ASIA-OCEANIA50 years of Oblate presence
This 2016 is a very special year for the Oblates of the Thai-Lao Delegation. Fifty years ago the first three pioneering Oblates arrived in Thailand with the purpose of establishing ministries that would respond to the needs of the local church. The first three who arrived in 1966 were Frs. Gerard FORTIN, Christian GILLES and Jean HABERSTROH. The three knew each other very well because they had once been missionaries in Sri Lanka.
Members of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate Thai-Lao Delegation
The actual mission work started in 1967 when the three of them began to work separately: Fr. Fortin worked in a squatter area in Klongtoei; Fr. Haberstroh worked at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Samsen; and Fr. Gilles worked at the Assumption Cathedral in Bangkok. Three years later, the Archdiocese of Bangkok entrusted to the Oblates the Fatima Church in Din Daeng, Bangkok. From that time, the Oblates used the Fatima Church as the center of the Oblates in Thailand especially for receiving new members as they arrived. Fr. Pierre CHEVROULET, who was then the Superior of the Vice-Province of Vientiane, Laos, announced that Thailand had become part of their mission.
Several other Oblates joined the mission, but in 1976 political turmoil in Laos caused the Superior General to suppress the Vice-Province of Vientiane and Luang Prabang; both Thailand-Laos became a General Delegation.
With the increase in members due to the arrival of more Oblates, the General Delegation accepted invitations to work in other dioceses as well: the Diocese of Udon Thani in 1979 and the Diocese of Nakhorn Sawan in 2004.
The Delegation Congress in 2007 set new priorities for the entire Delegation. New ministries were taken on: ministry with the Hmong people and justice issues related to migrants, refugees and human trafficking.
In 2010, the Thai-Lao General Delegation became a Delegation of the Philippine Province. Besides ten Thai Oblates, there are also Oblates from the Philippines and Italy working there. At present, the Delegation has 5 scholastics studying theology.
On 19 November 2016, the Thai-Lao Delegation will celebrate its 50 years of presence in Thailand with Mass at the Fatima Church in Din Daeng, Bangkok. The main celebrant will be Bishop Chamnian Santisukniran of the Archdiocese of Tharae-Nongsaeng.
In 8 August 2016, a terrorist bomb killed at least 70 people and injured 130 more in a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan. On 25 October 2016, at least 59 cadets and guards were killed in an attack by militants on a police college in that same city. The Vicar Apostolic of Quetta is an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, Bishop Victor GNANAPRAGASAM.
On 28 October, the Vatican news bureau, Fides, made the following report:
Christian and Islamic religious leaders who intervened to resolve a case of alleged blasphemy in Quetta, the Pakistani province of Baluchistan played a decisive role regarding two Christians. As Fr. Renald REMINDRAN, Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate in Quetta, reports to Fides, a nine-year-old Christian boy named Izhan and his mother Shakeela Kauser, a nurse at the Civil Hospital in Quetta and mother of three children, were stopped and questioned on charges of blasphemy: they were accused of having burned pages of the Koran on 20 October.
After the complaint, the police stopped them. In this instance some local Christian leaders got the leaders of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam organization involved, who played a key role to exonerate the two of all charges. The matter was resolved on October 21, and accusations of blasphemy were declared void, "We are delighted with this outcome. It is significant. In the province of Baluchistan no one so far has been charged and convicted for blasphemy", said Fr. Remindran to Fides. In a note sent to Fides, Anjum James Paul, President of the Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association, appreciated the role of political and religious leaders, Muslims and Christians, to ascertain the truth and prevent any conflict between the two communities.
Mazenod Youth, a ministry of the Province of Colombo, has found another new way to share the gospel with young persons. For some time now, we have been conducting different types of programmes, sessions, workshops and seminars with youth, children and adults by using videos, music and other experiences.
As our latest venture, our team invited youth to join us in preaching novenas in parishes. It was really inspirational and touching. The youth are not at all shy about sharing their experiences and talents in preaching novenas. Using Power Point presentations, songs and hymns, together with Bible quotations, short dramas and real life experiences, they bring the faithful closer to God.
We call this preaching experience with youth a "Mini-Mazenod-Mission.” The latest "Mini-Mazenod-Mission” was conducted in the Wanathawilluwa parish where the newly assigned parish priest is Fr. Prabhath SANJAYA. There were seven Mazenod Youth members who came from various places to share the Word of God with the people. (Fr. S. Randil FERNANDO)