The all-girls Stella Maris College and Convent can be found hidden behind the high walls of a compound the lies between Cambridge, Columbia and Oxford streets in the Cubao residential district, near Aurora Boulevard. Founded in 1955 and run by Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM), a Catholic organization under the Franciscans. Founded in 1877 by Blessed Helene Philippine de Chappotin (1839-1904), the Stella Maris College traces its roots to the arrival of twelve American FMM sisters in Lipa, Batngas, in 1912. In the more than one hundred years of being Philippines, the FMM has expanded its missions and schools throughout Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
Presently, the FMM operates in ten locations in the Philippines, with its Provincial House and Santo Niño Fraternity (founded 1977), in the New Manila District of Quezon City. The Stella Maris College in Quezon City also houses the Saint Pius X Convent (founded 1955), the Corpus Christi Convent (founded 1983), the Kapatirang Maria de la Passion (Brotherhood of Mary of the Passion, founded 1994); with the first convent names after Pope Pius X (Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, 1835-1914) who was canonized in 1954 and the brotherhood was named after Blessed Helene Philippine de Chappotin who is also known as Mary of the Passion. Also in Metro Manila, there are the Saint Clare Convent (founded 1949) in the Pandacan District of Manila and Our Lady of the Star Convent (founded 1949) in Kalookan City.In the Province of Cavite, the FMM has the Immaculate Heart of Mary Novitiate and Convent (founded 1950) in Tagaytay City and the Saint Joseph Convent in the Municipality of General Mariano Alvarez. The Our Lady of Faith Convent and St. Joseph’s Academy (founded 1921) are located in the Municipality of Sariaya, in the Province of Quezon. In the Mountain Province’s Baguio City, the St. Francis Convent (founded 1926) is located along Kennon Road. In the Visayas Region, there is the Kapatirang Emmanuel (founded 1991) in San Jose City of Occidental Mindoro Province and the Blessed Maria Assunta Convent (founded 1957) of Cebu City; which was named after the FMM sister Blessed Maria Assunta Pallotta (1878-1954). In the Mindanao Region, there is the Auxilium Christianorum Convent (Help of the Christians Convent) and Stella Maris College (founded 1937) in Oroquieta City of Misamis Occidental Province and the Sacred Heart Convent (founded 1966) in lligan City of the Lanao del Norte Province.
The Stella Maris College is named after an ancient title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Our Lady, Star of the Sea. The Latin phrase refers to the Virgin Mary as a guide amidst the trials and triumphs of life, towards the way to Jesus Christ. And from the arrival of the FMM sisters in 1912, to modernization of the Philippines during the American occupation (1898-1946), and to the rebuilding after World War II (1938-1945); the devotion to the Stella Maris has always guided the FMM sisters in their vocations. And part of this was the founding of the Stella Maris College, as the FMM sisters used the cash from the war damage reparation to build the new school.
One of the key structures in the Stella Maris College is the Chapel of the Lilies, as the whiteness of the Madonna Lily (Lilium candidum) symbolizes the Blessed Virgin Mary and her attributes of purity, innocence, and connection to the divine; whereas the Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum) represents the Annunciation (Luke 1:26–38) where Mary is declared as the handmade of God and the Resurrection (Mark 16, Matthew 28, Luke 24, and John 20) where we are washed our sins by the Rising of Christ from the dead. The Chapel of the Lilies should not be mistaken for the Lily of the Valley Christian Church, in the nearby Stanford Street.
At the Chapel of the Lilies altar, there is a mural of “The Immaculate Conception with Saints Francis of Assisi and Anthony of Padua, enshrined by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Sisters.” There is no indication of who is the artist behind this work, and neither is there any proof that it was copied from any other existing work. The work features the Franciscan saints Saint Francis of Assisi (Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, 1181-1226) and Anthony of Padua (Fernando Martins de Bulhões, 1195-1231) paying their devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, while nine American FMM founding sisters stand in the background. Although there is now direct Franciscan doctrine that refers to Saint Francis and Saint Anthony and relation to the Immaculate Conception, this image has been a subject matter of several paintings throughout the centuries, with the oldest attributed to Francesco Francia (Francesco Raibolini, 1447-1517) showing the Madonna and Child, and not the Immaculate Conception. The rendering of the Immaculate Conception is done in the blue and white clothing and pose that was popularized by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682) and José de Ribera (1591-1652) during the Baroque. However, the closest composition that this mural has to any existing work is the 1650 painting by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (Il Grechetto, 1609-1664).
Although the Stella Maris College and the Chapel of the Lilies isn’t generally opened to the public, it is still an influential to its surrounding communities, especially Barangay Eulogio Rodríguez Sr., in which the Stella Maris College is a part of. And for those visitors of the Stella Maris College, to meet its students and staff and view its campus, especially the chapel, is a delightful experience.