50 years: Felina (Lina) Afinidad, SP

Sister Lina

I was born in Tina, January, Iloilo, Philippines, on May 3, 1930, the sixth child of eight children, five girls and three boys, to Nicasio Afinidad and Marta Aranador. My father was a famer. When I was growing up, I enjoyed helping him raise vegetables, which we shared with our neighbors at harvest time.

I started school at the age of 7 at our local public school. Even from the beginning English was the medium of instruction in our schools. It was very important that we learn English well, especially for those who proceeded to college later on, because most of our textbooks and reference books were imported and were written in English.

Left pharmacy for religious life

I was in fourth grade when World War II broke out in 1941. All schools were closed and education was interrupted. After the war, in 1945 or 1946, schools were opened again and education was resumed. I went back to school and finished my grade school and high school studies. I also went to college and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in pharmacy in 1954 at Central Philippine University in Jaro, Iloilo, Philippines. The school was run by Baptists missionaries.

After working as a pharmacist for a few years, I decided to become a religious sister. I went to Manila, where I met the Medical Mission Sisters, whose members were primarily Filipina women. I applied to enter but they were busy starting their own foundations in the Philippines. They have their motherhouse in Philadelphia. The superior, a Filipina herself, asked me to live with them until their mother general, Mother Dengel, came.

Mother influenced her vocation

Meanwhile, Father James Moran, SJ, my spiritual director, showed me a brochure from the Sisters of Providence. I liked their work in hospitals, orphanages, clinics and elsewhere. Father Moran already had referred several young Filipino women to enter the Sisters of Providence in the United States, so I wrote to Sister Lawrence of Jesus, who was in charge of vocations, to tell her I was interested.

In August 1962 I became a postulant, with six other Filipino women, and was sent from St. Ignatius Province to the Sister Formation Program at Providence Heights in Issaquah, Wash. My mother was very religious and she influenced my vocation, even though when I told her I wanted to be a sister, she said something like “over my dead body.” She said I would never come back to the Philippines, but I told her that I would. Her idea about it changed when I came back to the Philippines home five years after I entered. She died a few months after that and my father a few years later. I was able to take him home from the nursing home and to care with him for about a week before he died. I held him while he slept and he died in my arms. That was beautiful for me.

I made first profession in 1965 and final vows in 1970. For my first ministry I told Sister Michelle Holland, the council member in charge of education, that I would like to take care of patients rather than work behind the counter as a pharmacist. When I was behind that counter, I didn’t even see the people until I took their money. As a nurse, I saw them from the time they entered the hospital until they left.

Foundress of Providence Phillipine Foundation

I was sent to St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Wash., to take an LPN course. In 1967, I graduated as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and I was sent to St. Clare Hospital in Fort Benton, Mont., where I worked for three years. In 1969 I was transferred to Columbus Hospital in Great Falls, Mont. I worked in many departments and I enjoyed my variety of work in my five years there. In 1974 I went to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Mont., where I finished my RN course. Our class of 40 was the last class to graduate at St. Patrick School of Nursing before it closed in 1978. In 1979 I transferred to Spokane, Wash., where I worked for 11 years as a night nurse at St. Joseph Care Center.

On October 14, 1989, I was one of the five foundresses of the Providence Philippine Foundation, along with Sisters Clarella Fink, Linda Jo Reynolds, Fidela Adriano and Renate Hayum. Sister Gloria Keylor, from Edmonton, Canada, came with us as our administrator to guide us in starting the mission.

On July 3, 2008, I came back to Spokane to retire at the age of 82, having stayed in the Philippines for 19 years.

Last February, thanks to the generosity of our religious community through the leadership of our dear Sisters Judith Desmarais, provincial superior, and Jacqueline Fernandes, local superior at St. Joseph Residence, and accompanied by our talented Sister Felma Cerezo, I had a special Jubilee trip. I celebrated my golden Jubilee amidst the grateful celebration of my big family in my birthplace, Iloilo, Philippines.

I renewed my vows at a Thanksgiving Mass celebrated by our own parish priest, Rev. Father Espiridion Celes, and with the applause of those present.

This 50 years as a Sister of Providence is just a little of life to offer to God. Providence of God, I thank you for all!