Sister Deling Fernando was born in Laoag City, Philippines, the youngest of four children. She grew up in a “good, solid” Catholic family, participating in religious activities like going to daily Mass, saying the rosary every night, and attending novenas to various saints. By sixth grade, she was helping teach catechism for first communicants.
She recalls her father often saying, “We are very rich because God dwells in our home and in our hearts. God is the center of our lives.” No wonder she and her brother, a priest, were quick to answer the call to religious life.
With the help of the Sisters of Providence vocations director in Spokane, Wash., Deling made her journey to the U.S. on November 16, 1957, to begin her formation. She took classes in Montana and began learning about American culture. When she entered the Sisters of Providence on July 19, 1958, it marked the first time a woman had come from the Philippines to join the community.
Sister Deling went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in education, a master’s in secondary education and a master’s in religious education. Her teaching ministry included many years in primary schools in Montana, Idaho and Washington. In addition to teaching, she was a principal at Assumption School in Walla Walla, Wash., and at Divine Word High School in Laoag City, Philippines. She then served several years in the Philippines as a sector servant leader and vocation director.
Sister Deling’s parish ministry has included service as faith formation director in parishes of northern Montana and the Diocese of Orlando, as well as pastoral assistant at St. William Church, Shelby, Mont., and Holy Redeemer Church, Kissimmee, Fla.
Looking back, Sister Deling said her 60 years as a Sister of Providence has gone by quickly because she has enjoyed everything she has done — and is still enjoying it. She has great love and appreciation for all the people she ministered to over the years. She describes them as blessings to her because she learned so much from their good examples and deep faith in God.
Though she is now officially retired, Sister Deling is still active in parish ministry at Holy Redeemer Church in Kissimmee, where she lives with her brother, retired Father Bernard Fernando, and assists him in his priestly ministry.
Daily Mass is important for Sister Deling. Every morning she takes time for prayer, spiritual reading and listening attentively to what God is doing and saying to her each day. She has come to know through prayer that she is an icon of God — manifesting God’s goodness, mercy and compassion to everyone she encounters, especially to those who are most vulnerable. Sister Deling prays that each day is spent in service to the fullest with God’s grace for His own honor and glory.