On the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the presence of the Religious of the Assumption in India, it is in the spirit of profound gratitude and thanksgiving that I share a few lines as regards how I see Assumption in Asia today. This is by no means exhaustive nor comprehensive but simply an attempt to provide for a “bird’s eye” view of where the Assumption is and the kind of presence it has in this continent.
The last 6 years has given me the opportunity to visit the five (5) countries where the Assumption is in Asia, namely : the Philippines, Japan, India, Thailand, and Vietnam.
It certainly is a humble presence in the continent that is the earth’s largest and most populated and the home to roughly 60% of the world’s population – the Assumption in Asia seeks to be faithful to its mission of evangelization through education in the widest sense, rooted in our charism, faithful to our identity, generously loving the reality where it is present and earnestly seeking to give a relevant response to the needs of our rapidly changing times.
In the Philippines (founded in 1892), with its strong presence in the area of formal education, the three pillars of Contemplation and Spirituality, Excellence for Service, and Social Responsibility remain the guiding principle behind all its apostolic works be they in the center or in the peripheries, working with basic Christian communities in parishes, indigenous peoples, peace building in Muslim Mindanao – making a decisive difference in its sphere of influence. Assumption College that offers Basic and Tertiary Education has recently launched “iNay” (Filipino term for mother) Circle for Leaders and Learners, a venue that provides life skills and transformative education.
In Japan (founded 1952), the Assumption continues to respond with purpose and courage, one with the minority Christian Church – to the challenges of a society of affluence. Its apostolic works are varied : there is formal education in the school in Minoo (Osaka Prefecture) where global education is offered for girls and boys from Kindergarten to Secondary Education ; a kindergarten in Takamatsu in the island of Shikoku where the sisters also work in the Parish ; the work with the migrants and displaced persons in Kamagasaki, also known as Japan’s biggest slum, where the sisters bring hope to those in despair. Although few in number, the sisters are committed with their lay partners to becoming bearers of light, doing their share in being a part of the emerging ministries of peace building and inter-religious dialogue.
In India (founded in 1967), the indefatigable commitment to the poor, the voiceless and the powerless has marked the commitment of every sister and lay partner. Noteworthy among the apostolic works of the Province are women empowerment and the formation of young people to assume their future with dignity and purpose.
Our presence in Thailand (founded in 1980) is in the northeast Province of Loei where the sisters run a Secondary School. Passion and commitment to contribute to social transformation characterizes the apostolic works of the sisters and lay partners in a predominantly Buddhist environment. The Assumption presence in Thailand is a living testimony to the richness of interculturality that upholds the universal values of truth and harmony in the work of education and formation of persons.
The youngest presence of the Assumption in Asia is in Vietnam (founded in 1993) through a kindergarten where the fundamental values of love, truth and respect are taught and lived.
The small presence of the Assumption in Asia reflects the Church in Asia that is a “small flock” that seeks to be missionary, in dialogue with cultures, religions and the poor. In a continent of ancient civilizations and spiritual traditions, the first and most efficacious way of evangelization is through words, actions and relationships of friendship and as brothers and sisters. The mystery of the Incarnation that is the central mystery of the Assumption characterizes the Assumption in Asia where sisters and friends immerse themselves in the reality and with humility and respect join hands with others in the work for peace and thereby contribute to the transformation of society and the extension of the Kingdom.
Sr. Maria Josefina Matias, RA