By Michael Aaron Gomez
This year’s recipient of the Archbishop Clovis Thibault Award is the Davao branch of the celebrated worldwide congregation the Missionaries of Charity—established in 1950 by Saint Teresa of Calcutta—whose membership reached 4,500 religious sisters in 2012. One can identify these religious sisters through their use of their order’s initials as a title, “M.C.”; as well as their marked adherence to the monastic vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and their special fourth vow: to give wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.
True to their vow, the missionaries attend to several of the least of our brethren: refugees, former prostitutes, the mentally ill, sick children, abandoned children, lepers, people with AIDS, the aged, the convalescent. Volunteers manage their schools that educate street children, their soup kitchens that feed the homeless and the hungry, as well as other similar services that cater to specific needs of specific communities. The order’s generosity of spirit and bigness of heart is exemplified by their refusal to charge anything for providing all those services to the persons in our midst so desperately in need of mercy and aid.
In Davao City, the Missionaries’ ministry is split between two nodes of service: The Home for the Abandoned and Dying Destitutes in New Salmonan, Barangay Aquino, Agdao; and the Home of Love (Home for Sick and Malnourished Children) at Molave Street, Matina, Davao City. The Home of Love, founded in 1987, provides shelter to the sick and malnourished children around the city and helps them through a sewing class, a dispensary, and a hospital; the Home also enables their family to visit them and the children themselves to visit family members or loved ones incarcerated in Davao City Jail; finally, they also hold a Sunday school to teach their wards the values of charity, generosity, and of love—aiming to push them to spread these values to other children currently suffering.
Meanwhile, the Home for the Abandoned and Dying Destitutes or the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Home for the Abandoned and Dying Destitutes) in Agdao was founded in 1983 and provides immediate succor and aid to their wards, who would in other cases be desperately alone in their most agonizing hours. The Home also has a dispensary, and it also has a family visiting service. Same as the Matina Home, this Home also holds a Sunday school, to remind their own wards of the eternal presence of God in all things, that God will always be there for them to forgive them or to love them or to care for them even though they may be undergoing torments physical or spiritual.
The Archbishop Clovis Thibault Award is named after the Most Rev. Clovis Thibault PME, first Prelate-Ordinary of Davao (1954), first Bishop of Davao (1966), and first Archbishop of Davao (1970). This award is given to priests and members of religious orders for outstanding service to the Church. In the case of the Missionaries of Charity in Davao City, this service is rooted in a return to Christ’s greatest commandment of love: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22: 39-40), and a proactive as well as honest application of the commandment’s greatest exercise: “Assuredly, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matt. 25:40).