The St. Joseph Convent of Perpetual Adoration is nestled between the many historical and modern mansions along Doña Hemady Avenue, of the New Manila district of Quezon City. Whether it is a 240 meter southbound walk from the intersection E. Rodriguez Sr. Boulevard, or a 1 kilometer northbound drive from the intersection of Aurora Boulevard, the convent is one of the “must visit” places in Quezon City, for spiritual solace.
St. Joseph Convent of Perpetual Adoration is managed by the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters (SSpSAp i.e. Congregatio Servarum Spiritus Sancti de Adoratione Perpetua), who are better known as the Pink Sisters. Established in 1896 by Saint Arnold Janssen, S.V.D. (1837-1909) in Holland, the founded chose the color pink for the habits of the nuns, as a symbol of love and joy.
Saint Janssen first founded the male missionary order of Society of the Divine Word (Societas Verbi Divini, abbreviated SVD), or the Divine Word Missionaries, in 1875. He soon followed this with the 1889 founding of the female missionary order of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, also known as Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters (SSpS for Servae Spiritus Sancti), who are also known as the Blue Sisters, for their choice of colored habits. Saint Janssen would in turn organize the Pink Sisters as a prayer support order, for the missions of the SVD and SSpS. Hence the Pink Sisters spend at least 7 hours a day praying in the chapel, cloistered within a grille, not to interact with outsides beyond the gates. The nuns pray for many different things, including requests for other people. Their daily routine goes as follows: Morning Praise; Mid-morning Prayer; Midday and Mid-afternoon Prayer; Office of Readings; Evening Prayer and Night Prayer. Hence the title of “Perpetual Adoration.”
Through a request to the SSpS’ first Superior General, Mother Mary Michael (born Adolfine Tönnies, 1862-1934), the Pink Sisters arrived in the Philippines in 1923, with 10 sisters from Germany and the United States of America. Moving from Manila to Lipa, Batangas, the nuns found the warm humid atmosphere proved a bit testy for these northerners, and they eventually ended in the cooler mountain climate of Baguio City. Up in the highland city, the Pink Sisters founded the Blessed Sacrament Convent in 1931.
In 1960, Cardinal Rufino Jiao Santos (1908-1973) requested the Pink Sisters of Baguio to open a convent in Manila. While talking to the nuns, the Cardinal spied a statue of Saint Joseph in the courtyard; he suggested that they should name the new convent after the saint. In 1965, the St. Joseph Convent of Perpetual Adoration was opened, and was designed by José María Zaragoza, a favored architect of the Philippine Catholic Church.
Arch. José María Velez Zaragoza (1912-1994) first took his architectural degree from the University of Santo Tomas, and then he took his further studies in liturgical art and architecture at the International Institute of Liturgical Art in Rome, as well as a painting diploma at the Hilversun Technical Research Center in the Netherlands. Unlike many of his peers, Zaragosa took inspiration from European architecture, rather than American design. Zaragoza’s interests were quite evident in his designs for The Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Caloocan, and the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City. Zaragoza’s international style later incorporated influences of Brazilian architecture, as this would reflect in his works such as the Meralco Center in Ortigas and the Commercial and Bank Trust Company Building in Escolta. Zaragoza was an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and a fellow of the Philippine Institute of Architects (PIA). Zaragoza gained many international honors, such as becoming an ambassador of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta to the Philippines, and being conferred the Gentiluomo di Sua Santita (Lay Member of the Papal Household) by Pope John Paul II and allowing him to serve as a lay attendant of the Pope in the Vatican City. Locally, Zaragoza was given the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award by the City of Manila in 1973, the PIA’s Gold Medal of Merit in 1977, and the National Artist for Architecture in 2014.
Zaragoza’s modernist International Style is evident throughout the St. Joseph Convent of Perpetual Adoration chapel, with its clear lines and masterful use of natural light. The stained glass windows feature the Annunciation and the Pentecost at the north aisle, and the Baptism and Temptation of Christ at the south aisle.
During the building of the St. Joseph Convent of Perpetual Adoration and the moving in of the Pink Sister in their new Quezon City home, their brother priests from the nearby Christ the King Mission Seminary (established 1933) helped the nuns in settling down. This SVD and SSpS connection is emphasized with a small altarpiece at the narthex, displaying the statues of the founder Saint Arnold Janssen and the Austrian SVD Saint Joseph Freinademetz (1852-1908).
At the porch of the chapel, there is a relief of an angel offering the Roman Catholic Church (represented by the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome) to Saint Joseph and the Christ Child. An on the sculpture is the Latin phrase “Constitut eum dominum domus suae, et principem omnis possessionis suae,” which translates as “He made him master of his household, ruler over all he possessed.” This is taken from Psalm 104:21, as translated in Latin in the the Celmentine Vulgate Psalter (1592), from the original Greek writings of the Psalterium Gallicanum (386-391 AD).
There are many reasons to visit the St. Joseph Convent of Perpetual Adoration, whether it is to pray or ask for a prayer intercession from the Pink Sisters, have mass on a Sunday, enjoy the silent history of the convent, or marvel at the design of a National Artist for Architecture. Whatever the reason, St. Joseph Convent of Perpetual Adoration part of the greater story of the New Manila district, and continues to contribute to its community.