1 Volume 32 No. 3 | Spring 2022 Society Matters He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap. (Psalm 113:7) A NEWSLETTER OF THE DIVINE WORD MISSIONARIES INC - AUSTRALIA PROVINCE Volume 32 No. 3 | Spring 2022 Society Matters
Volume 32 No. 3 | Spring 2022 2 Society Matters Message from the Provincial Superior Dear Friends, Several weeks ago I was privileged to attend the Second Assembly of the 5th Plenary Council of Australia, held in Sydney. It was an interesting time, as the Members of the Assembly sought to chart a path forward for the Church in Australia, under the leadership and movement of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t always a smooth ride, but one of the encouraging things about the Plenary Council has been that it has always held Mission at its core. Indeed, the stated goal of the Council was to become a more missionary Church, ‘a Christ-centred Church, open to conversion, renewal and reform’. It’s often said that the Church doesn’t have a mission, the Church is mission – that is, this call for believers to share their life in Christ with others is central to who the Church is. As Divine Word Missionaries we seek to do this, through what Pope Francis calls, “the Culture of Encounter”. That is, we accompany people in their lives, especially the poor and the marginalised, and it is in this encounter that we live our mission. You too, our Partners in Mission, are part of this Culture of Encounter, because you support our missionary work in so many ways, and help us to turn mission into reality. As you’ll see in this year’s financial report on Page 8, you have assisted in providing concrete assistance to people in need across the globe. Whether it being helping poor and illiterate children access an education, empowering women to learn skills to financially sustain them and their families, AIDS education and support, pandemic relief, caring for the disabled and elderly. This is the human face of the Culture of the Encounter. May God bless you and your family. Please be assured, you are always in our prayers. Yours in the Word, Fr Asaeli Rass SVD Provincial Superior Cover Story: One of the works carried out at the Janssen Social Centre in Telangana State, India is the provision of basic food and rice for destitute women in the community. See story on pages 6-7.. 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. 3 | Spring 2022 Society Matters ‘It didn’t even occur to us to leave’ – Missionaries stand with the people of Ukraine The Divine Word Missionaries in Ukraine have stayed with their people since the Russian aggression began on February 24, organising help, food and shelter for those in need and continuing to celebrate the sacraments. “It didn’t even occur to us to leave,” said the local District Superior Father Wojciech Zółty SVD in an interview with Vatican Radio. “All we could think about was what we needed to do to be with the people, and how we could help them.” Fr Wojciech is one of two SVD missionaries currently working in Ukraine. The Divine Word Missionaries urgently transformed their retreat centre in the southern part of Ukraine into a home for people escaping the war. “We have welcomed refugees from Kiev, Kharkiv, and Donetsk and they stay with us here at the Centre,” he said. “Some families stay longer, while others look for a place to stay among their family members. “What scares me most is the sadness that I have witnessed, the profound despair. They spend all their time searching for their families and loved ones, trying to find out if they are still alive and are safe.” Also in Ukraine is Fr Adam Kruczynski SVD, who is working at a parish in Struga. Fr Adam said the Russian aggression came as a big surprise to everyone. “This aggression is conducted in an inhuman way. In spite of all difficulties and inhuman oppression the Ukrainian nation fights for its freedom and independence in an heroic way,” he said in an April SVD video interview. “Our SVD parishes are situated approximately 450km east from the border with Poland. Thank God, where we work, life goes on in a more or less normal way, so we have more opportunities to help others.” Fr Adam said that the refugees from Kiev and other eastern Ukrainian towns and villages who are staying at the SVD retreat centre had fled for their lives. “These people escaped from their homes, leaving almost everything behind them,” he said. “That’s why the urgent needs of these people are the basic hygiene products, some clothing, food, and first of all, a roof over their heads, which we try to provide for them.” Holy Spirit Sister Lucyna Grzasko also stayed on in Kiev when the war broke out, continuing with her ministry working in radio. “I have been in Ukraine for 30 years and that is why as a missionary I could not leave people in need. They are in my heart,” she wrote for the Arnoldus Nota. Meanwhile, in Poland, the SVD is also receiving refugees from Ukraine in their mission houses in Chludowo, Krynica, Morska, Lublin, Nysa and Warsaw. “They are mainly mothers with children,” said the Polish Province’s Mission Secretary Fr Andrzej Danilewicz SVD in the latest edition of Arnoldus Nota, the news publication of the SVD generalate. “We will do our best to host them as long as they need.”
Volume 32 No. 3 | Spring 2022 4 Society Matters Learning the language key to unlocking culture in mission The very first thing that Divine Word Missionaries do when they are assigned to a country is to learn the language, because it is in being able to communicate with the people that they learn more about them and their culture and really get to know and to love them in Christ. Fr Truong Le SVD, who is a member of the SVD Australia Province, working as a parish priest in a village in northeastern Thailand, was born in Saigon, Vietnam and his family emigrated to the US when he was six. “I would say that I have a 1st grade level Vietnamese language competency,” he says. “The primary language used at home is Vietnamese, so I’m able to retain much of it. English is my primary language and Vietnamese is my secondary. But now, with Thai thrown into the mix, the ordering may be shifting.” Fr Truong first arrived in Thailand as part of the SVD’s Overseas Training Program (OTP), prior to ordination. He undertook Thai language studies in Bangkok for six months and then moved into pastoral ministry for the rest of his program. “I felt that the six months of classroom studies gave me adequate training wheels, but the encounter with the people helped me develop language skills further and much more in-depth than the formal classroom can provide,” he says. “Coming back to Thailand for the first assignment, I just went straight into pastoral ministry, and the Thai language came back naturally. “However, one of the challenges of working in the Isan Region (in north-eastern Thailand) is learning the local language, which the people refer to as the ‘Isan language’ or ‘Laos’.” Fr Truong says he can now read, write and preach in Thai. “However, at the same time, I’m trying to improve expressing philosophical, theological, psychological and spiritual content in the local context. “I always have a blast exchanging ideas with the villagers. I don’t think I’ll master any of the languages, but that’s the beauty of it all: learning and seeing more of the world every day.” Fr Truong says his parishioners help him to learn the local Isan language and encourage him to use more of it, especially during preaching. “Language is a bridge, and the villagers help me to build a sturdier one every day. Without this bridge, quite frankly, mission would be difficult to cross.” He says learning the local language is fundamental to mission. “It is paramount to communicate in the local language. If not, then nothing much can be done in terms of missionary work. Communication is crucial in encountering the people, understanding the local context, learning their way of life, and listening to their needs. “Concretely and substantially, language is the medium to proclaim Christ to the culture.” Also assigned to Thailand is Indonesian-born Fr Bernard (Ben) Bella SVD, who has been learning the local language. “My language background is Bahasa Indonesia, but I also Fr Olivier Noclam SVD celebrates Mass with the Arrernte people of Central Australia Fr Truong Le SVD teaching English to Thai children
5 Volume 32 No. 3 | Spring 2022 Society Matters learnt English since I was at Secondary School, so at least I know how to speak English too,” he says. “I spent the first six months in Thailand learning Thai at Rajabhat University of Udon Thani but after that seemed like it was really still not enough, so I took another six months in Bangkok at an intensive Thai Language Course.” Fr Ben, who is based in Nong Bua Lamphu, says he has now been in Thailand for almost 10 years and is able to use the language in both formal and informal situations. “I keep learning it and keep trying to speak with Thai people every day, in terms of where I’m staying and working,” he says. He says his parishioners help him to speak Thai correctly. “The Thai language has five intonations in one word, which means one word could have five different meanings, so I have to learn from native speakers how to make the correct pronunciation,” he says. “I think, wherever we are, it is very important to at least be able to communicate with the parishioners in their own language because it can be really helpful for doing my job and doing the Mission.” Meanwhile, Fr Hung Nguyen SVD, who is Vietnamese, has recently returned to the Australia Province where he was an OTP student some years ago, to undertake English language studies before beginning his pastoral ministry here. “My mother language is Vietnamese,” he says. “I learned English for months when I did my OTP program in Australia 10 years ago, then I went back to Vietnam to finish my study, before returning to Australia four months ago to study English. “English is hard for me, however, I feel confident in my conversation with people. “For me, language is the gate to get inside the culture, so I am trying to open this gate to know Australian culture with my English. It is not easy but I can open it. I think I have a big chance for my future mission when I come here to study English.” Fr Olivier (Ollie) Noclam SVD who is Aboriginal Catholic Chaplain in Central Australia, was born and raised in Vanuatu. Also speaking French, English is Fr Ollie’s third language. He also learned Spanish during his OTP experience in Mexico and his first missionary assignment in Cuba. Now, he is slowly learning the local indigenous Arrernte language. “It’s very challenging,” he says. “It’s very hard to learn. I’ve been trying to learn it ever since I came here but it’s hard to write down the sounds because there are lots of consonants and not many vowels. “I haven’t made much progress in six years, but I keep trying and the people appreciate that. I can read a few things now, but my speech is still basic. I know some words and phrases but to have a real conversation that flows is hard.” Despite the challenges though, Fr Ollie is convinced that learning the language is crucial to missionary work. “People are closer to you when you speak their language,” he says. “When you express yourself in their language, people really appreciate it. “We have learnt basic Catholic prayers in their language so we can pray together and that provides common ground. “Parts of the Bible have already been translated into the Arrernte language and here in Alice Springs we have the Arrernte Mass, where most of the parts of the Mass have the responses in Arrernte words and the songs are sung in Arrernte. “The people here know we are trying our best. We don’t give up. It’s something important for us.” Fr Hung Nguyen SVD Fr Bernard Bella SVD with parishioners who help him to speak Thai correctly
Volume 32 No. 3 | Spring 2022 6 Society Matters Remedial school and social centre bring education, training & support to Indian tribal community The Divine Word Missionaries in Telangana State, India, are reaching out to the less privileged people in their local area through a range of programs, including a social work centre and a remedial school and hostel which aim to be a hub for promoting education and development among the poor tribal population. The Janssen Social Centre, named after St Arnold Janssen who founded the Society of the Divine Word, is located in Edulla Bayyaram Pinapaka, about 370km from Hyderabad. The SVD took up the mission there in 2001 at the invitation of the local bishop and were the first Catholic missionaries to arrive in the village. The opening of the Janssen Social Centre was the first step in assisting the local people to meet their health, employment, skills training and educational needs, while also providing assistance for the destitute and fresh water for the village. “The objective of the centre is to reach out to various sections of the people, especially the less privileged, through useful and people-friendly activities,” Fr Madavaram J. Suresh said. “During the course of the last few years, we have been organising the following programs at this centre with the help and active participation of the Daughters of Mercy who came here in 2001 at the invitation of the bishop.” Among the services offered at the Janssen Social Centre are a dispensary for necessary medications and a tailoring and embroidery course for poor, unemployed girls and young women. There is also a Tuberculosis eradication camp, pre-school nurseries, health animation in the villages, a housing project for the poor, formation of women’s saving groups, and a program for feeding the elderly and the destitute. “A health camp for the tribals is organised every month in our campus with the help and support of the Janssen Social Centre and the diocesan team,” Fr Suresh said. “Each month, the members of the local Women’s Self Help Groups also gather on our campus to discuss their activities.” Fr Suresh said the Janssen Social Centre also has an outreach component to the people in need in the surrounding forest areas. “We visit the people in the different hamlets in the forest settlements and provide old clothes to them,” he said. “The people are very poor, mostly labourers, and, with the help of government subsidy and financial help from the Diocese and the SVD, we also assist with the construction of toilets and houses in the villages. “Twenty destitute elderly women are given 10kgs of rice, free of cost for their sustenance and we also help people by digging borewells in the villages where there is water scarcity.” The SVD is also investing in the future with more than 20 students from the parish being helped financially by the JSC for their school and college education. “During the COVID-19 pandemic we opened the tuition
7 Volume 32 No. 3 | Spring 2022 Society Matters centres in the villages for the children to study,” Fr Suresh said. The SVD also runs a remedial school and hostel associated with the Janssen Social Centre. This is a school for children who have dropped out of school and for child labourers, which began in December 2003. One of the key focuses is to improve literacy in an area where many children drop out of school before Year 10. Fr Suresh said a 2007 report showed that 26 per cent of rural households and eight per cent of urban households in India do not have a single member above the age of 14 who can read or write. A 2010 news report said that less than half of school-age children in India go to school and a government report showed that only 37.1 per cent of the population aged 3-35 years has received the free education offered in Telangana State and around 53 per cent of girls aged 5-9 are illiterate. “Our experience is not any different,” Fr Suresh said. “This school for the drop-out children and child labourers was established in 2003 and I visited many Gothi Koya tribal settlements and admitted their children to the school. It is very distressing to note that not even one mother of a Gothi Koya child is literate.” He said many tribal families don’t see the benefit in sending their children to school, where the rewards might not be reaped for years, while the monetary gains of their children working as agricultural labourers in their own fields or in those belonging to other farmers in the village are clear and immediate. “The children, as well as their parents lack motivation to go to school and moreover, as some of the villagers are totally illiterate or the literacy rate is negligibly low, they have no role models to look up to.” Since opening the Janssen Bala Vidya Bhavan school and hostel, the SVD’s activities at the school have gained acceptance and recognition from the local people and villagers are sending their children on their own to the school and hostels. Fr Suresh thanked all those, including the SVD AUS Province, who have helped support their mission. “We sincerely thank all our benefactors for their generosity in helping the poor children and people in our mission,” he said.
Volume 32 No. 3 | Spring 2022 8 Society Matters INDIAMUMBAI (INM) $56,883 MADAGASCAR (MAD) $26,076 CHAD (TCD) $17,948 ZAMBIA (ZAM) $10,542 THAILAND $9,891 INDONESIA ENDE PROVINCE (IDE) $21,633 INDIA EAST (INE) $23,661 INDIAHYDERABAD (INH) $37,950 INDONESIA TIMOR LESTE ZAMBIA 3 Old age home support in Mwandi Parish in the Western Province of Zambia 3 Support for 30 vulnerable and needy students 3 Education for Vulnerable children at St Charles Lwanga Parish, Kabwe 3 Social Assistance for families 3 Empowering women and girls 3 Caring for the Disabled and Elderly 3 Pandemic Relief Program. MADAGASCAR 3 Education at the Parish of Sts Peter and Paul in the district of Vohilava 3 Promotion of women 3 Support of families with twin children. CHAD, AFRICA 3 Education 3 Women’s Literacy 3 Support for Vulnerable Elderly People 3 Animation of young people and children. 3 Accompanying people living with HIV and AIDS. 3 Personality Development Workshop for final year students. 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 2666 @svdaus Society Matters EAST TIMOR (TLS) $7,993 DIOCESEOFDONKORKROM (GHANA) $14,896 DIOCESEOF FRANCISTOWN (BOTSWANA) $14,896 DIOCESEOF INDORE (INDIA) $9,931 THAILAND 3 Educational resources and expansion of classroom for Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in the village of Sangkhompatthana, Buengkan. 3 Coaching, Tuition and Maintenance of Tribal Hostel in Dibyo Bani Niketan, Gonpada 3 Animation of slum-dwellers and marginalised communities in Jharsuguda, Odisha 3 Protection, preservation and promotion of Tribal Culture. 3 Maintenance of remedial school and hostel 3 Care of physically disabled children. 3 Nutrition and Educational Empowerment for the tribal children in Mangaon 3 Street Children Project in Pune 3 Migrant Ministry in Kerala. INDIA (Across Central, Eastern and Mumbai Provinces) THANK YOU! Your financial support is changing lives through the following SVD projects: