1 Volume 32 No. 1 | Autumn 2022 Society Matters See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I ammaking a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19) A NEWSLETTER OF THE DIVINE WORD MISSIONARIES INC - AUSTRALIA PROVINCE Volume 32 No. 1 | Autumn 2022 Society Matters
Volume 32 No. 1 | Autumn 2022 2 Society Matters Message from the Provincial Superior Dear Friends, Welcome to the Autumn edition of Society Matters. As you can see, we have given Society Matters a fresh new design, given that it has been about a decade since our last one. We hope you like it. One of the great joys of celebrating our centenary last year was digging into the archives and seeing some of the old copies of Society Matters from decades past. It’s intriguing to see how publishing styles have changed over the years. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the essence of the magazine’s message. Society Matters aims to share with you some of the amazing projects that are being undertaken by Divine Word Missionaries around the world, particularly those projects which have been supported by the Australia Province, and in turn, by you, our benefactors and partners in mission. We endeavour to show you the human faces of those people you are assisting. By telling their stories, we hope you can see how these humanitarian projects are changing lives and allowing the poor and most marginalised to live with dignity and hope. St Arnold Janssen, the founder of the Divine Word Missionaries, was a great fan of sharing the gospel and sharing mission via the printed word. He himself edited magazines and to this day, Communication is one of the four key pillars or charismatic dimensions of the Society of the Divine Word. We are proud of the history of Society Matters and grateful to be able to continue sharing our missionary activity with you in this way. Thank you for your ongoing support of our mission work. We hope that in this edition you enjoy reading about some of the projects which are underway, including our feature story on Fr Truong Le SVD, a member of our own province, who is providing English language and computer lessons for some of the poorest young children in north-eastern Thailand, thus helping to provide a pathway out of poverty for them and future filled with hope. Yours in the Word, Fr Asaeli Rass SVD Provincial Superior Cover Story: Fr Truong Le SVD is helping the young children in his Thai village to further their education with English language and computer lessons. See the inspiring story on Pages 4-5. Appeal Office: 199 Epping Road, Marsfield NSW Locked Bag 3, Epping NSW 1710 Australia Telephone: +61 2 9868 2666 Victoria: 100 Albion Road, Box Hill, Vic 3128 Tel: +61 3 9890 0065 Queensland: 96 Lilac Street Inala QLD 4077 Tel: +61 7 3372 5658 New Zealand: 41 Britannia Street, Petone, 5046 Tel: +64 4 971 7885 Published by Divine Word Missionaries Incorporated, ABN 51 885 667 646
3 Volume 32 No. 1 | Autumn 2022 Society Matters Five new priests ordained for Christ’s mission “It asks that you have a real care for people, aware that to be for others we first need to be with them. Your priestly ministry is grounded in the life of the community where together we are open to the discovery of God’s will and the guidance of the Spirit. Your witness will be more in how we live our need of God’s love and not just to tell it. “Edward, Hai, Francois, Marius and Duc you are now to be ordained for priestly service to the Church as missionaries in the Society of the Divine Word, to carry the good news of Christ our incarnate saviour to a waiting world. Here is your life’s purpose. May it bring you the same joy it has brought to me for what are now 50 years of ordination. May you be blessed today and always.” At the conclusion of the Mass, Fr Francois delivered the words of thanksgiving on behalf of the new priests. “We are happy!” he declared. “If you are happy, we are happier. And if you are happier, we are the happiest today. We want to first-of-all thank God who has not only called us but also has chosen us to be one of his servants, one of his shepherds, to be part of and to extend his Kingdom. Thank you, God.” Each of the newly ordained spoke a few words in their own language to family and friends watching online, before Fr Francois thanked Bishop Curtin, their formators, teachers and all SVD members of the AUS Province. The young missionaries have been assigned to: Edward - Zimbabwe Region; Hai - Colombia; Francois - Australia; Marius - Netherlands-Belgium; Duc - USA Chicago Province (Canada). Five young Divine Word Missionaries have been ordained to the priesthood and will soon leave for their missionary assignments in countries across the globe. Duc Le from Vietnam, Edward Teye from Ghana, Hai Nguyen from Vietnam and Francois Andrianihantana and Marius Razafimandimby, both from Madagascar were ordained on Saturday, November 27, by Bishop Terence Curtin, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, at the Our Lady of La Vang Shrine in Keysborough, Victoria. In his homily, Bishop Curtin spoke of the personal call to priesthood, as illustrated in the readings chosen for the day. “Marius, Francois, Duc, Hai, Edward, these readings set the path for the sacrament you are about to receive,” he said. “As the prophet (Isaiah) spoke of his personal call, so for you, this is a vocation, not a career, which you are entering into. You first heard that call as He began to whisper in your hearts even in childhood. Today you hear that divine call through the Church as I call you forth to orders. God is the one who has loved us first and the Church now recognises your vocation as a true response to that love. Be confident of that call.” Bishop Curtin referred also to the gospel reading from the Prologue to John’s Gospel. “The Word pitched His tent among us,” he said. “Your lives will now take on new dimensions as you set forth for your missionary journeys in five continents. A tent is not the strongest of buildings, but its very fragility offers a space with that necessary close connection with the peoples you will serve.
Volume 32 No. 1 | Autumn 2022 4 Society Matters ‘Smart classroom’ invests in village students’ future A Divine Word Missionary project in Thailand is helping school students in a local village to raise educational standards with the establishment of English and Computer courses. Fr Truong Le SVD, a member of the SVD Australia Province, has been taking care of Immaculate Conception Church and Jesus of Nazareth Church in the Buengkan Province in northeastern Thailand for more than a year now and began offering English classes soon after his arrival. “Particularly at Immaculate Conception Church in the villagea of Sangkhompatthana, I have been offering English courses to young people, both Buddhists and Catholics, and looking forward to expanding this by offering computer courses free of charge,” he said. “I find that educational investment impacts the livelihood of the students and their families significantly and most directly.” Fr Truong said the region is considered one of the most impoverished regions in Thailand due to the lack of rainfall and industry. “The makeup of Sangkhompatthana is low-income families whose staple food is dependent upon the annual rice crops. Very little can be sold for profit,” he said. “In recent years, these families have been able to supplement their income by harvesting rubber trees, which brings in about $130 USD per month. Others, without land to plant rubber trees, work for daily wages with whatever is available. The daily wage is slightly lower than in larger towns and cities at around $10-12 USD.” Fr Truong said educational standards in the villages are lower than those in larger towns and cities. “Students tend to have lower educational attainment due to the lack of encouragement and support from family, lack of resources, poorly-trained teachers, poverty, and other issues that affect the youth,” he said. “From the very beginning, I’ve been attuning to the need of the villages by opening up English courses for young people. Now, I’m opening up a computer course because I learned that they have never touched a computer before. “English is one of the requirements in standardised tests, and computer skills are essential for academic competence. So, these courses aim to help students improve in school and build capacity for academic achievements.” Fr Truong said he began teaching the young people outside in the pavilion amongst the rice paddies. “It’s a charming scene, but not conducive to learning, with distractions like passing motorcycles, cows, water buffaloes, and people,” he said. “So, I was able to clear out a storage room that serves as a temporary classroom. With more students interested in learning English and computer skills, the current classroom is inadequate to meet the needs.” Thanks to its benefactors and partners in mission, the SVD AUS Province was able to support the project to expand the classroom to accommodate 12 students. The funding helped with the purchase of tables and chairs, an air-conditioning unit, and six laptop computers. “The expansion and resources aims to provide students with a conducive environment to learn English and basic computer skills, improve students’ skill-sets and allow for capacity-building,” Fr Truong said.
5 Volume 32 No. 1 | Autumn 2022 Society Matters “This investment in education directly impacts the livelihood of young people and opens up more opportunities for them in the future.” Fr Truong said demand for the course has grown since the opening of the smart classroom with technological resources. “Within a month of using the smart classroom (OctoberNovember), students showed tremendous strides in computer skills, mainly typing, and English language learning,” he said. “The typing lessons were received overwhelmingly well. The 10 students that make up the bulk of the class (1014 years of age) were competent with typing skills within three weeks. To further their development, I gave them time to write journals, which in turn helped them with Thai language learning. “The computers and laptops have been invaluable resources to aid with English language learning. Students were more engaged and active in the learning process with supplemental instructions from online English programs like Duolingo. It offers games and practice lessons which I was not equipped with before. “Within months of opening the smart classroom, I see the possibilities to further help young people in the village of Sangkhomphatthana. English language learning can continue with the expansion of the curriculum. The computer lessons can bolster students’ learning capacity with Word, Powerpoint, Excel, and other essential programs. The impact is far-reaching.” Fr Truong said the educational opportunities would not be possible without the funding from the SVD Generalate, including support from the AUS Province. “The financing of the project has a 5-fold direct impact within a year. To put this on monetary terms (for the purpose of measuring impact), a native English speaker with certification will earn 500-1000 Baht per hour in Bangkok,” he said. “The availability of proficient English teachers diminishes moving from the urban to rural context. Learning in an air-conditioned room with technological resources and a native speaker with a certificate will go at a minimum of 500 baht an hour. I’m currently teaching 10 students with five hours of instruction each week. So, within a year, that comes out to be 1,200,000 Baht -a five-fold direct impact from the initial 240,000 baht funding. “Of course, I’m offering the course free of charge. But the measurable impact shows that the project is worthwhile and will improve the livelihood of the young people and their families in the village of Sankhomphatthana.”
Volume 32 No. 1 | Autumn 2022 6 Society Matters SVD’s year of celebration in Oceania a time for thanksgiving It’s been a year of celebration, thanksgiving and reflection for the SVD in Oceania, with the Australian centenary celebrations drawing to a close, the SVD in Papua New Guinea celebrating 125 years and the SVD mission in Central Australia marking its 20th anniversary. The Australian centenary celebrations concluded on World Mission Sunday in October with a small Mass due to the pandemic restrictions. Provincial, Fr Asaeli Rass SVD, said the occasion was a time to “give thanks for those dedicated and tenacious missionaries who left their homeland and came across the seas to share the love of Jesus Christ in this part of the world”. From humble and somewhat tenuous beginnings with the arrival of a handful of European missionaries, the Australia Province now includes Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Mynamar. “In my opening remarks at the closing Mass of our Centenary year, I said we were celebrating 100 years of sweat and hard work; 100 years of pioneering spirit, loneliness, failures, and pain,” Fr Rass said. “But also 100 years of communal joy in the Spirit, spiritual growth in the Society and spiritual nourishment that is enjoyed by all. “And not forgetting 100 years of expansion of missionary ideals and activities in the Province. More loving, more trusting in God. “As we look back in thanksgiving, we join with the Psalmist in exclaiming, ‘The Lord has done great things for us, we are filled with joy’. Fr Rass said it was also through Divine Providence that the SVD has maintained through 20 years its ministry in Central Australia “where we are working with one of the most disadvantaged peoples on earth”. “We offered our Centenary Mass for the plight of the Aboriginal peoples of the land,” he said. “Our celebration providentially took place on World Mission Sunday and in his message for that occasion, Pope Francis gave voice to the driving missionary impulse behind all that we do – that having ourselves known the love of God, we cannot help but share it, especially with the poor and marginalised.” Meanwhile, the Divine Word Missionaries celebrated 125 years in Papua New Guinea with a range of celebrations, giving thanks to God for all the blessings bestowed on the mission, the people, and the missionaries themselves. SVD Superior-General, Fr Paul Budi Kleden, was special guest at the celebrations in August, having made it all the
7 Volume 32 No. 1 | Autumn 2022 Society Matters way from Rome, despite the COVID-related difficulties in international travel. The Divine Word Missionaries’ presence in PNG was approved by the founder of the Society, St Arnold Janssen who had in 1895 received an official inquiry from Cardinal M. Ledochowski as to whether the SVD would be prepared to take on a new mission in German New Guinea. Led by Fr Eberhard Limbrock, the SVD missionaries first set foot on New Guinea at Madang in 1896 and then settled in Tumleo Island. After six months in Tumleo, the missionaries established the “Queen of Angels” station among the Walman People living on the opposite side on the mainland of Tumleo. They opened the first school in July 1897 and from 1900 to 1914 they established a series of mission stations along the North Coast of Madang. In 1906 the Holy Spirit Sisters, also founded by St Arnold Janssen, arrived in New Guinea. From 1911-1942 more stations were established bringing the works of the mission to the side of Bogia. The early missionaries did not only preach the Word of God, but instead they focused on improving the community life. Giving basic services like schools, health centres, teaching crafts like carpentry, etc. Today the SVD Missionaries are serving in seven dioceses across PNG. There are two active bishops; 68 priests, 12 religious brothers and 22 seminarians in the country. The SVDs have sent 18 PNG national priests and brothers on mission to 12 different countries. The SVD is a significant presence in PNG and is involved in parish ministry, healthcare, education, communications and a range of other ministries. Celebrations of 125 years in PNG started back in January 2021 with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Douglas Young in Mt Hagen. Archbishop Young described it as big day for Catholics to look back on and celebrate the church’s history and origins in the country. “As we come to celebrate this event, we come to know and acknowledge what the SVD missionaries have done to help us live a life where we are living today,” he told The National newspaper. “We are here today to realise and recognise how SVD played its part to bring light, hope and life to the people.” The celebrations continued in August with the arrival of the Superior-General, Fr Budi Kleden. He was welcomed in Madang by the SVD community led by Provincial Fr Jose Orathinkal SVD. The people of Malmal Community- an outstation of Alexishafen presented a ‘singsing’. The Jubilee Mass was held on August 6 in the Cathedral in Madang, to commemorate the first landing of the SVD in Madang in 1896, with Fr Budi presiding. Celebrations continued throughout the Province Assembly which followed.
Volume 32 No. 1 | Autumn 2022 8 Society Matters Former SVD Provincial appointed a bishop for Brisbane Pope Francis has appointed Society of the Divine Word priest and former Provincial of the Australia Province, Fr Tim Norton SVD as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. Fr Tim, who has been in ministry in Italy, joins Auxiliary Bishop Ken Howell in supporting Archbishop Mark Coleridge in serving the Catholics of Brisbane Archdiocese. Born and raised in Sydney, Fr Tim made his first profession in 1986 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1991. He describes several years of religious formation and priestly ministry in Mexico as “very formative for him”. Fr Tim also spent time before and after ordination living and working with people in Sydney’s Cana Community who often live on the streets, struggling with mental illness and addiction. He trained as a physiotherapist before entering religious life, and he continues to see that as part of his ministry. “In my life there’s been a growing awareness that I’ve been attracted to be with people who are different to me. When I was in the seminary as a physiotherapist, I looked for and found a job in Pentridge Prison. I also worked at the Aboriginal Medical Service in Melbourne,” he said. Since June 2020, Fr Tim, who speaks English, Spanish and Italian, has been working full-time with consecrated women and men promoting interculturality, something the Divine Word Missionaries and Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit are renowned for, including in Australia. Fr Tim said ministry with multicultural parish communities is an important way the SVD is already involved in Brisbane Archdiocese. While head of the Australian province, he worked with Archbishop Coleridge to establish a Divine Word Missionary presence in two parishes. “The SVD are active in the parishes of Inala and KingstonMarsden, both very multicultural, and therefore places where the SVD confreres do their best work,” he said. Fr Tim also worked with the local St Vincent de Paul Society in arranging for one of the SVD’s properties in Brisbane to serve as a shelter for people fleeing abusive relationships. In almost 40 years of ministry, Fr Tim has also held key roles in SVD seminaries and has spent most of the past eight years in Nemi, near Rome, running renewal programs for priests and brothers. Fr Tim said he would bring to his ministry in Brisbane “an intense interest in culture, and the mission of God in the world, whatever shape or form that may take”. SVD Provincial, Fr Asaeli Rass, said Fr Tim will be “an exciting and extremely capable bishop”. “As a missionary and a former Provincial, he will bring to this ministry a wealth of experience in Church leadership both at the universal and local level. At this time when the Church in Australia, through the Plenary Council, is striving to become a more missionary Church, inclusive, merciful and compassionate, Tim’s personal gifts and missionary experience are right for the times,” Fr Rass said. “Tim will be the first SVD member to be appointed a bishop in Australia and his appointment is an occasion of great joy and thanksgiving for the Province.” www.divineword.org.au A Newsletter of the Divine Word Missionaries Inc - Australia Province Donations to the SVD AUS Province Overseas Aid Fund can be made online at www.divineword.org.au or by mailing to DivineWord Missionary Appeal Office, Locked Bag 3, Epping NSW, 1710, Australia. +61 2 9868 9015 @svdaus Society Matters