557 - July 2015
June 8th, 2015 - July 8th, 2015



A Canadian Oblate in Kyiv

On June 8, 2015, Fr. Paul PATRICK was ordained a priest for Assumption Province in Canada. After completing his studies at the International Scholasticate in Rome, he had gone to Ukraine for a year of pastoral experience.

Although time flew by very quickly, my pastoral experience in Kyiv, Ukraine is one which will always remain with me; although not always an easy ministry, especially at the beginning, due my need to perfect the language, I loved ministry in Ukraine and feel as though I left a small part of my heart there.

My first introduction to Kyiv ministry came in the form of ministering to street people with Brother Sebastian JANKOWSKI. A few days after my arrival in the city, he invited me to help him show a film at a hospital for those without money. Arriving at the hospital, I was astounded that people could live, let alone be cured, in such a place. It was basically a concrete bunker, with some old wire cots for people to lie on, quite cold, and draughty. Medicine was to be bought by others – no money for medicine meant no medicine – there were no social programs available. We raised some money through donations and charitable events such as plays and programs, and used the money to buy basic medicines and painkillers, as well as essentials such as soap and shampoo. To show films, we brought a laptop and a projector, and projected the movie on the concrete wall of the hospital. The homeless people propped themselves up in their beds and cheered as the film went on.

After becoming an Oblate, I never had imagined that my knowledge of mechanical engineering would come into play. At the Media Center, I was able to utilize many skills to help with the maintenance of equipment, creating websites and databases, as well as troubleshooting and setting up equipment. I also did a lot of translating – from Italian or English to Ukrainian and vice versa.

As deacon in the parish, I had the responsibility to officiate at any funerals which came, as well as any baptisms or marriages celebrated outside of the Mass. I remember the second time in my life I was to officiate at a funeral service for an elderly woman who had passed away in the outskirts of Kyiv. When I arrived at the morgue, it was explicably closed, and no one seemed to know why. With the family of the deceased, I tried to gain access, but it seemed that no one had the key to the small building which housed the morgue itself. The response – come tomorrow. The next day, in the morning the family came for me again, and we travelled across the city to the morgue. This time, we found the morgue open, but the body was nowhere to be found – it seems that they had transported her to another location. Upon arriving at this new location, we found it also to be locked, with the familiar response – come tomorrow. The next day, the family picked me up from the Oblate residence and again we travelled to this latest location, where apart from some issues with paperwork, we were able to finally gain access, pray and conduct the service. I thought the family might have been upset; on the contrary, it seemed to them the normal way when dealing with governmental organizations such as a district morgue.

Although not officially in charge of the youth in the parish, I often helped out the associate pastor with many functions and events which involved the youth in the parish. Although the parish was small, the youth were very devout and active, and left a lasting impression on me. They were very curious about religious life, and asked me many questions – questions which I remember asking other Oblates in Canada when I was discerning a religious vocation. We went on retreats together, skiing trips to the nearby Carpathian Mountains, decorated and cleaned the church, fed the homeless, and performed liturgical events such adoration and penitential services together. When I had my last Sunday in the parish, the youth presented me with flowers in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, and a beautiful Ukrainian gift to remember them by.

Knighthood for a missionary in Peru

On June 17, 2015, His Majesty, Willem-Alexander, the King of Holland, honored a long-time missionary in Peru, Father Jan BRINKHOF, with the Order of Knighthood of Orange-Nassau. The award was granted in recognition of the many years of social work and the pastoral ministry exercised by the Missionary Oblate in Comas, Peru. On that same day, Father Jan also celebrated his 77th birthday.

The honor was conferred by the mayor of Deventer in Father Jan’s hometown, in the presence of all of his brothers and sisters, as well as many people from the local parish and some benefactors.

The Oblates of Holland were represented by Father Gerard VAN DEN BEUKEN, the regional superior, and Father Léo VAN DEN BERG, the regional treasurer.

A double celebration

In 1998, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate founded a Roman Catholic parish, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Kryvyi Rig. Fr. Jacek PYL oversaw the building of the parish church, and in 2012, in order to make available some Oblates to begin a mission in Russia, the Oblates turned the parish over to the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette. Kryvyi Rig is known for being the longest city in Europe (124 km from north to south).

On June 13, 2015, the parish’s former pastor, now Bishop Jacek PYL, Auxiliary of Odessa-Simferopol, came back to preside at another historic event, the ordination of the first native son of the parish to become an Oblate priest, Fr. Bogdan SAVITSKYI, as well as the bishop’s first conferral of priestly ordination.

At the beginning of the Mass, Fr. Pavlo VYSHKOVSKYI, the delegation superior, welcomed the guests and spoke some words of courage: “Despite the fact that the war continues not so far away and despite the difficult times the Fatherland is enduring these days, God is telling us: Do not be afraid! Fear not, because today I am giving you and your land a new priest who will liberate from the yoke of the bondage of sin many souls. God does not abandon us; our land and our parish are greatly blessed in this priestly ordination.”

In his homily, Bishop Pyl recalled the importance of the sacrament of priesthood. “You, dear son, receive ordination in the name of Christ the teacher; carry out the mission entrusted to you. Preach the word of God to all … Let your studies be food for the people of God; may the holiness of your life be a source of joy for the followers of Jesus Christ.” The bishop concluded that on the previous day, the Church had celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and that on the ordination day, it was celebrating the Immaculate Heart of Mary. “Behold, dear Bogdan … be a priest after the model of the heart of Jesus.”

Forty years after the expulsion from Laos

August 31, 2015, will be the 40th anniversary of the expulsion of Italian Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate from Laos. Other foreign-born Oblates left the country between 1976 and 1978. Bishop Jean KHAMSÉ VITHAVONG was the only Oblate there for many years. He is now the Vicar Apostolic of Vientiane. Fr. Paolo MICELI, formerly a missionary in Laos (1972-75) and for nearly 40 years a member of the Delegation of Thailand, when he learned of the upcoming beatification, he visited Luang Prabang and wrote to Fr. Angelo PELIS on June 3, 2015. Below are some excerpts from his letter.

What emotion and what joy I felt at your message about the upcoming beatification of Fr. Mario BORZAGA and the catechist, Paul Xyooj, not to forget the cause of the other 15 martyrs of Laos, promoted by the local bishops and also ready for the next step.

The news persuaded me to make a pilgrimage to Luang Prabang, after forty years, and to spend a couple of days with Monsignor Tito Banchong, Apostolic Administrator, and his closest collaborators: deacons, sisters, some catechists. Fr. Mario Borzaga, the first Oblate martyr in Laos and Paul Xyooj, the first Hmong to be beatified, are already protectors of the Vicariate of Luang Prabang.

In those two days, I saw in person how the Holy Spirit is working to strengthen and give growth to the Church in our North Laos. Tito is a man who has total confidence in the action of the Holy Spirit and who lets himself be guided by God in his decisions. And one can see the results. Fr. Pierre Bounthà has been a priest for three years, the first of the new group, and he is an ever joyful priest, full of zeal, enthusiasm and a missionary spirit. Three deacons, God willing and in hope of receiving government approval, are preparing for priestly ordination, possibly at the end of the year.

The house which Tito has built, at this time, brings them all together: a veritable cenacle, where they pray and work together under his truly fatherly guidance. As is his style, he leads a very simple life: his free time is spent on the work necessary to maintain the house, from gardening to the various household needs, such as repairing the fishing nets. The priest and deacons follow his example by cutting the grass and taking care of the rice paddy.

There are also three Sisters of Charity of Saint Jeanne Antide Thouret, who take care of a school for the disable. At six in the morning, they all gather for the Eucharistic celebration.

The logistics are slowly taking shape. In Luang Prabang, the house where Tito lives, in addition to its authorized function as a hostel (guest house), at this time also serves as the seat of the Vicariate, Cathedral Church and Center for young people. A couple of kilometers further on, the Sisters have built and run a school for the disabled.

In the same area where the Sisters live, a property of about 30 by 50 meters has been purchased: it is now necessary to separate the center of the Mission from the parish church (cathedral) which will be dedicated, of course, to the first Blessed of the Vicariate.

In Vientiane, there is a building which houses the seminarians of the Vicariate of Luang Prabang: Fr. Bounthà is in charge. He and the three deacons all come from Sayabouri.

In the village of Pomg Vang, there is a very lively Christian community that has some freedom to live its Christianity.

In Huay Say, there are so many villages of different ethnicities, with rather large Christian communities. In particular, the community of the Lahù shows great vitality and fervor; they live in the area of Ton Pheung, the former village of Frs. Amadio VITALI and Natalino BELINGHERI. For the moment, Fr. Bounthà, with a government permit given annually, can go there three or four times a year for major festivities. In the near future, even with a permit to be renewed annually, it is believed that one of the new priests will be able to assure a stable presence.

I send you this news to tell you that the future Blessed Mario Borazaga and Paul Xyooj are already working hard in this North-Laos, which also witnessed our own sweat in planting the Church of Jesus. Besides Father Mario, I think of other dear companions who died there: Fr. Natalino SARTOR (1966), Bishop Leonello BERTI (1968), Fr. Antonio ZANONI (1972) and still others who have left us in the past 40 years since the expulsion from Laos. We are only a few now who are going strong!

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