is difficult for the deaf to find employment in the formal sector. However, deaf success stories have proved that the Filipino Deaf “can” and possess the skills which are recognized globally especially in this era of ASEAN integration. The Deaf have an enormous potential of being valuable contributors to the economy but the challenges that they are facing limit them in realizing the bright future ahead of them. Sacrificial and untiring efforts of the Sisters to make better the lives of the deaf community entrusted to them led to small and big successes through the years.

Providentially, through the genuine concern and prompt action of Mr Roberto A. De las Llagas, Acting Provincial Director, Technical Education And Skills Development Authority (TESDA)-Province of Camarines Sur , a ray of light shone for the Deaf community. TESDA, a government agency tasked to manage and supervise technical education and skills development (TESD) in the Philippines in their Community-based Training for Enterprise development Program which primarily address the poor and marginal groups, those who cannot access, or are not accessible by formal training provisions, having low skills, limited management abilities, and have few economic options, no access to capital and unqualified for formal credit programs in partnership with Camarines Sur Institute of Fisheries and Marine Sciences (CASIFMAS), an educational institution accredited by TESDA and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) headed by Rita R. Obsequio, PhD. Vocational School Superintendent, Mrs. Ophelia De Ramos-Trainer in Food Processing/Associate Professor V-CASIFMAS-Pasacao and Mr. Julius C. Monzales, Community-Based Coordinator – CASIFMAS-Pasacao collaborated with LGU-Naga led by its Chief Executive Hon. Nelson S. Legacion, Mr. Roderick Reforsado- Officer-In-Charge Metro PESO Head / Supervising Administrative Officer, Mr. Marco Nayve-Supervisor-Community-Based Projects, Metro PESO and Mr. Francisco Lopez- Project Coordinator, Metro PESO Head / Supervising Administrative Officer, LGU- Naga on the Skills Training on Food Processing (Various Products-Skinless Longganisa, Tocino & Siomai)) held on April 24-26, 2024 at the Joseph Gualandi School for Hearing Impaired, Inc. located at Zone 5 Balatas Road, Naga City 4400, Philippines. LGU-Naga, first local government to enact Persons with Disability Code by a local government unit (LGU) in the Philippines cited the need to put the city’s programs and services in one order by understanding the “inherent limitations of PWDs’ mobility and capability,” particularly those in the marginalized sector, upholding City Ordinance No. 2020-072, Persons-with-Disabilities (PWD) Code citing all the benefits and services allotted for the use and convenience of differently-able residents of Naga in consonance with the essence of what social justice means, provides that those who have less in life should have more in law necessary for the protection and benefits of PWDs. The SLMD Sisters appeal for help on skills training, livelihood programs, marketing of products, assistance on job placement and complementary support program services for the socio-economic upliftment of the lives of the deaf and hard of hearing communities emphasizes promotion of their empowerment as “artisans of their own destiny defying the structures that make it difficult or impossible for people to prosper, and ensuring that our common home is sustained and respected for future generations. This commitment continues to be critically important in so many ministries that emphasize both charitable outreach and structural transformation to promote social justice. Indeed, it’s remarkable to witness the outpouring of support from stakeholders after the 3-day training. God’s hand is at work as friends and facilitators embark on this noble mission to sustainably help the helpless in our midst even beyond the call of duty.

Generous and selfless people and organizations are being sent by God to help the mission to give hope, to evangelize, hone talents and potentials of the underprivileged in society. For centuries, Deaf individuals were marginalized, their languages suppressed, and their cultural expressions undervalued. This marginalization extended into the arts, where the lack of representation and accessibility stifled Deaf creativity. However, the Gualandi Deaf community rich in its own culture and language, began to carve a niche in the arts, creating works that not only showcased their talent but also their unique perspective of experiencing the world. They make sketches of people, clay sculpting, coffee painting and concrete sculpting the statues of the SLMD Founder and Collaborators. Taught and guided by their Arts teacher Ms Judi De La Cruz, art works and paintings made by their mentor and students of Gualandi School were shown to the viewing public. The principle of solidarity reminds us that we are our brother’s keeper (cf. Genesis 4:9, Matthew 25:31-40). It also answers the question of who is responsible for promoting the common good. Every society has authority figures responsible to promote the common good. They use their legitimate authority given them by the members of that society to help orchestrate “the sum total of social conditions which allow people as groups or individuals to reach their fulfillment more easily and more fully,” something which isolated individuals could not achieve on their own. But it is not exclusively the responsibility of those in positions of authority to achieve the common good. Rather, Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1898) highlights that we all play a part. Just like a family, the parents are the primary persons entrusted with the common good of the family, but every child and sibling needs to contribute from their place. The principle of solidarity says we all have a role. We are all interdependent as social beings within a community; we all need to participate. Solidarity is not a vague feeling of compassion for the distress of others. Rather it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good – of all and each individual.

God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. The Deaf Community have been blessed in their decades of existence in Naga City. Despite their own poverty and nothingness, the SLMD nuns, teachers and the deaf teens fed champorado, prayed the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, sung, danced, gave gifts- livelihood items, bread from Gardenia, unsalted dried dilis, rosaries, colorful fans from Graceland, and commune with the kids and families at Looban 2, Balatas, a former dumpsite in the City and Naga City Children’s Home in Pacol, a sanctuary for children in conflict with law (CICL) and those referred to as children at risk (CAR) because they were abandoned, abused, and neglected. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbor and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, our hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” . For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us.

In the light of this love, which is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6), the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep (cf. Lk 16:20-21). Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see. One’s neighbor is then not only a human being with his or her own rights and a fundamental equality with everyone else, but becomes the living image of God the Father, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and placed under the permanent action of the Holy Spirit. One’s neighbor must therefore be loved, even if an enemy, with the same love with which the Lord loves him or her; and for that person’s sake one must be ready for sacrifice, even the ultimate one: to lay down one’s life for the brethren.

Lord, we thank You for the mercy You have shown us through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to cultivate a contemplative and compassionate heart, reflecting Your compassion and forgiveness in our interactions with others. Grant us the grace to extend mercy and compassion even when it is difficult or undeserved. May our actions be a testimony to Your love and character, and may we experience the blessings that come from practicing mercy. In Jesus’ name, we pray. AMEN.


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