The crippling effects of the pandemic on the travel industry have devastated the economy and job market on the island of Saipan. A haven for tourists, Saipan is the largest of the Northern Marina Islands, a commonwealth of the United States in the Western Pacific.
The island is home to the Catholic Extension-supported Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, located closer to the Philippines than to the state of Hawaii. Parishioners work as hotel employees, contractors and restaurant workers, but their jobs have been decimated with loss of tourists.
The devastating job loss means acquiring essentials for day-to-day living has become a challenge for those unemployed or furloughed. The Sisters of Jesus the Good Shepherd (SJBP) in the diocese have been there to help families maintain hope.
With the help of a $1,000 grant from the Sisters on the Frontlines program, three sisters serving on the island were able to purchase supplies and deliver them to families in need. Catholic Sisters Narcisa Penaredonda, Emma Lusterio and Saturnina Caccam utilized the grant from Extension to provide supplies for families struggling due to the pandemic.
It was such a great opportunity for me, not only to visit, but to help the families who are really struggling at this moment of the pandemic.”Sister Saturnina Caccam, SJBP
Visits shed light on needs
After a week of identifying and visiting with families, the sisters packed and distributed bags of goods to over 25 individuals and families in the diocese. The bags included several food items such as noodles, sugar, lunch meat and 10 pounds of rice. Also included in the bags were COVID-19 essential face masks and hand sanitizer.
Along with the money used for supplies, the sisters used $250 of the grant to pay the rent and utility bills for two families whose main breadwinners had lost jobs.
When the sisters distributed the aid, the appreciative families spoke of their continued faith, despite such difficult times.
It is a joy to see each family…continue to trust the Lord and entrust to the Lord all their cares.”Sister Narcisa Penaredonda, SJBP
“The first distribution was a good time to meet the families together and listen to their stories, their hopes for the future and how they live their faith at this moment,” said Sister Narcisa Penaredonda.
Holding onto hope
Sister Saturnina Caccam is the Director of Religious Education for the diocese. She distributed supply bags to some of the catechists in their faith community that had been furloughed or laid off. She noted their great faith, and their eagerness to get back to teaching the Catholic faith.
“In their great faith and trust in the Lord, they were able to express their hope amidst their present situation of uncertainties and fear,” said Sister Caccam. “They still have the desire to teach and be with the kids, especially those that they are preparing for the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist.”
Thanks to the Sisters on the Frontlines program, the Sisters of Jesus the Good Shepherd in Saipan were able to reassure a hurting, but ever faithful community.
We, even in a small way, can help our brothers and sisters in their dire needs.”Sister Emma Lusterio, SJBP
Sister Lusterio continues to pray for all the Catholic Extension donors, who are contributing to the Sisters on the Frontlines program and relief programs in Catholic faith communities across the world.
“I pray for all your donors and benefactors—that God protect them from all harm and guide their mind and heart at all times and continue to give them the necessary graces they need, especially for good health, wisdom and strength.”
The positive impact of the Sisters on the Frontlines program is being felt by the Catholic Sisters and by the faithful, alike.
“It was such a great opportunity for me, not only to visit, but to help the families who are really struggling at this moment of the pandemic,” said Sister Caccam. “Their stories are testimonies of faith and hope that God will never abandon them. Fear is real in the face of this reality, but hope still lingers in their hearts.”
Support a Sister
Help those most in need during COVID-19.