A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Marists on Mission 

Fr Kevin Head SM

This Focus provides a sample of Marist mission efforts in Thailand, Vanuatu, Philippines, USA and Bangladesh. Except where otherwise noted, the material which follows is adapted from the Marist Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Blog.

Wat Siri, Living Water Foundation (LWF) - supported school in Thailand

Br Paul Murphy FMS reports that Wat Siri is “partially, significantly, and strangely government aided”. It is situated about two hours' drive south-west from Bangkok. While most of the students are Buddhist, some are Christians. The school is a co-educational primary school, starting at preschool. The school receives very important assistance from the LWF, Marys Meals (MM) and very occasionally from local businesses. The teachers are all Thai, and their salaries are paid by the government. The school is well teacher-resourced with 11 teaching staff. Most of the 135 students are children from Myanmar, though a handful are from Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

This area is home to a large fishing port on the northern end of the Bay of Thailand, and so fish factories abound. The students' parents are migrant workers, both documented and undocumented, mostly involved in the huge frozen fish and canning industry. The parents suffer by having to deal with greedy, often threatening brokers and industry bosses.

Wat Siri Students with Br Jose and Br Paul Murphy FMS

Wat Siri Students with Br Jose and Br Paul Murphy FMS

The children are generally healthy, thanks in part to MM, and neatly dressed in smart uniforms provided for by the government. They seem happy, keen to learn and are socially engaged with each other. The children's school work is outstanding and displays pride in their studies. This is a well-organised school and has trained Thai teachers who are keen to respond to the needs and culture of their children from Myanmar.

Tanna Island, Vanuatu

Tanna community garden

Tanna community garden

The Gospel first arrived here in the 19th century, but met strong resistance. Cargo cults are still active – especially the John Frum cult. Tanna is one of the least developed islands in Vanuatu, and one of the most populated – with some 29,000 people who live mainly from subsistence farming. The Marists arrived on mission there in the 1980s.

The Marist community there is made up of Frs Eneriko Nacolarara SM, from Fiji; Epokifo’ou Okustino SM, from Tonga; and Louis Maite SM from Vanuatu.

Fr Epokifo’ou, front centre; Fr Eneriko, right of Epokifo’ou; and Fr Louis, far right; with Teachers and Parishioners in Tanna

Fr Epokifo’ou, front centre; Fr Eneriko, right of Epokifo’ou; and Fr Louis, far right; with Teachers and Parishioners in Tanna

Fr Epokifo’ou SM writes, “I enjoy the work here in the middle of the island in the bush where there is no electricity and no water supply for all the villages in this mission. We rely on rain water for drinking and farming, and on our solar panel system for power.

“We grow gardens to help the community to provide its own food, and to help the people to learn new methods of planning their gardens, so that they plant crops in such a manner that they will have variety and continuity.

“We enjoy doing God's work in the footsteps of Mary - spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God”.

Digos City, Mindanao, Philippines

Marist Fathers’ Community at Digos:
Frs Pat Muckian SM, Arnold Garferio SM and Chris Ganzon SM

Marists have served in the two jails of Digos City, Mindanao, Philippines, for ten years, providing chaplaincy for about 1,200 inmates. They work with lay Marists and parishioners, focussing on getting to know the prisoners, providing catechesis, faith sharing, Sacrament of Reconciliation, and celebration of the Sunday Eucharist twice a month in each jail. They also provide medicine for the sick and facilitate occasional visits from high school students and Church organisations.

Fr Chris Ganzon SM says, “I have never felt fear in relating to the inmates and would not necessarily know who were the most dangerous. Normally the inmates will spend anything from 8 to 12 years in prison before they are convicted and transferred to a National Penal Colony about 4 hours away”.

Fr Pat Muckian SM at Digos Prison

Fr Pat Muckian SM at Digos Prison

Brownsville, on the USA-Mexico border

Fr Tony O’Connor SM praying at the wall ...

Fr Tony O’Connor SM praying at the wall ...

Fr Father Tony O’Connor SM is a priest from New Zealand. He says there are many good Christian people on both sides of the border, but more on the Mexican side, “who out of their own pockets are feeding and caring for these people as best they can”.

The “migrants, who have nothing but empty tummies and sweaty, snotty clothes, rely solely on these self-sacrificing compassionate activists who daily clothe the naked, feed the hungry and give solace to downtrodden dehumanised brothers and sisters from the south”.

Anondo Neer - SMSM
House of Joy, Bangladesh

From Marist Mission Centre  (Australia) Newsletter, winter 2019:

This is a safe place for children and young adults with physical and intellectual disabilities living in a culture where they are often abandoned by their families. Sr Julienne and the Marist Missionary Sisters offer these children and their families a future with hope.

This little boy spent all his time lying down when he first arrived at Anondo Neer with his mother. He is now doing exercises to strengthen his spine and muscles. A few months ago a special chair was made for him that gives him the support to sit up and enjoy the world around him.   

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