MARIE EUGENIE INSTITUTE
The Assumption Sisters came to the Philippines in December, 1892, by virtue of a Royal Decree issued by Spain’s Queen Regent Maria Cristina, to establish a Superior Normal School for Women Teachers in Manila. Although it was short lived, the school produced seven outstanding graduates: two of them, Florentina Arellano and Rosa Sevilla, were the only women included in the staff of the revolutionary newspaper, La Independencia. Later on, Rosa Sevilla, together with four of her graduates of the Normal School founded the Instituto de Mujeres, the first lay Catholic school for women in the Philippines.
In 1991, to prepare for the centennial anniversary of Assumption in the Philippines, Sr. Josefina Magat, the Provincial Superior then for the Philippine-Thailand Province, together with her Provincial Council, created a Centennial Commission composed of Sisters and Lay friends, with Sr. Gertrude Borres as Chair. Sr. Josefina challenged the Centennial Commission to mark the Jubilee with a “Significant Act”, one that would mark the next 100 years of Assumption in the Philippines.
In response to this challenge, the Centennial Commission gathered to pray and discern together what this Significant Act should be. In the silence, a question was asked: Why did Assumption come to the Philippines? The fruit of prayer and many discussions, the Centennial Commission came up with a proposal to establish a Formation Center that would orient the teachers to what Mother Marie Eugenie envisioned for Assumption Education. The proposal was approved by the Provincial Council and the Marie Eugenie Institute (MEI) was launched on December 9, 1992.
The Marie Eugenie Institute is the lay formation arm of the Province that designs and conducts modules on Assumption philosophy and pedagogy of education. The Assumption Educators Formation Program, developed by Sr. Carmen Reyes, aimed to form the teachers of all Assumption schools, including the mission schools. A total of eight modules were done, each one building on the next, so that it took a teacher eight years to complete the program.
Given the progressively complicated administrative planning that the 8 Modules required, the General Council’s recommendation was to “tighten the Modules.” In 2002, to mark the tenth year anniversary of MEI, the eight modules were redesigned and compressed to three Tracks. However, the story does not end there. Our Mother Foundress dreamed of a world transformed by gospel values. This, she saw possible through education. The opportunity to share the pedagogy of transformative education with the public school teachers came through a partnership with the Foundation for Worldwide People Power which gave birth to the Mentoring the Mentors Program for Public Schools. This partnership integrated MEI’s Formation Program for Teachers with the educational principles and methods shared by the Professors of the University of the Philippines, and leadership concepts from the Center for Leadership and Change. After ten years, a new version was developed for Parochial Schools in the format of a retreat. The Mentoring the Mentors Program has been given to various public, parochial, and private schools nationwide.
The Marie Eugenie Institutes offers itself to serve the needs of the different sectors of the Province. In 2006, the MEI developed a formation module on Assumption Spirituality in preparation for the canonization of our Mother Foundress, Marie Eugenie. This program was later integrated into the Assumption Educators Formation Program as a means to introduce St. Marie Eugenie and some basic aspects of Assumption Spirituality to newly hired faculty and staff of all Assumption Schools. This is called the PreTrack session. On the other hand, the Assumption Spirituality formation program was expanded and became part of the preparation for the lay friends who wish to follow the Way of Life and become a committed member of the Community of Lay Assumption (Clay).
Accompanying the lay formation for Clay, prayer circles the sacred space where one could receive spiritual nourishment as well as experience being part of a community, were formed. MEI developed Lifepaths for Prayer Circles for this purpose. The content centers around the Word of God enriched by chapters of St. Marie Eugenie and relevant teachings from Church doctrine and encyclicals. New materials for Lifepaths are developed periodically.
“Tahanan” is a workshop for the parents to introduce them to the Life and Times of Marie Eugenie and her teachings particularly on character formation, and other parenting tips. To date, three workshops under this title have been developed.
In 2007, the Province formalized Assumption Together under the leadership of Ms. Baby Herrera, who created a Lay Formation Team to facilitate a common formation for Assumption Together groups in the Province. The MEI was asked to design and help the team conduct these sessions in all regions of the Province. These were usually done prior to and during each Assumption Together Congress.
In 2017, the Marie Eugenie Institute designed and facilitated the 3-day retreat for the College Graduating Class of Assumption College San Lorenzo. The “Lifeline Retreat” invites the students to reread their life using St. Marie Eugenie’s paschal moments as a starting point and inspiration to enable them recognize God’s own plan for them. In 2019, an immersion experience was added in order to include the social dimension. MEI continues to facilitate this retreat online. In 2018, MEI was also asked to design and facilitate the Retreat for the Freshmen to reinforce their Theology Class on Assumption Spirituality. “I Am God’s Beloved”was short lived due to the pandemic.
There has been an expressed need for Administrative Teams, Class Advisers, CLE teachers and Guidance personnel to learn some basic skills in Spiritual Accompaniment. So, in 2018, a Course on Basic Skills in Spiritual Accompaniment was offered, where distinguished spiritual directors were invited to give some talks, MEI providing the input from St. Marie Eugenie. With the pandemic MEI has received requests for this course to be offered again. A second session was done in February 2021. It is possible that this course will be offered in a more regular basis because of the constant demand. With the increase in the number of prayer circles, a similar course, “Spiritual Companioning” was also created as part of the formation of Prayer Circle Moderators.
These unprecedented times has forced the Marie Eugenie Institute to find new ways of delivering its programs. It has been challenging and at the same time, rewarding. The Tracks used to be given over a three day weekend as live-in workshops. Now, they are presented in video format, uploaded on Youtube, and followed up by online synchronous sessions over a span of one month. This format, although challenging, has allowed the MEI to have larger number of participants without the limitation of travel time and availability of facilitators. The largest group was for Track 1 last July where 86 participants from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao came together for the sessions. It was a unique experience of one Assumption. Each year, a Track will be launched for online delivery. The Pre Track was launched in October 2020, and again mid August 2021 for all our Assumption schools.
The pandemic also opened up for MEI new products to answer the need of the times. In 2020, as the schools were preparing to launch a new school year, there was a cry for something to motivate the teachers and staff who were dealing with so much uncertainty as well as stress from having to navigate the new ways of teaching. MEI created a motivational video, “Crossing a New Frontier with St. Marie Eugenie,” to launch school year 2020-21. The video was shared with all the schools in the Province and used as a springboard for developing their thrust for the year. The schools requested MEI do another one for this current school year. “Journeying towards the New Us” was again given to all our schools.
Last December, upon the request of the Assumption Alumnae Association, a series of videos was prepared, “#9 Mornings”, inspired by facets of traditional Christmas in the Philippines. These included reflections on Simbang Gabi, Parol, Noche Buena, Belen, etc.
The Assumption Together Core Team has been meeting with the different communities of the Province to develop and even strengthen ties among the different communities. The Marie Eugenie Institute helps by designing inspirational videos used for the “Kumustahans”. MEI has designing or coordinating recollections and retreat.
As we continue to navigate this new normal, MEI strives to find new ways and new programs to make Jesus known, loved and served through the Philosophy and Spirituality of the Assumption and our Mother Foundress towards building the Kingdom of God here on earth. In this mission, the Marie Eugenie Institute is grateful for the support of the Religious of the Assumption Asia Pacific Province and the Assumption Alumnae Association. All for Jesus!