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What is your family background?

Untitled-1La Salette Sisters: (from left) Sr. Theresa Hkawn Htio Kareng, Sr. Marilyn J. Antonio, Sr. Ma. Milagros C. dela Cruz, Sr. François RassorivaoI am the eldest of seven children – four boys and three girls. My father, Frederico Antonio, Sr., was a farmer, and my mother, Lucia Antonio, was a full-time housewife. We all grew up on our farm with our many animals. I really enjoyed our farm life.

I went to public school for my elementary years and had private high school education. My father had decided that, since he couldn’t complete college, he insisted that we all get a college education. He told me, “If you go to college, all your brothers and sisters will follow.” Almost all did eventually graduate!

How did first you hear about La Salette?

Since I went to the La Salette College which eventually became La Salette University, I met a La Salette priest, Fr. Conrad Blanchet. I just loved him; I saw him as a true missionary, living a good, simple and joyful life. He even went to the peripheries of our area to take care of those suffering from leprosy.

What other educational training have you received?

Untitled-1Sr. Maria Milagros Dela Cruz, SNDSAttleboro, MA — In the wake of Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, the world watched the apostolic visit of Pope Francis, including the Mother Superior of the La Salette Sisters at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette.

Sister Maria Milagros Dela Cruz, SNDS, was born and raised in Ramon, Isabela, in the far north of the Philippines. A visit by the pope is a great blessing to the Filipino people, according to the vibrant, animated nun, affectionately known as Sister Mila, 65. “I watched the Mass in Manila, and it was raining,” she said. “We Filipinos don’t get discouraged when it rains. The old people would say it is a blessing from God.”

Sister Mila came from a very large family of 17 children, including eight girls and nine boys. Her parents would also adopt another son. “I was number 10 and a blue baby,” she said. “The doctor told my aunt that they did their best, but the baby was dead. The doctor left, and then my aunt said I started crying. My aunt reported to the doctor that the baby came alive.” Consequently, the doctor baptized the preemie Maria Milagros (Miracles).

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Sr. Mila Dela Cruz, SNDS, near
statue 
of Our Lady of La Salette in
Attleboro, MA.

When I was in sixth grade, the first La Salette Fathers who came to my country used to celebrate Mass in my hometown of Ramon, Isabela, Philippines. The group of La Salette priests serving in my hometown included Frs. Conrad Blanchet, René Bisaillon, Maurice Cardinal, and Gerald Biron.

 

How I first heard about La Salette

They shared with us the story of La Salette at Mass when they came to visit our barrio of Raniag. Our parents were strongly attracted to the story of La Salette. My family always kept a picture of the Weeping Mother in our home to remind us. Her gestures and her tears continue to touch many hearts and lives.

Whenever Fr. René was driving the children to Mass, he would like to have everyone join in singing some folk songs. My whole family, which included seventeen children and one adopted brother, were close friends of Fr. Blanchet. In fact, during a long drought, he actually helped my father put in a water system on our family farm. He taught my father to do many other things and was often around to help in any way he could. Fr. Blanchet even taught our family how to speak English!

As our farm grew larger, our family become more self-sufficient through the generous help of the La Salette Missionaries. My family will always remember the generous presence and actions of the La Salettes leading all of us closer to God.

 

Hearing Our Lady’s Call 

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Kachin dancers are involved in the yearly Manaw Festival,
held in Myitkyina and Putao in the Kachin State.

The La Salette Sisters minister in various places in the world, including here in the US (Virginia and Florida). Their expansion to Myanmar was in many ways due to the ministry of Fr. Bernie Taylor, M.S., (his native Myanmar name is Bernie U Thein) who was working in the Philippines.

A few years after the American La Salettes were expelled from Myanmar in 1976, Fr. Bernie went to join the Filipino Province. He returned to his homeland as often as possible and continued to bring the message of La Salette to people there. Some young men wanted to join the Missionaries of La Salette. They went to the Philippines for formation.

There were also some young women who were attracted to the La Salette charism and asked to join the La Salette Sisters. They belong to the Kachin tribe and are located in the northernmost part of the country near China. In fact half of the Kachin people live in China. For their formation these young women were able to go to the Philippines and join the sisters.

Editor: Almost ten years ago Staff Writer Mary Frances McCarthy from the Arlington Catholic Herald spoke with La Salette Sister Connie Parcasio about her ministry to a death row inmate in the 48 hours before his execution.

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La Salette Sister Connie
Parcasio in the Attlboro
House Chapel
"The traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.

"If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2266-2267).

On Jan. 24, 1998, Dennis Orbe, during a bout of depression, was nearing the end of a 10-day crime spree. Feeling the need to keep moving, Orbe, without a dime to his name, stopped at a convenience store at Route 17 and Fort Eustis Blvd. in York County at 3:30 a.m., intending to fill his gas tank and leave. Because the pump required prepayment before it would work, Orbe decided to rob the store. Surveillance tape showed Orbe enter the store and brandish a .357 caliber revolver. Store clerk Rick Burnett showed no signs of resistance as Orbe shot him in the chest.

Last month, La Salette Sister Connie Parcasio, Director of Prison Ministry for Catholic Charities of the Arlington Diocese, received a call from Ann McBride, a member of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. McBride had been writing and visiting Orbe since July 2000. From the first letter he wrote to her, Orbe described how much he loved his daughters and how sorry he was for committing murder.

McBride informed Sister Connie that Orbe was to be executed the next day. The prison had given Orbe permission to call McBride at her house. McBride invited Sister Connie to join her that afternoon to talk to Orbe. The following was taken from Sister Connie’s account of Orbe’s last 48 hours on death row.

March 30, 3:30PM

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A meeting in Ghardaïa, Algeria, of
Salesian
 Missionaries of Mary Immaculate,
with (right)
Sr. Lalaina, a La Salette Sister

Editor: Recently three La Salette Sisters – (from left: Srs. Anna, Bernadette, and Sr. Lalaina) arrived in Ghardaïa, Algeria, at the invitation of Bishop Claude Rault of Laghouat. The following article gives a brief overview of his ideas and his ministry. 

AFRICA / ALGERIA (from Rome, Agenzia Fides) – According to Claude Jean Narcisse Rault, M. Afr. (White Fathers), the Catholic Bishop of Laghouat, Algeria, "Friendship is the key to overcome mutual fear between Christians and Muslims. In fact we must learn and not take everything that is proposed by the press and television as an accurate representation of the Muslim world.”

"As we passed through Rome recently I noticed that whenever we come back to Europe, we feel a certain distrust of Muslims. Unfortunately, there is a lot of ignorance in both communities ignorance that fuels mutual fear. Instead, we must reach out to each other to create bonds of friendship and through them, to form another image of the other," said the Bishop.

La Salette Sisters
(Past and Present)

The La Salette Sisters
in Algeria

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I first heard about the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette when I was just twelve years old. At that time I was a student at La Salette of Aurora, a Catholic High School run by the La Salette Missionaries in Isabela, a province in the northern part of the Philippines. My father enrolled me in this school because he wanted me to be close to God.
 
What captured my attention and challenged my curiosity about the apparition was the initial greeting of the Beautiful Lady to the children: “Come near, my children, do not be afraid. I am here to tell you great news.” How tender, how pleasing, how reassuring were those words to my ears. Almost instantaneously, I believed in my heart that she was personally addressing those powerful words to me. But I often wondered how good her news was because she was crying for the entire time she spoke! I wanted to know how this could be. These reflections have left a deep impression on me. They remained with me no matter how much I tried to dismiss them or convince myself that I worry too much.

Sister Mary Yun Ja, SNDS, a La Salette vocation from Myanmar (formerly Burma), who serves now in her native land. The recent tragic events happening in Myanmar have highlighted what is happening in her native land: peaceful demonstrations by Buddhist monks opposing their repressive government; and, more recently, the destructive effects of the cyclone, Nargis. However, there are also notable positive developments with native religious communities and the new foundation of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, sisters as well as fathers and brothers.
 

Where did you come from?

I was born in Myitkyina, in the northeast of Myanmar, near the Chinese border. I am the youngest of a family of ten children – eight girls and two boys. Our parents cultivate rice at the foot of a nearby mountain. The members of my family were members of a traditional animist religion. Whenever someone was sick in the family, my mother would be called to sacrifice a buffalo, a pig or some similar animal. My mother converted to Christianity in the 1980’s and we all were baptized.

25th Anniversary of Profession
of Sr. Ma. Milagros dela Cruz,
SNDS with other La Salette Sisters
Often during the summer, families gather together to celebrate. And so it is with the Sisters of Our Lady of La Salette. 
 
In the Philippines, on May 12, 2012, we celebrated the perpetual profession of Sr. Minerva Boado, SNDS, at her home Parish at St. Isidore Parish, Tubao, La Union with Bishop Carlito J. Cenzon, CICM, the Bishop of the Diocese of Baguio.
 
This was a special celebration because it’s the first profession in this newly-erected province of our sisters. At the request of Archbishop Michael Miller, CSB, we responded positively to his invitation to minister in his diocese.  As an international community who relishes exploring and serving in new missions, Sr. Minerva will be one of the first three sisters to serve in our new mission in the Diocese of Vancouver, British Columbia, the western-most diocese on Canada. Joining her will be two other La Salette Sisters who will minister in both pastoral ministry and religious education. 

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”

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