Society Matters | Volume 33 No. 2 | Winter 2023

1 Volume 33 No. 2 | Winter 2023 Society Matters Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14) A NEWSLETTER OF THE DIVINE WORD MISSIONARIES INC - AUSTRALIA PROVINCE Volume 33 No. 2 | Winter 2023 Society Matters

Volume 33 No. 2 | Winter 2023 2 Society Matters Message from the Provincial Superior Dear Friends, Welcome to the Winter edition of Society Matters for 2023. I’ve experienced lots of different kinds of winters in my life. Where I come from, in Fiji, winter is no big deal. Temperatures are moderate all year round, and the average temperature for July is 26 degrees Celsius. The dry season does bring a welcome relief from the rainy season’s humidity though. When I was a SVD student gaining missionary experience in Ghana there was also a dry and wet season, with the dry season of the winter months still regularly bringing temperatures of 25-30+ degrees Celsius. And, during my time in Central Australia, the desert winters could get pretty cold, especially the nights, which often dip below 0 degrees. Around the world, of course, winter is harsh for many people, especially those who don’t have much in the way of warm clothing, well-insulated housing and heating. In this edition of Society Matters you will read the mission story of Fr Niran Veigas SVD who has swapped the coldest of imaginable winters with one of the mildest. Fr Niran, who hails from India has spent the last several years on mission in Russia where his initial delight in seeing snow, soon gave way to a deeper understanding of the realities of sub-zero winter living. Now, Fr Niran has arrived in the Australia Province, where he is assigned to the Tiwi Islands, off the coast of Darwin and he certainly won’t see any snow there! These two missionary assignments could not be more different from one another and his story is a great illustration of the missionary life – of the openness to new experiences, new people, new cultures and languages. We welcome Fr Niran to our Province and hope you enjoy reading his story. Also in this edition is a feature story on an SVD project which helped to sustain those hardest hit by the COVID pandemic in Saigon, Vietnam. This project and many others around the world could not happen without the support of you, our Partners in Ministry. We give thanks for you always and pray for God’s blessings on you and your family. Yours in the Word, Fr Asaeli Rass SVD Provincial Superior Cover Story: The SVD in Vietnam have been providing basic food and assistance to help migrants and the poor, who were hard-hit by the pandemic lockdowns, get back on their feet. Read more on Pages 4 and 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 33 No. 2 | Winter 2023 Society Matters Provincial Chapter reaffirms missionary priorities Provincial Council, along with some recommendations to the Provincial Council. One of the resolutions to the Provincial Council was that it form a Future Strategic Planning Committee for the Province, to identify goals, objectives, and responsibilities. There were also resolutions to review all Province policies; to appoint a director to the Logos Spirituality Centre in Alice Springs to further the Province’s commitment to indigenous spirituality and theologies; and to recommit itself to the specialised ministry of interfaith dialogue. There were resolutions also to explore expansion of SVD ministry in other dioceses in Thailand and to request the Superior-General and Council move towards establishing the Thailand-Myanmar District as a Mission. Fr Rass says the reaffirmation of the priority given to indigenous ministry stood out strongly in the Chapter proceedings. “This confirmed some of our previous deliberations to commit to our work with indigenous peoples,” he says. “This accords with the current realities, particularly in Central Australia, and also the upcoming Voice to Parliament campaign. The brothers know it is not an easy ministry but that it is worth every bit of energy, sweat and missionary energy.” Fr Rass says he was impressed by the willingness of the young confreres to step up into challenging ministries. “There is a willingness to risk, and to trust in God,” he says. The Provincial Chapter was a positive, hopeful time of deliberation on the future priorities of the SVD Australia Province, with a focus on personal and communal renewal for mission, says Provincial, Fr Asaeli Rass SVD. The outcomes included a reaffirmation of the priority given to ministry in indigenous communities, as well as a renewed commitment to multicultural parish ministry and interfaith dialogue. “I was very impressed by the passion of the confreres to deliberate on the priorities of the Province, focusing especially on the recommendations from the SVD Generalate in Rome on personal and communal renewal,” Fr Rass says. “They were very positive deliberations, proposing ways of ongoing formation in the spiritual and community life and our mission apostolate. “I could sense the brothers loved to be there, loved to take part in the future planning of the Province and thinking and praying about what God is asking of us today.” Fr Rass says the address by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv on synodality gave “solid” food for thought. “This synodality is the dream of Pope Francis that we all want to be part of. Synodality is actually the path to a new way of being Church for the future, and, as with all new beginnings, it can be difficult and challenging. Bishop Vincent expressed all of that very well.” During the Chapter, the confreres voted on a number of resolutions, to both the General Council in Rome and the

Volume 33 No. 2 | Winter 2023 4 Society Matters SVD helps migrants and the poor get back on their feet after pandemic When COVID-19 hit the streets of Saigon in Vietnam everyone was affected by the economic impact, but the situation was particularly dire for migrants, the poor and factory workers, with many finding it hard to put food on the table. A project by the Divine Word Missionaries in Vietnam, supported by the SVD Australia Province through our benefactors and partners in mission, helped carry those people through the worst of the pandemic and get them back on their feet. In a report on the project, the SVD Provincial in Saigon, Fr Hung Minh Joseph Tran, said the fourth wave of COVID, from May 2021, brought many challenges and hardships for the Vietnamese people, especially in Saigon and its nearby province. “This rapid outbreak meant that all fields were affected, such as education, the economy, religion, politics and the spirituality of the city people,” he said. Fr Tran said that in education, students were unable to go to school because of the lockdown. In the economy, factories were closed, jobs were lost and the impact on income seriously affected people’s living conditions. And in religion, closed churches affected the spiritual lives of Christians. “The lockdown policy made everything stop suddenly, and people did not have enough time to prepare for their livelihood,” Fr Tran said. “The migrants, the poor, the workers were stuck in the city, lacking support. “At the same time, public transportation services were also stopped, so people could not go back to their hometown. They had to remain in the city with anxieties of contagion and financial shortage which had an impact on food, healthcare, price escalation and other impacts.”

5 Volume 33 No. 2 | Winter 2023 Society Matters While the fatality rate in Saigon was initially very high, once it began to decrease the fatality rate in the nearby provinces began to escalate. “Hospitals were overcrowded, many field hospitals were built and many volunteers helped to stop the pandemic.” The SVD was seeing the impact of the pandemic first-hand in its ministries. “Prior to the pandemic, our SVD confreres in vows often taught catechism at local parishes, helped the migrants in the city, and visited and encouraged patients in hospitals,” Fr Tran said. “However, due to the pandemic, we needed to adjust our ministerial plans accordingly.” In response to the needs of the people, the SVD established a new program entitled ‘You give them something to eat’ (Luke 9:13). “Therefore, on Saturdays and Sundays, we began distributing food and daily necessities for the needy,” he said. The program included cooking and preparing meals for the poor and the homeless. It also saw the distribution of gift bags for the poor, each containing 10kg of rice, a bottle of fish sauce, a bottle of cooking oil and a box of instant noodles. “We could not ignore the sufferings of those in need,” Fr Train said. “Therefore, we changed our pastoral approach to find ways to reach out to the poor, the less fortunate, giving them comfort and helping them with food. “We chose to help the poor people in Saigon, many of whom were migrants and were stranded in a city not their own. “We were fortunate to receive financial support from the Province of Australia and our benefactors. For that we are grateful. “On behalf of the poor, we would like to once again thank you for your support over the last years. Please be assured of our prayers.”

Volume 33 No. 2 | Winter 2023 6 Society Matters Fr Niran takes leap of faith from Russia to Tiwi Islands It is a world away from Fr Niran Veigas’ previous missionary assignment in Russia to his new assignment in the Tiwi Islands, but the Indian-born priest is embracing the new challenge and looking forward to getting to know the people and helping to make a difference in their lives. Fr Niran was born and raised in a Catholic family in the city of Mangalore, in southwest India and says he began discerning the possibility of being a priest as a young boy. “After getting to know the charism of various congregations, I found the SVD’s charism, of being frontier missionaries, attracted me,” he says. He joined the Divine Word Missionaries in June 1999, making his first vows in 2006, his final vows in 2012 and being ordained a priest on May 3, 2013. Soon after his ordination, he arrived in Russia for his first missionary assignment, beginning his language studies at Tambov and then taking up an assignment to St Nicholas Parish at Volgograd, where he ministered for about eight years. “As soon as I landed in Russia it was a new land and a new experience for me,” he says. “I felt dumb, as I did not know Russian. I could not communicate with anyone, so this challenged me to learn the language quickly. “Once I was able to communicate with the language, I could experience the warmth of the people. During his years in Russia, Fr Niran was mainly involved in parish ministry, taking part in children’s catechism, parish youth and the parish Rosary group. “I also involved myself in a ministry to support International Students, which was the most satisfying of all the ministries I was part of,” he says. Fr Niran says, while his seminary formation exposed him to people from all parts of India with their various cultures and traditions, it was still a challenge to learn a new culture which was so different to his Indian heritage. “But I was at ease,” he says. “Working as a missionary in the Russian context was indeed a challenge, but with the grace of God, everything is possible.” He says that he enjoyed seeing his first snowfall, only later coming to know the real pain of living in winter conditions where the temperature dives to minus 35 degrees Celsius. “Russia is a huge country and I enjoyed travelling far distances to administer the sacraments, sometimes 350km or more. I enjoyed visiting people,” he says. Fr Niran says while he remains indebted to the SVD URAL region (Russia) for trusting him and giving him opportunities to grow, he is looking forward to his new assignment in the Tiwi Islands just north of Darwin. “Being a Divine Word Missionary, we are given various opportunities and various ministries,” he says. “I wanted to have a different kind of ministry. As I was looking at the various missions, I came across Aboriginal ministry in the northern part of Australia. This ministry attracted me, and I felt that I could contribute towards this ministry. And here I am, in the promised land.” Bathurst Island parishioners at Palm Sunday Mass Fr Niran with Darwin Bishop Charles Gauci and Fr Hung Nguyen SVD

7 Volume 33 No. 2 | Winter 2023 Society Matters Fr Niran says he felt at home in the SVD Australia Province from when he first arrived and is grateful to the Province for welcoming him here. “Secondly, I am grateful to the SVD Australia Province for taking up the ministry in the Tiwi Islands,” he says. After first arriving in Sydney, Fr Niran spent time with the SVD Aboriginal Chaplaincy in Central Australia, receiving orientation for his new mission and ministry with the Indigenous people of the Tiwi Islands. Fr Niran says his arrival on the Tiwi Islands in November last year was an unforgettable experience. “The journey lasted almost two-and-a-half hours, taking me from Darwin to Bathurst Island (Wurrumiyanga) on the Tiwi Islands,” he says. “Throughout the journey, I was reminded of the voyage undertaken by our SVD first missionary, St. Joseph Freinademetz (1852-1908), who travelled from the Netherlands (Steyl) to Hong Kong. His journey was long and challenging, taking five weeks to complete.” As soon as he arrived at the Bathurst Island (Wurrumiyanga) community, Fr Niran attended a funeral service, which proved to be “a unique and deeply moving experience”. “The Tiwi people come together as a family to support one another and honour their loved ones during funerals. The funeral ceremonies could last for a whole day, encompassing a Holy Mass and traditional songs and dances around the coffin. This is their way of showing respect for the deceased and giving them a fitting farewell. It was a remarkable and emotional experience that left a lasting impression on me.” Over the following days, he spent time listening to the Tiwi people and learning more about their culture. “I discovered that they have a rich and varied heritage, expressed with great eloquence. I also observed that they hold deep respect for the priests, which was possible through the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart’s immense contribution to this mission for over 100 years. Being with the Tiwi people is a constant learning experience for me. “During my five months on the Tiwi Islands, I have learned about various aspects of the Tiwi culture. For instance, I discovered their unique style of painting, which reflects their way of life and culture. The Tiwi people also have a strong connection to the land and sea, as reflected in their hunting and fishing practices. Additionally, I learned about their unique language and dialects, which have been preserved over the years and are still spoken today. “During my last five months, I have experienced the Tiwi people’s warm welcome, and I have come to appreciate how deeply their traditions and customs are rooted in their way of life. As a Divine Word Missionary (SVD), I feel it is fitting for our charism to work with First Nations people. Our missionary approach should be rooted in their culture. “Though there may be many challenges, we, the Divine Word Missionaries, are here to walk alongside others and contribute to this mission. I am reminded of the words of St Arnold Janssen, ‘Bring the Gospel to all, communicate it to all. It is not just for a few people or a limited period of time.’ Let St Arnold Janssen bless our mission.” Fr Niran with university students in Russia Fr Niran with parishioners in Russia

Volume 33 No. 2 | Winter 2023 8 Society Matters Mission Mass League - let us pray for you and your family Have you heard of The Mission Mass League? It is the prayer association of the Society of the Divine Word and it has been in operation around the world for more than 100 years. The Mission Mass League was canonically established by the Divine Word Missionaries in 1910. Its purpose is to help serve your spiritual needs and support the ministry of the Divine Word Missionaries. We invite our faithful mission partners to participate in the Mission Mass League by enrolling their loved ones, living or deceased, and their special needs. “Enrolment in the League is a spiritual gift,” says SVD AUS Province Mission Secretary, Fr Viet Nguyen SVD. “It expresses the donor’s thoughtfulness or their condolences. Enrolments are appropriate in illness or for a death. Enrolments may also be sent to Divine Word Missionaries in recognition of birthdays and anniversaries or other notable occasions. “In that way they are linked spiritually to the masses and prayers of more than 6,000 Divine Word priests, brothers and seminarians around the world, ensuring that your special intentions will be remembered.” Five masses in seven different countries are expressly celebrated each day for Mission Mass League members. The donor will receive a special membership certificate. Membership enrolments are available in four categories: One year or Perpetual for Individuals and One year or Perpetual for Families. Papal approval was given for the Mission Mass League by Pope Pius XII and has been confirmed by all succeeding pontiffs. “We highly recommend the Mission Mass League. It is our ardent desire and hope that it will be a source of support for the Church in her missionary work. To all who are enrolled and to those who spread the Mission Mass League I give my Apostolic Blessing” (Vatican, 3/11/1979) A Newsletter of the Divine Word Missionaries Inc - Australia Province Donations to the SVD AUS Province Overseas Aid Fund can be made online at or by mailing to Divine Word Missionary Appeal Office, Locked Bag 3, Epping NSW, 1710, Australia. +61 2 9868 9015 @svdaus Society Matters