In the Philippines, the Good Shepherd Sisters, or the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS), are known for their delicious ube jam, which is a favorite pasalubong of those who visit Baguio City for vacation. But unknown to many, the congregation behind the famous jam was established in the Philippines in Batangas City in 1912.
On October 12, 1912, the first Irish RGS missionaries arrived in Batangas City from Burma (now Myanmar) to continue the mission of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. Today the Philippines is already a province of the RGS, but upon its formation in the country, the congregation was under the Motherhouse in Angers, France where it was originally founded by St. Mary Euphrasia in 1835.
Who is St. Mary Euphrasia?
Born on July 31, 1796 in Noirmoutier, France, Rose Virginie Pelletier spent her childhood years in the aftermath of the French Revolution. She was called to religious life at age 18 when she joined the Sisters of Charity of the Refuge in Tours, an order devoted to caring for girls and women in difficulty. She took the name Sr. Mary Euphrasia, and later on became superior of the convent at age 29.
While she was superior, Sr. Mary Euphrasia formed a contemplative group of penitent women who wished to live a cloistered life. The Sisters, who established their monastery at Angers, France, earned their living through intricate embroidery of priest vestments and production of altar bread. This group is known today as the Contemplatives of the Good Shepherd.
Determined to extend the reach of their mission to help distressed girls and women, Sr. Mary Euphrasia established the Generalate, which made it possible for the congregation to send Sisters to other parts of the world where they were needed. The international congregation of the Good Shepherd Sisters received approval from Pope Gregory XVI on January 16, 1835. Since then, the mission of the congregation spread across the world rapidly, bringing hope and help to numerous girls and women.
Upon Sr. Mary Euphrasia’s death on April 24, 1868, the number of sisters in the congregation has grown to more than 2, 000, and 110 foundations have been established all around the world. Her example of zeal, compassion, and courage continues to inspire her sisters today as they continue her work and carry out the mission of the congregation. St. Mary Euphrasia was canonized on May 2, 1940 by Pope Pius XII. We celebrate her Feast Day on April 24.
The Court of St. Mary Euphrasia at Eternal Gardens Balagtas
Back in Batangas City, St. Mary Euphrasia is being honored in various ways. There is a St. Mary Euphrasia Parish located at De Joya Capitol Village in Barangay Kumintang Ilaya, Batangas City. In Barangay Balagtas, Eternal Gardens, one of the trusted memorial park developers in the Philippines, pays homage to St. Mary Euphrasia by naming its new area after her. “We chose to name our new area The Court of St. Mary Euphrasia as a tribute to the founder of the Good Shepherd Sisters, whose missionaries found their way to Batangas City more than 100 years ago,” Eternal Gardens president and chief operating officer Numeriano B. Rodrin said.
The Court of St. Mary Euphrasia at Eternal Gardens Balagtas is a 4-hectare expansion area located at the rightmost section of the park. It was opened in response to the clamor of Batangueños for more memorial properties since the branch, which opened in 1986, has already sold all its original inventory. The Court of St. Mary Euphrasia will offer various types of properties, including Lawn, Garden, and Family Estate. Soon a plaza with a beautiful statue of St. Mary Euphrasia will rise at the center of the new section in honor of the founder of the Religious of the Good Shepherd.