‘Keep Happy, Keep Free!’

By Mary Joy Rile

Last June Anne Gubuan, the assistant editor, and I went to Ozamiz City for the ordination of Fr Rodolfo Christopher Kaamiño IV. We availed of the opportunity to interview two siblings from there who are also Columban Sisters. Anne interviewed Sr Teresita E. Bernad while I interviewed Sr Regina E. Bernad, known to all as ‘Sister Inday’.

I was captivated by her gentleness and loved the simplicity of her words, which I hope will also find their way to your heart. Below is the account of my privileged encounter with Sr Regina ‘Inday’ E. Bernad SSC.

Q: How did your calling begin?

Born in what was then the town of Misamis, now Ozamiz City, we grew up with our parents who were really practicing Catholics. We owe our vocation to our parents who were very close to God.

I was teaching in the school when I decided to join the Columban Sisters. I did not need discernment nor pray because I knew I was called. Discernment is more difficult now because there are a lot of things that attract you. How many would want to become missionaries?

Q: What about your ‘love story’?

I had many suitors but I did not commit to any. I knew where God wanted me. I was sure about it, because if you ask God, and talk to God, God will guide you, with the Blessed Mother.

Q: Any incident you might consider as your ‘last temptation’ before entering the convent?

The last temptation . . . the x-ray result! I was preparing to go to Boston for my novitiate when my medical check-up showed I had TB. I was really grieving when my mother approached me and said, ‘Inday, stop crying or else you will get sick and not be able to go.’ That was also a signal that my mother had finally accepted my decision. Later it was discovered by another doctor that my x-ray result was clear!

Q: How was your work with the Columbans?

When the Columban Sisters came to Misamis in 1945, I was teaching with them, helping them with enrolment. The Columban Fathers rented our schools. They arrived in 1941, before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

I started working with Fr Don Kill in Mission Awareness in 1997 and continued until the last printed issue of Misyon in 2008. We did vocation campaigning, helping young people understand their own mission in the family and in the community. We were also distributing Misyon in different areas. We started with the parishes and Catholic schools in the Dioceses of Ozamiz and Pagadian, later adding Dipolog. Other private and even some public schools invited us. We slept in the parishes and schools, wherever we could spend the night.

When Misyon started, I was in Labrador, Pangasinan. Later I found myself promoting it. And before I knew it, it was finished as a printed magazine! We ended quietly in 2008. Misyon was instrumental in the awakening of the call of many young persons! [Editor’s note: Misyon continues as a bi-monthly online magazine, with new material added almost daily: www.misyononline.com].

Sisters Inday and Teresita Bernad with the author.

Q: How is it to be in a community?

In a community, you live with different people. There are those who are easy to live with, others not; at least I did not have friction with anybody.
If all are centered in God, you pray together, you eat together, those are binding. If there are differences, you can make allowances. We meet together, talk about it and then we decide.

When we come we share, we go together. When you know what the other is doing, when you need help, you ask for help. And you also give help. You support each other. Then we forget the differences. Shared prayers are like faith-sharing. Prayer is really very good.

When one is having a problem, we try to help, like the Sisters having a problem with the situation in Midsalip, we pray and come together and help one another. We know their problems, we know what’s going on because we share. We are like one!

Q: Have you experienced certain spiritual dryness like what St John of the Cross and Sta Teresa de Avila had? And how did you deal with it?

Just continue praying. Even if you think there is no God, your faith will tell you He is there. Just continue. God will bail you out.
St John of the Cross and Sta Teresa de Avila, they experienced it for quite a long time. It was painful but they continued. That was what they did also – they continued praying.

Q: What has been your most challenging experience as a Sister?

Shortly after profession, I was assigned to start St Columban College in Lingayen, Pangasinan. Very challenging to start a college from scratch without any experience. We were just doing and praying.

It was very difficult but very gratifying. We were working with poor people, helping especially the students. There was a strong bond between us. The first batch were very bright students. We needed to process papers, permits and many more things. But see how the students responded. It was all hard work! When things become difficult, then you go to God and pray and He will help.

Q: What about your happiest moment?

If you want to be happy then you become happy. At the end of the day you can thank God for the day. Right now, I do as much as I can. If you know, you understand your body, your sickness, how much you can do. There are people who will criticize or affirm you, but if you listen to all, you will go crazy. But if you listen to your body, you just know. Sometimes it’s so difficult that you contradict people, but it’s you yourself who knows what you can do.

Q: At the age of 91?

Sometimes I wish to go to Europe and other places but I know that I cannot. Sometimes I would run to the doctor to tell me what’s wrong, then done!

It’s not that life is not easy, but how you cope with things, how you cope with your sickness. If somebody contradicts you, you talk it out together. We try to be at peace, because that’s God’s plan. ‘Peace be with you,’ and to let God do the work.

Sometimes when you see things are not in order, in your mind you start to complain, blame, and God wills you to stop! If you scold, you make others unhappy. So you don’t scold anymore because it’s done anyway. You choose to be patient. If the memory keeps coming back, you have to drive it away or else you lose your peace.

The community understands your predicament, that God wants you to try to help the other for her or him to develop and grow.

Q: Any piece of advice for searchers like me?

Just listen to the call, if you feel you are called. Really pray for a good decision. It’s listening first and then prayer. And if you decide, accept all the consequences . . . because it’s God’s call.

When people try to tell you things, are you not happy, etc, that’s when the devil will try to pull you. If a mother makes a mistake, it’s because she loves you. You don’t run away . . . My brother, a Jesuit priest [noted historian, the late Fr Miguel E. Bernad SJ], once told me, ‘Inday, if God wants you, He will really have you.’

Q: A line of a message that you would want me to bring home?

Keep happy, keep free!