ONE YEAR and three-month-old Risa Bontoc was diagnosed with septo-optic-dysplasia with left schizenphaly, a congenital malformation syndrome in the brain which could have made her blind, crippled, and mute. The third adopted child of Carmen and Rosendo Bontoc, Risa would have rhythmic rotative movement of the eyes that doctors said resulted from the syndrome.

Physicians from the United States where Risa was diagnosed for treatment said that cure was highly improbable and that it would take a miracle to cure the child. Indeed, it took two years of the Bontoc couple’s intercessory prayers to Blessed Marie Eugenie for Risa to turn well. Her case is now a cause for Blessed Marie Eugenie’s sainthood.

Risa’s rise

It was back in May 1996 when Risa was brought to Houston, Texas where pediatric neurologists diagnosed her with septo-optic-dysplasia with left schizenphaly. The disorder was caused by the absence of the septum pellicidum and corpus callosum, connective tissues that are vital in the transmission of information between the brain’s hemispheres.

Doctors also discovered the underdevelopment of her optic nerves and her pituary-hypothalamic stalk responsible for producing and regulating hormones essential for proper body functioning. But no cure made her condition better.

For two years, Risa suffered from mental and physical underdevelopment that made it hard for her to read fine print without the use of very high-grade lenses in the future. In addition, Risa was prone to seizures and other related diseases of the brain.

Because of the hopelessness of Risa’s casher parents turned for miracles.

From Houston, Risa was brought to Paris, France to seek help from the Religious of the Assumption (RA), which offered prayers for Risa’s recovery and gave the child a medal with Blessed Marie Eugenie’s relic. In addition, the superior general and two of her councilors of the congregation’s mother house also offered prayers at the tomb of Blessed Marie Eugenie for their intention.

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A year after, Risa was brought back to the United States for medical checkup. Her doctors were amazed at her apartment with a miraculous recovery. Risa’s capabilities and functions improved dramatically, reversing earlier prognosis that her growth would be abnormal.

“Mother Marie Eugénie miraculously helped Risa to live a normal life that she could have been deprived of.” Sister Maxima Eugenia Emboltorio of the Religious of the Assumption at San Simon, Pampanga told the Varsitarian.

Today, 12-year-old Risa is studying at the Basic Education Division of Assumption College in Makati. She can see, walk, and talk, contrary to what her doctors had expected.

With Risa’s miraculous recovery, her parents and the congregation attributed her cure to Blessed Marie Eugénie, a candidate for sainthood since 1996.

Eu(genie)

Marie Eugenie was born Anne Eugenie Milleret in 1817 at Metz, France. She entered the convent and changed her name to Marie Eugenie Milleret at 19. Together with Fr. Cambalot, a priest of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, she advanced in education enlightened by faith.

At a young age of 22, Marie Eugénie founded RA in 1839 at Paris, France, which until now is known for its Catholic schools. After 16 years, Marie Eugenie’s efforts were rewarded when Rome recognized her congregation.

Marie Eugenie died. In 1932, her congregation began the cause of her beatification, which was granted on Feb. 9, 1975 after the miraculous revival of Sister Marie Kevin, RA, who suffered from paralysis that could have resulted in death.

At present, the RA serves in over 30 countries, including the Philippines, through its schools, formation centers, and ministries. The congregation runs the Assumption College in Makati, University of the Assumption and Technical High School in Pampanga, Assumption College in Antipolo, and other apostolate mission centers in rural places.

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In 1996, the congregation formally started the cause for Marie Eugénie’s canonization. She will be formally hailed a saint on June 3 at St. Peter’s Square in Rome because of Risa’s cure.

“For more than a decade, the rest of the congregation prayed for her canonization everyday. When we finally received a message last December informing us of her canonization, we immediately went to our chapel and sang the Magnificat,” Sister Conchita Francisca Kwe, RA, at San Simon, Pampanga, told the Varsitarian.

Following Marie Eugene’s canonization, Kwe said the congregation recognizes a greater mission.

“After Mother Marie Eugénie becomes a saint, our advocacy does not simply end there. A greater challenge is imposed on us as we are called upon to further live out her ideals of transforming the world through education,” she added.

Thankful for the miracle granted, the Bontoc Family, together with 945 delegates composed of sisters, laity, and students from different RA communities in the Philippines, will represent the country in Rome for Blessed Marie Eugenie’s road to being hailed a saint. Levine Andro H. Lao with reports from Ming Roxas

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