By Jorge Zavala
Our Lady’s Ministry’s visit to Thailand was providential.
Archbishop Lawrence Khai, from the city of Sakonnakhon in the north of Thailand, invited the Ministry to come to work in his town back in August
of 2004, not knowing that six months later a tsunami would devastate part of his country. Our hearts were heavy as we were approaching to land at the
We were very touched to see Archbishop Khai waiting for us at the airport knowing that the Archbishop’s schedule is so busy. We were truly honored and humbled. He opened the door of his archdiocese to Our Lady’s Ministry giving us his official welcome and blessing. In his archdiocese we were treated as his official guests.
It was very exciting to hear the schedule he had prepared for us. To mention some of the places we visited:
– The women’s jail.
– Our Lady of Fatima Seminary.
– The poorest of the poor Catholic and Buddhist towns
in order to bring them some treats (some of them
had never tasted candy or any sweet and if they
had, perhaps only once a year).
– The building of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. It
was so wonderful to know that Our Lady Patroness
of the Americas is honored and loved under this title
by Catholics in a country that is mostly Buddhist.
We had the opportunity to distribute pictures of Our
Lady of Guadalupe to the workers. It was such a joy
to see them receive the pictures with much appreciation and love.
Our Lady’s Ministry was able to leave $9,000.00 to help the Archbishop’s Diocese and the tsunami victims along with 10 boxes full of clothes.
It was amazing to see the Buddhist’s high respect toward Archbishop Khai.
They came to greet him on their knees. As the days passed, our respects towards him, like the Buddhist, became similar. We felt he was a walking martyr. Let me tell you briefly his story.
During the 1940’s, when he was a teenager, Christians were being persecuted because the government decreed that everyone in Thailand had to embrace
All seminarians were forced to leave the seminary and live in their homes. Bishop Khai, being a seminarian had to leave the seminary and go back home to attend classes in the town’s Catholic school.
On one particular school day, a day that would bring about his Calvary, a group of police officers arrived at his school. They gathered every student in a hall and sat them on the floor. The head police officer announced to everyone in the school “In Thailand, your God, exist no longer.”
He ordered that they all worship Buddha. Those who refused to worship Buddha were ordered to stand up. Lawrence Khai, who would be Bishop, trembling, was the first to stand, then 9 of his teenage friends
(4 boys and 5 girls) stood up as well. From that moment they were put through a bitter torture. The police whipped them repeatedly with a belt buckle. One of the officers put a gun into Lawrence Khai’s mouth and threatened to shoot him.
Lawrence Khai and the 9 students were taken
to a courtyard and forced to look directly at the sun in attempt to blind them.
They were then lowered into a well and were told they would rot to death there.
After Archbishop Khai told his story, I asked him if there was any resentment from him or any other of his friends, and He, very sure said, ‘No, all is forgiven, it is all in the past.’ He added that the police officer who inflicted all this pain on them, at the end converted to the Catholic faith! What a powerful witness to Christ to forgive his persecutor and see the fruit of his suffering with his persecutor’s conversion.
By sue mowry
When we think of Africa, most of us think of elephants, zebras, and lions; a land of jungles and plains; their people wrapped in robes holding spears, but our mission to Uganda proved different. To our surprise, when we landed in Kampala, we were met at the airport by Bishop Robert Muhiirwa and a large group of priests, seminarians and members of the church from Fort Portal.
The city of Kampala was a modern town with the normal traffic jams and tall buildings. While only there overnight we were shown the Basilica that holds the relics of the Uganda martyrs. We then journey along a bumpy dirt road for 7 hours to our final destination of Port Portal. There we really got a feel of what Uganda was really like.
The people being very poor, always wore their very best clothes. Here there were not a lot of vehicles on the road and most of the people walked or rode bicycles. Everyone who greeted us always said, ”you’re most welcome” and they really made us feel welcome.
We visited seminaries where the accommodations looked like a scene from the 18th century. The food was cooked over just a wood fire. The faith however, was very
strong there producing many young men for the priesthood.
Most families there cannot afford the expense of sending their sons to the seminary. Many young men who have the calling to the priesthood never get to the seminary only because the lack of money.
We traveled toward the border of the Republic of Congo. There we ministered to the refugees who were so happy to see us. We celebrated mass with them and they treated us to their beautiful music.
During the collection they danced up with what little money the had.
Their little village had a collection of mud houses and most supported themselves by selling dried fish from the lake nearby.
We were surrounded by the children wherever we went in the village.
We had left them with cornmeal called maze to help with their daily needs. Everyone was so loving towards us even in their sad situation.
We saw so many injuries inflicted on many while escaping the Congo even to small children.
Everywhere we went there was so much need: hospitals where Aids patients were being treated, the other hospital where their x-ray machine had broken down and they had no funds to replace it, the seminarians that needed $172.00 every semester for tuition and $200.00 per year for books, the Cathedral roof leaks, etc,.
We helped where we could and promised we would be back next year. God willing, we will be back with a little more help for the beautiful poor of this country.