The Burning Bush in My Life

Mo. Ma. Jesusa G. Enginco, OP

Second World War, and the year was 1944! It was an unpredictable and dreadful period in the history of the Philippines. Santiago Sr. and Natividad Enginco, together with their nine children, evacuated from the City of Iloilo to Mount Napulac (highest peak of Iloilo) to flee from the ferocious invasion of the Japanese. At the foot of the mountain, my mother and a comadrona found a small hut, partially roofed, meant for storing rice grain. They covered the other half of the roof with sheets to conceal it from war planes flying overhead. Having finally found shelter and relative safety, my mother’s time had come! It was Holy Thursday, March 29, 2:00 in the afternoon, and I – the tenth child! – was born. I was christened Jesusa Maria Josefa. When the war ended the following year, the whole family migrated to Cotabato.

I learned my first catechesis from my family. Never a night did the family miss praying the Rosary. It was a house rule that the Rosary be prayed after supper, and before we would do other activities outside the house. I learned my prayers and at the age of five, could already lead the Rosary complete with the Litany (to the Blessed Virgin Mary). Sunday Mass and regular confession were part of our faith formation. My mother went to Mass every morning and returned in the afternoon for her Marian devotion. From her I learned the value of the Eucharist. My father was a hard-working, upright and disciplined man who spent most of his time in the farm. However, he had close ties with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) missionaries who were entrusted with the mission of evangelizing the faithful in Cotabato.

In 1958, I left for Manila to accompany my sister who was teaching at the Ermita Catholic School. Our boarding house was just a stone’s throw away from the Church of Nuestra Señora de Guia and this gave me the opportunity to strengthen my faith through the daily Mass.

Before graduating from high school, my sister got married and could not promise anymore to support my college studies. Determined to achieve my dream of becoming a doctor, I planned to get a scholarship for a short course so I could work and earn enough for a medical course.

In June 1960, the good Lord answered my wish. Through a scholarship program of Caritas Manila, I was sent to Siena College Quezon City by the Assistant Parish Priest, Fr. (later Most Reverend) Protacio Gungun. Siena College in Quezon City was the “burning bush” from where Yahweh called out my name! Like Moses, I heard Him calling me, telling me to “remove the sandals from my feet” – to leave my homeland, my loved ones, and my dreams, promising me life eternal. In an instant I surrendered my dream of becoming a doctor! My heart’s only desire was (and still is) to love and serve Him for the rest of my life by consecrating myself as a Religious, a Dominican Sister of Siena.

At 16, I was admitted as an aspirant in Siena College, Quezon City while finishing my one year in college. In April 1961, with much prayer I entered the Postulancy and on 4 November 1962, at the age of 18, I made my first profession. Praised be Jesus! Indeed, God’s ways are mysterious. For with God, the impossible can be possible.

(Mother Jesusa Enginco, O.P. is the present Prioress General of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena (Philippines). She has a Doctoral degree in Missiology from Pontificio Universitá Urbaniana, Rome. Recently, she received the Pro Ecclessia et Pontifice award.)

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