Born in Carmona, Cavite in the Philippines, Estelita Manabo was the first of seven siblings in her family. After finishing her schooling and working for five years as a school teacher, Estelita entered the Congregation of the Pastorelle Sisters at the age of 25.
From her initial formation, she was known as a very spiritual person with a deep and lively faith, generous and reflective, constant, capable of loving and suffering gratuitously. She was a humble and joyful Sister, hardworking and responsible.
In 1977, a year after her first profession, Estelita was sent to Australia and was assigned in the communities of Thornbury and Thomastown, Melbourne. She returned to the Philippines in 1986, spent two years studying in Rome, and then remained in her home country until 2002.
In the Philippines, she was principal of the Congregation’s school in Imus, Cavite, and served for 12 years as Regional Councillor, then Provincial Councillor. She was recognised for her capacity to listen beyond words, to be collaborative and have the wisdom of the heart to perceive what was for the common good.
Estelita returned to Australia in 2002 and served in Bundoora, Thomastown, then Newton and finally Payneham, Adelaide. She loved Australia, where she was able to carry out her ministry of pastoral care with much love, dedication, enthusiasm and creativity.
As many would attest, Estelita provided a gentle, respectful and encouraging presence wherever she was assigned. She was approachable and welcoming and gave her full presence to people she talked with. She always had an encouraging word and would take the lead when the situation called for it, but also knew how to remain in the shadows in order to allow others to shine.
Estelita’s love for Christ and the Church, specifically the poor, meant she went out of her way to help those in need. She also had a passion for nature and encouraged the Sisters of her community in this as well.
When she became sick with cancer she used her remaining days and months of her life to communicate and to reach out to those dear to her. She sent messages or a little present to each Sister, the novices and aspirants back in the Philippines, assuring each one of her offering and prayers.
The Sisters who cared for Estelita during her last months shared that she remained patient in her sickness as a way of carrying her own cross, for the love of the Lord. She constantly asked the intercession of Mary, through the Holy Rosary.
It was Estelita’s choice to die and be buried in Australia, where she lived 39 of her 47 years as a Pastorella. This was a significant gesture of her interior freedom, as Saint Paul says: ‘if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are of the Lord’. (Rm 14:6).
Taken from the eulogy by Sr Puri Tanedo, Provincial Leader of the Pastorelle Sisters.
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