1 Volume 33 No. 3 | Spring 2023 Society Matters Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid … for the Lord your God goes with you. (Deut 31:6) A NEWSLETTER OF THE DIVINE WORD MISSIONARIES INC - AUSTRALIA PROVINCE Volume 33 No. 3 | Spring 2023 Society Matters
Volume 33 No. 3 | Spring 2023 2 Society Matters Message from the Provincial Superior Dear Friends, Welcome to the Spring edition of Society Matters for 2023. This month we are delighted to shine a spotlight on a variety of SVD mission activities in various parts of the world to share with you. Among them is our cover story on a youth animation project in Chad, one of the poorest countries in the world. Living in a subsistence economy, many parents prioritise work in the fields over schooling for their children. The Divine Word Missionaries in Chad are supporting young people in a variety of ways to give them hope for a brighter future. Also, in this edition you’ll read about Br Willy Vincent Iopam SVD and his missionary journey from his home country of Vanuatu to his formation and ministry in Australia, and now his ministry with the Mangyan people, the Indigenous People of Mindoro in the Philippines. I was able to visit Vincent recently and see for myself the wonderful work that he and his SVD confreres and local collaborators are doing, and I came away very impressed by what I saw. And in Thailand, part of our own Australia Province, Fr Truong Le SVD is supporting his local villagers by bringing in laying chickens to provide a local and sustainable source of protein. These kinds of practical support, which help people to build a better life, are mission in action, reaching out in the love of Christ to meet the needs of those around us. This edition also pays tribute to Fr Anton Bulla SVD, who returned to God recently, aged 88, after a long and full missionary life in Poland, PNG and Australia. And we also provide a big thank you to you, are partners in mission, for all the support you’ve given to SVD projects over the last financial year. I hope you will be able to take a few moments in your day to enjoy this edition of Society Matters. Yours in the Word, Fr Asaeli Rass SVD Provincial Superior Cover Story: The SVD in Chad are supporting young people in a variety of ways, including helping them learn to read, develop leadership skills and provide school supplies and fees. 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. 3 | Spring 2023 Society Matters Fr Truong lays plans to help villagers build sustainability Rising prices for eggs and a lack of local availability meant that Fr Truong Le SVD’s parishioners in a rural Thailand village were going without essential protein, so Fr Truong decided to do something about it, not by purchasing eggs, but by buying in egg-laying chickens. Fr Truong, a member of the Thailand District of the SVD Australia Province, said the project, to go right to the source of the egg-scarcity, was funded by generous donations. “I always have ideas for projects to help the villagers,” he says. “They all depend on the available funding. “The more I do, the more benefactors want to participate in the mission. And so, I was approached with donations and was asked, ‘What can you do with this amount?’ Trust me, I love that questions because I always have an answer.” Fr Truong says that with the location of the village where he is parish priest being quite rural, there are not many shops or facilities. “There’s no market or convenience store, but one shop in one of the villager’s houses carries minimal snacks and drinks,” he says. “People would have to travel to the next biggest village to buy eggs or vegetables, which they don’t usually do due to transportation expenses and higher prices.” Fr Truong says eggs are quite a valuable commodity in the village, with rising prices. “The egg-laying chicken project hopes to achieve a sustainable source of protein for the villagers, with five chickens per family,” he says. “The chickens are grown and ready to lay eggs, so they were more expensive, about 250 Baht or 11 AUD. Fr Truong delivering chickens to local villagers Fr Truong Le SVD unloads some of the laying chickens Fr Truong Le’s egg-laying chickens “Before I deliver the chickens, the villagers must be obliged by a few conditions. Firstly, they cannot sell the chickens, and secondly, they must build a chicken coop. Some villagers were elderly and living alone, so our parishioners were ready to help them build a sturdy chicken coop.” Fr Truong has delivered his first batch of 40 chickens to eight families and is working on the second batch of 50 chickens for 10 families. “It all depends on when the families are ready to receive the chickens,” he says. “And I’ve also asked them to keep count of the eggs for three months to see if this project is indeed sustainable and to see the financial impact.” Fr Truong says that while the egg-laying chicken project is a start, he still has a way to go with his micro-farming initiatives, designed to help his parishioners create sustainable forms of food supply and income.
Volume 33 No. 3 | Spring 2023 4 Society Matters SVD project helps build a positive future for young people in Chad The Divine Word Missionaries in the poverty-hit African nation of Chad are supporting young people with a large youth animation project aimed at helping them build a positive future. The project is underway in the Parish of St Arnold Janssen in Laramanaye in the Republic of Chad, a large parish, which also takes in 53 outstations. Parish Priest, Fr Jean-Baptiste Huy Tran SVD, says the ‘Animation of Youth’ project covers a large part of the youth in the parish, including the children, girl scouts and boy scouts, the youth group and school students from 11 kindergartens, four elementary schools and a middle school. “We work in a rural parish with a demographic marked by the presence of children and young people,” Fr Huy says. “They need to be welcomed and accompanied to build their future. “Through this animation project we want to accompany them in discerning the dangers to avoide, which include drugs, easy money, early marriage, child trafficking, alcohol, pornography and communicable diseases such as AIDS. “We also want to work with them to raise awareness about the importance of education to build a better future.” Chad is one of the poorest countries in Africa, due to recent civil wars, coups and endemic corruption. The Human Development Index placed Chad as the 186th amongst the 188 countries in the world. Fr Huy says that with a failure to educate young people from both parents and the government, the parish has placed children and the young as their pastoral priority. Parents believe that working the cornfield and tending the animals are more important for children than going to school. There is poor infrastructure for schools and also a shortage of qualified teachers, particularly in rural areas. There are similar challenges in health care, especially in areas like primary health care and the fight against malaria, HIV-AIDS and infant mortality. The project includes a ‘Learning to read well’ program, which is an extra curriculum for primary school children at St Arnold Janssen Elementary School, involving two sessions a week for a two hours in the afternoon. “We also hold youth Masses in French in 20 outstations, usually followed by a light refreshment, a soccer game or a few dances,” Fr Huy says. The parish also holds a camp of friendship for Kemkogis. KEMKOGI is a Children’s Catholic Action Movement (ACE), and a member of the International Movement for the Apostolate of Children. “During the three-day camp, we allow Kemkogis to get to know each other better and boost a deeper friendship,” he says. To help encourage leadership skills in young people, the parish supports and accompanies 10 youth representing the parish at the national youth form in the Diocese of Lai. “And finally, we award gifts for the best student of each of the four elementary schools and middle school,” Fr Huy says. “These gifts consist of the total amount of school fees for the next year, a backpack, school supplies, dictionaries, school uniforms, and a few sheep and goats for the feasting with students as schools end.” Fr Huy thanked the Australia Province and its benefactors and partners in mission for providing financial support to organize the different activities to help animate the parish’s children and young people.
5 Volume 33 No. 3 | Spring 2023 Society Matters The SVD Chad Mission Chad is a land-locked country in central Africa, sharing borders with Niger, Libya, Sudan, Republic of Central Africa, Cameroon and Nigeria. Chad has a population of 16 million, of which 1.6 million live in the capital and largest city of N’Djamena. The country is comprised of some 110 ethnic groups, with a total population of about 14 million. People speak a variety of local languages, but French and the local version of Arabic are the most popular ones. Chad has a brutal climate, with two-thirds of its territory being part of the Sahara desert. Chad is one of the poorest countries in Africa, due to recent civil wars, coups and endemic corruption. The Human Development Index placed Chad as the 186th amongst the 188 countries in the world. The country is divided socio-culturally between the predominantly Muslim north and the largely Christian south with 55.3 per cent of the country being Muslim, 40.6 per cent Christian and 4.1 per cent adhering to tradition religion. Of the 40 per cent of the population who are Christians, more than 22 per cent profess the Catholic faith. The SVD began its missionary activities in Laramanaye, in the Diocese of Gore in 2004. Today, 10 SVD confreres live and work in three parish communities, one in the Diocese of Moundou and two in Gore. People are hungry for the Word of God and in the SVD parishes, adult catechumens number in the hundreds. The missionary priorities of the Chad mission are: Primary evangelisation, training lay leaders and faithful, educational programs, missionary animation; accompanying families and youth; promoting justice and peace with small selfhelp projects towards integral human development, especially in the rural context; ecumenical and interreligious dialogue with partners, especially Muslims and adherents of the many other churches. RIP Fr Anton Bulla SVD Fr Anton Bulla SVD has been remembered as a faithfilled and joy-filled person, a committed priest and missionary, both during his years in Papua New Guinea and later in his ministry of healing through the marriage tribunal in Sydney. Fr Anton died at Marsfield on July 11, just shy of his 89th birthday. His funeral Mass was held in the St Arnold Janssen Chapel, Marsfield. “Anton was a faith-filled and joy-filled person and he touched the lives of the people he met,” said friend and homilist, Bishop Robert McGuckin. Fr Janusz Skotniczny SVD delivered the eulogy, saying how Fr Anton had grown up around the SVD and entered the SVD Minor Seminary in Nysa at age 15. However, shortly afterwards, the Communist regime in Poland closed all minor seminaries, leaving Fr Anton and his classmates without a completed secondary education. But the SVD allowed them to enter the Novitiate and finish their schooling there. Fr Anton entered the SVD on September 8, 1952, taking his first vows on September 8, 1954 and final vows in 1960. He was ordained a priest on January 29, 1961, but under the Communist government wasn’t allowed to leave Poland for the missions until some years later when he was appointed to New Guinea (later, PNG), where he became a multi-task bush missionary caring for parishes and schools in Kerowagi, Denglagu, Chuawe, Wangoi in Chimbu Province, Kamaliki in Goroka Province and teaching catechesis, Fr Janusz said. In the 1980s, Fr Anton was asked by Bishop William Kurtz SVD to study Canon Law in Canada, later returning to PNG, working in the marriage tribunal and assisting with parishes. But with deteriorating health, Fr Anton moved to Australia, taking up ministry in the Sydney Archdiocese tribunal, which he described as: “The tribunal of healing wounded and broken relationships”. Fr Anton continued this work until his retirement to the SVD Marsfield community in 2019. He remained active until his last morning of July 11, 2023 when, preparing himself for morning Eucharist with the community, Fr Anton Bulla SVD was called by the Lord to Eternal Rest. For more on Fr Anton’s life and mission visit: divineword.org.au
Volume 33 No. 3 | Spring 2023 6 Society Matters Br Vincent pursuing his love for mission in the Philippines When Brother Willy Vincent Iopam SVD grew up on Tanna Island in the southern islands of Vanuatu he never could have imagined he would not only travel to different countries as a missionary, but that one day he would serve on the provincial leadership team of the Divine Word Missionaries in the Philippines. Br Vincent grew up in a small community called Lamlu in the middle of Tanna Island. “Born to a non-Christian family, I got impressed by the Catholic faith in 1989 and later became Catholic at the age of 12, in my first year of high school,” he says. “That desire to become Catholic became obvious when I met the Marist Brothers who were then the pioneers of the mission in my community. “Since that moment my love for mission started, by the life and work of the brothers. Therefore, I asked my father if I could join the Catholic Church and he said yes and from then I became Catholic. “I thank God for the influence of the Marist Brothers and also my childhood friends who also convinced me to join the youth and eventually be baptised and confirmed to the faith.” Br Vincent says he first heard about the Divine Word Missionaries from Fr Olivier Noclam SVD (currently assigned to Santa Teresa in Central Australia) who is from the same community on Tanna Island. “Over the years after the encounter with the Marist Brothers and becoming Catholic, I pursued my studies to senior level in the capital city, Port Vila,” he says. “After grade 12, I found temporary jobs here and there just to survive until I met Fr Olivier’s group and his then Postulancy classmates in 1997 who had come to Vanuatu from Australia on a vocation promotion tour. “They visited me and convinced me to join the SVD in Australia. In 1998 I applied and was accepted to join in 1999 for the postulancy program in Marsfield, Sydney.” The following year the postulants were asked to move to Melbourne for a year of Theology and then returned to Sydney again in 2002 for the Novitiate. “After a year in Melbourne, I decided to leave for a year of discernment, but after that, I decided to come back and I’ve stayed ever since. “My vocation journey was not smooth, but I thank God for being there in those tough times and inspiring me to hold on to what I have become today. “I’m glad I joined the Australian Province. The community spirit of the seminarians and SVD confreres from all around the world was tough but, in a way, moulded me to be the missionary I am today. “The struggle some of us have gone through together was immense but the nourishing support in a multi-cultural community was very formative. We studied, ate, prayed, and lived together and I discovered that this was the real face of ‘SVDness’, one heart, many cultures.” Br Vincent says his love for ministry with the poor, started
7 Volume 33 No. 3 | Spring 2023 Society Matters during the postulancy and novitiate with Bishop Tim Norton who was then the novice master and formator. “I was involved throughout all my formation years with the poor on the streets of Sydney and Melbourne and loved every moment of it,” he says. “I believe that is where I discovered my real calling to serve wherever I am ask to go.” In 2009 after completing studies in Information Technology (IT), the formation team decided that Br Vincent would move to Alice Springs to work in the field of IT in Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College. “Once again, I thank again the Marist Brothers there who accepted me to work in the school for three years, which I took seriously as an experience to acquire for future mission,” he says. “Now looking back, I’m happy for the experiences gained there. Over in Alice Springs I was also involved in the Indigenous mission on my days off and during holidays. I was also involved with the youth of the Parish and music and prayer ministry in Alice Springs prison every Tuesday and on the last Sunday of the Month. Every Sunday we played and sang for the Indigenous Mass. Those memorable and inspiring moments formed and moulded me to be a missionary I am today in the Philippines.” Br Vincent’s first mission abroad, was to the Philippines Central Province, where he arrived in January 2013 and remains in ministry today. When he first arrived, he studied Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, and in 2014 to 2015 he worked in the Provincialate office in Manila, as Assistant Archivist and website administrator. Then, the Provincial, Fr Nielo Cantilado SVD, asked him in July 2015 to be assigned to Occidental Mindoro, an island on the south east of Manila. “Here, I work in a school built and run by the SVD, as IT director and Community Extension Service (CES) which links the school to the Indigenous people of the island of Mindoro,” he says. “From 2018 to 2023, I was nominated as the District Superior and am currently serving still as a council member of the District Council.” During the last Provincial Assembly in January, Br Vincent was voted in as a Provincial Council member, giving him more responsibilities and challenges to undertake across the Province. “However, the mission in the Philippines is fulfilling and challenging,” he says. “People in general have high respect for the missionaries and clergy. The SVDs are well known here for their pioneering mission in difficult and challenging area of the Philippines. “As I always say when people ask: ‘Wherever I am assigned, despite the challenges, I will create my own happiness’. “I have found joy and happiness with the people in the Philippines, especially the Mangyan people, the Indigenous People of Mindoro. “I ask all of you to pray for me to persevere in my mission.” PHOTOS: Brother Vincent is pictured overseeing the livelihood project, cultivating onions, which supports the Mangyan Indigenous scholars apostolate. Also pictured is Fr Asaeli Rass SVD of the Australia Province, visiting Br Vincent’s ministries.
Volume 33 No. 3 | Spring 2023 8 Society Matters THAILAND $4,823 INDIA EAST (INE) $43,437 INDIA HYDERABAD (INH) $39,076 INDIA MUMBAI (INM) $55,349 ZAMBIA 3 Old age home support in Mwandi Parish 3 Education for vulnerable children in rural parish 3 Parish youth empowerment 3 Empowering the youth at Simmonga outstation through poultry-raising 3 Young women empowerment 3 Empowering youth skill training MADAGASCAR 3 Education – Parish of Sts Peter & Paul 3 Formation of families with twins 3 Youth formation 3 Women’s empowerment 3 Justice and Peace Program CHAD, AFRICA 3 Education in a rural and isolated parish where 70 per cent of the inhabitants are illiterate 3 Women’s literacy 3 Support for vulnerable elderly people 3 Animation of young people and children 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 Divine Word Missionary Appeal Office, Locked Bag 3, Epping NSW, 1710, Australia. +61 2 9868 2666 @svdaus Society Matters BOLIVIA $99,950 GHANA $4,944 TIMOR-LESTE (TLS) $22,447 TIMOR-LESTE 3 Upgrading program on providing professional skills for teachers 3 Personality development workshop for final year students THAILAND 3 Asian Research Centre for Religion and Social Community in Bangkok – promoting academic research and interreligious dialogue in the fields of religion and social communication INDIA GUWAHATI (ING) $6,423 MADAGASCAR (MAD) $98,492 CHAD (TCD) $16,552 ZAMBIA (ZAM) $8,713 3 Coaching and maintenance of tribal hostel, Dibyo Bani Niketan, Gonpada aiming to provide better education and affordable accommodation for tribal children 3 Animation of urban poor communities in Jharsuguda, Odisha 3 Protection, preservation, promotion and research of Tribal Culture 3 Women’s empowerment in marginalised communities of Belpahar, Bagdihi and Lapanga 3 Maintenance of remedial school and hostel 3 Care of physically disabled children 3 Women’s empowerment 3 Nutrition and educational empowerment for the tribal children in Mangaon 3 Street children project – Pune 3 HIV AIDS Project – Pune 3 Street children project – Mumbai 3 Migrant Ministry – Kerala INDIA (Across East, Hyderabad and Mumbai Provinces) THANK YOU! Your financial support is changing lives through the following SVD projects: