Given name: Fely Meneses Cerezo
Spotlight on Sister Felma Cerezo (photo gallery)
Sister Felma Cerezo has spent the last 50 years in nearly constant motion, always with some object for creating beauty in her hands, whether it is a paint brush, a camera, a gardening tool, a kitchen implement or a sewing or crocheting needle.
She was born in Binmaley, Pangasinan, Philippines, and met the Sisters of Providence in February 1963. Sister Lawrence of Jesus, who had traveled to the Philippines with Sister Rita Bergamini, visited the homes of the Filipina sisters, including Felma’s neighbor and friend Sister Josefa Aquino. Sister Lawrence also visited with Felma and her family.
Family members resisted her call
Family members had been resistant to her exploring the call to religious life because they didn’t want to lose her, so Felma had continued her education, studying secretarial science and home economics. But she wanted to embrace and serve many people, so she left home to enter the Sisters of Providence novitiate.
After graduating from Bellevue Community College in 1968, the young junior sister was sent to Mount St. Vincent, Seattle, to run the occupational department. “I fell in love with the compartmental rooms full of shelves and spaces in each: the woodwork room, painting room, ceramics room, kitchenette, music room and a huge storage room,” she recalled.
She lived next door on the second floor at St. Joseph Residence. “Whenever I couldn’t sleep at night, I would go to the storeroom, sit on a swivel chair with a notepad and look up all the labeled boxes to create projects for the residents to work on the next day! Then, the next day, I taught my staff how the project should be done and they, in turn, taught the residents.” These were perhaps the first art classes taught by someone who would become known for her ability to teach students to create.
Mechanical skills impress
Sister Felma and her staff served the residents from DePaul Assisted Living units, the Mount St. Vincent nursing home and the SJR sisters. They provided recreational trips, shopping, movies, cookie baking, Bingo and other games, as well as arts and crafts. “There was a seamstress who thought I knew nothing about sewing because I was too young to know anything,” Sister Felma recalled. One day, she was having a problem with the sewing machine’s bobbin. Little did she know that Singer is my favorite sewing machine and sewing is one of my passions. Before her eyes, I pulled apart the bobbin case, unscrewed the thing, and cleaned and filed any rough edges that caused the thread to break up. In no time, everything was put back together! Her eyes were so big and her mouth dropped. It was a fun memory!”
Sister Felma’s favorite ministry was her 26 years at Providence High School in Burbank, Calif. “Watching the young ones growing up in terms of expressing their creativity was awesome to behold! To me, they are like the rosebuds trying to open each day, blossoming to their beautiful shapes, giving out their aroma in the air for us to smell and admire! As I watched my students develop their skills, I grew with them, as well. They nourished my sensitivity to their needs, they inspired my creative imagination and they touched my soul with their innocence. The administration was very supportive of any program I might add to the art curriculum, and that alone gave me the freedom to make my department the “state of the art.”
59-day trip to Far East a favorite memory
Today, Sister Felma resides in Seattle, living a very busy and full life serving as the province’s official photographer, master of photo editing, creator of special greeting cards, and helper on endless community and family projects. Even while on time off and vacation she works, sewing habits for another religious community, caring for her gorgeous flower garden, and driving family members here and there.
She has lived with Sister Jacqueline Fernandes for a total of more than 30 years, for so long that their families are intertwined. A favorite memory is a 59-day trip they took together in 1980 to the Far East, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Sister Felma recited the definition of a really good friend: “If you can travel anywhere and still are shaking hands when you return, you’re good friends.
“I count my blessings every day. I could never ask for more,” Sister Felma said. “I consider myself very lucky to have this community which fulfilled all my dreams, encouraged me to pursue my creativity and provided me all the opportunities to practice and share them. I never thought I had such gifts, but the community did, and I thank those numerous sisters who have inspired me and encouraged me to develop them through school, seminars and hands-on workshops. And I am still learning, mind you! God is Gold and God is my Provider. Providence of God, I thank You for all!”
This Jubilee will be celebrated with family and friends. “It’s a blessing that my whole family – two brothers, three sisters, their spouses and their children — is here now,” Sister Felma said. Only her brother Max and his family were there for her 25th Jubilee. “It will be my pleasure to let them do what and how they want to celebrate this golden event in my life.”