RGS in the Philippines
“One person is of more value than a world.”
Thus did St. Mary Euphrasia, foundress of the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS) define the ultimate end of our mission. It is a mission directed to the most neglected and marginalized, in whom the image of God is most obscure.
St. Mary Euphrasia also established at the heart of the congregation the Contemplatives of the Good Shepherd (CGS). The Contemplative Sisters are called to witness to the primacy of God, to transform the world through prayer, silence, solitude, sisterly love, gospel asceticism and zeal, while giving a privileged place to the study and meditation on the Word of God. The fidelity of the Sisters, both active and contemplative, is ensured by a fourth vow: to labor with Zeal for the salvation of persons. In 1835, the Generalate was established in France.
The Congregation of Our Lady of Good Shepherd of the Good Shepherd (also known as Religious of the Good Shepherd or Good Shepherd Sisters) is an international congregation of religious women in the Roman Catholic Church, numbering almost 4,000, present in 70 countries in five continents. The first RGS missionaries came to the Philippines in 1912. They were Irish Sisters who came from their mission in Burma (Myanmar). They crossed the seas for the young students who needed a Shepherd’s care through education in a Catholic School. They opened St. Bridget’s Academy (now St. Bridget’s College) in Batangas.
As the years went on, the meaning of “salvation of souls” was expanded to embrace the girls and women who were to be protected from moral danger or who needed help to reform their lives. The Sisters started the first Good Shepherd ‘home’ in 1921 in Sta. Ana, Manila. The legacy of SME came to life in such as setting for each girl was accepted as someone precious. The spirit and mission of our first missionaries would outrun the lifetime of that generation of RGS and pass on to later groups. “Souls” again needed rephrasing. They now included women in various difficulties: unwed mothers, prostituted women, battered women, slum dwellers, landless farmers, indigenous groups, overseas contract workers and their families, streetchildren, the most neglected and oppressed.
In this new millennium, the RGS seeks to proclaim the Good News that the Good Shepherd cares yesterday, today and forever. Living out our specific orientation to girls and women, we strive to serve them in the context of the family and the society in which they live. As Good Shepherdesses, we wish to be “Life Bearers” for the poor of our world—following the Good Shepherd who leads us all to FULLNESS OF LIFE. As religious we are called to a mission of reconciliation, “we express our charism of merciful love through a contemplative life or an apostolic life.” (RGS Integrated Constitutions, Article 1).
Our service traditionally and currently is particularly with women and children who have been wounded by life’s circumstances and live on the edge of society. We accompany those who are in need and also network with other groups to change unjust structures in society. In religious language, our service is generally referred to as “ministry” or “apostolate”. “We announce the message of reconciliation through a ministry of charity and evangelization directed towards persons wounded by sins and its consequences. Our specific orientation is to girls and women whose condition in life cries out for the healing and salvation which Jesus alone can bring. We are deeply committed to their human and spiritual healing and to their integral development. Since the well-being of the person is intimately linked to that of family, we strive to serve them in the context of the family and the society in which they live. We also respond to other apostolic needs which are in accord with our mission. (RGS Integrated Constitution # 6)
Today, there are around one hundred eighty Filipina RGS sisters, apostolic and contemplatives, serving in the country and in overseas missions.