By Renee K Hall
Sr Rose Magdalene D’Ornellas, O Carm
“Exciting! Fulfilling! Adventurous! Long!” These were the words that Sr Rose used to describe her journey as a Religious.
This 86-year-old, Guyanese-born sister is full of life. She entered the Carmelite Sisters in 1946. In 1950 she was sent to Guyana to prepare St Bernadette’s Hostel for Girls. Sr Rose was sent for a period of six months that turned into 54 years in Guyana. In 1953 she was sent to Spring Land on the bank of the Corentyne River to open a school. Sr Rose said with great confidence: “When God asks you to do something He helps you, He sends somebody to help you.” And so it was with the aid of the head teacher of the Anglican school and Sr Helena Profeiro O Carm, that a blossoming school was established. Even though there were days when they had nothing much to eat Sr Rose said that they depended on “God’s providence”. When this school was closed Sr Rose moved up to New Amsterdam to help with the Ursuline Primary School as the Ursulines were being moved to Georgetown. At one point she was awarded a scholarship by the British Council to pursue her Teachers’ Training at the Digby’s Stuart College of Education in London, which was a Constituent College of the University of London. Upon her return to Guyana she was assigned to the government school, St Theresa’s where she used her creativity and practical teaching methods to ensure that her class of Common Entrance students, who had been deemed slow learners, were all able to pass the exam.
A few years later, Sr Rose was awarded another scholarship to pursue Social Welfare at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. It was here that she got to know many folklorists such as Dr Olive Lewin and Louise Bennet. After her studies she was employed with Guyana’s Department of Culture, Folklore division. This she did for 27 years. Sr Rose has been involved in the production of schools’ broadcast, Nativity pageants and the formation of a Church choir called the “Marigolds”.
When asked about the role of the consecrated woman she said, “We are a spectacle to angels and to men.” She emphasised the point that the Consecrated Woman has allegiance and fidelity to God and to her Order. The Carmelite Way is living in the presence of God, prayer, self-sacrifice, love, abandonment, trust and service. She dreams of the day when more young people come back to Church on a Sunday morning. She would also like to see people being more reverent in Churches and other places where the Blessed Sacrament is present. Sr Rose Magdalene admits that she does “not regret any moment of the 64 years…and it is not over yet!” she added as the interview came to an end.
Sr Arlene Greenidge, OP – Dominican Sister of St Catherine of Siena
Sr Arlene Greenidge is currently manager at the St Dominic’s Children’s Home. She entered Religious life in 1989. She believes that Religious life is a gift. She has had many experiences and opportunities that have led her to give herself freely to the consecrated life. Sr Arlene graduated from UWI, St Augustine with a degree in Social Work in 1997 and a Master’s Degree in Social Work – management and administration in 2007, from the same institution. These courses of study helped her to sharpen her ability to think critically, to ask deeper questions and to do research in its broadest sense – to know how to search. Sr Arlene believes that this is much in keeping with the spirit of St Dominic which propels her to search for the truth. She shares a passion for dancing, singing and drama which helps her to be a more effective preacher.
As far as the role of the Consecrated Woman in the Church, she said that women have “carried institutions, organisations and groups”. Due to women’s capacity for pain and suffering which often accompanies progress and development she believes that the consecrated woman will be at the centre of changes in the Church. Consecrated women have found themselves in “a time of great uncertainty – it is not the time for the faint-hearted since there are no easy solutions” to the problems faced. Sr Arlene yearns for a more collaborative approach to ministry in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain where differences can be celebrated and incorporated to enrich ministry.
Sr Gracelina – Missionaries of Charity
Sr Gracelina MC is a native of India whose entrance into religious life came from a childhood desire to become a Religious. She entered the Missionaries of Charity on January 7, 1985. Sister’s day begins at 4:40 a.m. and includes prayer from the Divine Office, Mass, working in their apostolate, meals, a short rest after lunch, spiritual reading and ends with night prayer. She sees Consecrated Women as spiritual mothers who channel their affectivity in prayer and bringing souls to Jesus. She has observed that society over the last 20 years has seen an increase in secularisation, family prayer has decreased and in some schools relativism rather than truth is propagated. Her dream for the archdiocese is that there is an increase in evangelisation and missionary activity. Sr Gracelina said, “Jesus is painfully thirsting, yearning and desiring our love”. She thinks that if this happens there will be more person entering consecrated life.
Sr Debora Rosas Becerra – Guadalupan Sisters- Servants of Christ the Priest
A mere 15 days after hearing a talk on Religious Life, Sr Debora Rosas entered the Congregation of the Guadalupan Sisters- Servants of Christ the Priest January 7, 1990. A native of Mexico she currently resides here at the residence of the Apostolic Nuncio. She draws her understanding of what it means to be consecrated from Pope Benedict XVI who said, “Consecrated life remains a privileged school of compunction of heart, of the humble recognition of one’s poverty, but it likewise remains a school of trust in God’s mercy, in his love which never abandons us.” Before entering Religious Life sister was an accounting technician. Sr Debora shared that after she entered religious life she studied computing, theology and formation for religious life in Mexico. Afterwards she did the Licentiate in Education with a specialisation in youth ministry and catechesis in the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome. She believes strongly that “there is a lot of scope for women religious to continue working in the Church, in colleges, on the missions, in parishes, with children, the sick and abused women.” She has observed that society over the last 20 years has changed “rapidly in technology, communication, scientific discoveries and also the artistic and cultural evolution. This growth in certain aspects of life however has not guaranteed the full development of human beings… The infiltration of subjectivist and materialistic ideologies and of certain spiritualities has provoked a crisis, not only on the economic level but also of objective and real values such as the respect for life and other fundamental human rights.”
Sr Debora works with Fr Joseph Harris and the Catholic Hispanic community residing here in T&T. Her dream for the Archdiocese would be that the two communities, the Trinidadian and the Hispanic would mutually enrich each other. Each community has much to learn from the other. She appreciates the joyfulness of the Trinidadians and the piety of the Hispanics. She is impressed by the “ecclesial commitment of Trinidadians and Tobagonians especially seen through the dedication of the priests and religious who are so full of zeal. She would also like to see more vocations coming out of the Hispanic community so that God’s Kingdom can further come into being.
Sr Julie Peters, SSM (Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother) will be featured in an upcoming issue.