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History of the Religious Catechists of Mary

Our Institute was founded by Mother Leonides Mansarate Mendoza, RCM and Most Rev. Cirilo Reyes Almario, Jr. D.D. who was then Bishop of Malolos, on 13 December, 1990 in Sta. Isabel, Malolos, Bulacan, Philippines.
Mother Leonides was born on August 8, 1956 in Balungao, Calumpit Bulacan Philippines. She started her religious life on July 3, 1977 in the Dominican Sisters of St. Joseph in Paombong Bulacan, Philippines where she made her final profession on July 21,1985.
In 1986, she was appointed Directress of Postulants and Novices, a responsibility she fulfilled with much dedication and enthusiasm. The Philippines was rocked by a major political event ( EDSA I ) at that time which presented a challenge to the Philippines Church that strongly challenged religious life and the way it was lived, at least in the context of Sr. Leonides' own formation.
The realities surrounding and affecting the Church began to have an impact on her widening horizons as she attended classes, meetings and conventions of formators. In spite of her superiors' conservative outlook, she dared to ask permission to send her Postulants and Novices to Modular classes in Metro Manila for which she was granted.
Sr. Leonides was a good teacher. This was even more developed by her training in a congregation dedicated to teaching. She particularly loved to tell stories and taught catechism to little children. Her passion for catechizing was contagious and she passed this on to the Novices preparing them to assume teaching tasks in the nearby Catholic school.
The fruits of her studies and attendance at conventions became even more palpable in her program, evoking questions and doubts among her elders and superiors. She introduced outreach activities for Novices and Postulants. She put in their schedules, particular time for home visitation and teaching catechism to children in the hills. The teaching Novices, assisted by the non-teaching ones were given a once-a- week schedule in the nearby Norzagaray public High School.
Sr. Leonides' usual stance was always joyful. The people in the neighborhood and elsewhere easily approached her and she treated everyone with respect and kindness. One day, three plain-looking persons went to the Novitiate asking some food and medicines, casually they revealed they were heads of a New People's Army group based in Sierra Madre and they were engaged in an encounter with the military the night before. Before Sr. Leonides knew it, she was entangled in a negotiation for surrender by these rebels, much to the shock and exasperation of her superiors. All these are novelties in the usual " enclosed" Dominican life she was introduced to, that later on, she was asked to stop her " new" activities.
With burning desire to help the children of the poor inspired by the great change in political situation that time and from her studies in Emmaus Center of Spirituality, Sr. Leonides and the 10 Sisters agreed to earn a living by working as teachers, accountants, nurses and other professions according to what they have finished in college, to be able to put up a free school wherein their earnings will be spent for the salary of the teachers they will hire to teach the poor children. Thus, they will be of more service to them. On the other hand, the elders of their community intended to settle things with them but it did not happen. Thus, Bishop Cirilo R. Almario, Jr. D.D. called the group of Sr. Leonides and discussed with the sisters his desire for them to take over the catechetical ministry vacated by the Missionary Catechists of St. Therese sisters.
Responding in faith to a call for a simpler and more apostolic life, Sr. Leonides left her congregation and set her mind to be of more service to the children of the poor. She was joined by ten of her sisters.
When Bishop Almario entrusted to them the catechetical apostolate in the Diocese particularly the formation of volunteer catechists and teaching catechism in public school, an explainable joy and happiness filled her heart because it confirms her longed for service to the poor people.
On December 13, 1990, Bishop Cirilo R. Almario. Jr. D.D., after making his rounds of conferences with the separating group of Sr. Leonides Mendoza, accepted them in the Diocese of Malolos. As a private association of women, they were asked to live in community and fill in the catechetical apostolate in the Diocese.
Sr. Leonides together with the ten sisters who joined her, then started preparing themselves to begin their life as a community in the convent left by the MCST sisters in Sta. Isabel, Malolos City. The sisters lived under the spiritual guidance of the Founders and followed the rules of St. Augustine to guide them in their community living. With their intentions of forming them into a religious institute, Bishop Almario gave them the name Religious Catechists of Mary and chose the official habit of the Institute.
Through the generosity of the parish Priest of Sta. Isabel, Rev. Fr. Flint Capiral, the sisters were given the chance to serve by conducting communion service to nearby chapels and giving communion to the sick every First Friday.
The sisters were asked by Bishop Almario to meet Fr. Romeo Dionisio, the Director of Pandiyosesis na Sentro ng Kateketis – Confraternity of Christian Doctrine
( PASKA-CCD), who then told them to attend a one week seminar under the tutelage of Fr. Lino Banayad, S.J. in Baliuag Bulacan.
In their eagerness to be equipped in catechetical ministry, the sisters were sent to the Institute of Catechetics in Sta. Isabel College, Manila to obtain Certificate Course in Catechetics in summer of 1991. While doing their apostolate, the sisters improved their skills by attending seminars and classes in different catechetical centers in various place in Manila.
Early in 1991, another historical event happened in the Church. The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines for renewal was convened. The importance of Catechesis as a ministry in the church was even more highlighted because it is an essential element of a renewed Church.
The Sisters received more encouragement and support as they prepared themselves spiritually and intellectually for handling the catechetical apostolate in the Diocese of Malolos. They were tasked later on to supervise the training of volunteer catechists and they taught Christian Living in some catholic schools. The Sisters were assigned to the different parishes. Some RCM communities conducted catechism classes in public schools.

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