Fr. Larry de Guia (right) with Frs. Clement, Claudio and Prasong visits
mission areas in the Delagation of Thalind.
I begin my sharing with news and development from our Delegation of Thailand and Laos.
I arrived in Thailand last February 15 and immediately the following day, Fr. Clement, our General Councilor for Asia-Oceania, Fr. Claudio, the Delegation Superior, and I went to Loei in the northeast district of Thailand. It is about 520 kms from Bangkok and it takes about 7.5 hrs driving to reach the place. The Mission Station is under the Diocese of Udon Thani.
There, we met the Mission Station in charge, Fr. Franklin Mirasol and the other Oblates who work in the mission. It is here that the OMIs have the largest concentration of missionaries – seven altogether.
The OMI mission territory in Loei is both far and wide. Each Oblate in the area lives alone. Hmong people inhabit the two areas where Oblates reside and minister. They form the Mankhao and Kun Nam Khap villages. The mission station is more than 1,200 meters above sea level! And it is cold in the area.
There is a growing emphasis and importance of community life in the delegation and to make this real and tangible, the delegation is giving up the parish in Chum Phae where Fr. Prasong is currently the parish priest.
The farthest mission of the delegation is the Parish of the Visitation ministered by Fr. Michel Lynde, OMI, 87 years old, in Chiang Khan near the Mekong River. It is a small parish where 7 people, mostly Laotian, attend Mass on a Sunday. We celebrated the 186 years of papal approbation of our CCRR here in Chiang Khan with 9 OMIs.
The bishop is subsidizing all the parishes and missions in the northeast where the Oblates minister. The Mass attendance varies from 7-20 villagers. The Mankhao village is much better in terms of Mass attendance. The Sunday Mass we concelebrated saw the biggest attendance with more than 100 Thai Thin people and Homongs. Fr. Daniel Taillez, OMI who was in Radio Veritas - Manila, is back in Thailand at Lom Sak in the Loei District and now working at the Homong Center.
It is not easy to gather the Oblates of the Delegation, because of distance. At an average, the OMIs live 100 km apart from each other in Loei district. And for them to come to Bangkok Delegation House for any OMI gathering or meeting, they have to travel more than 500 km. No doubt, the Thailand-Delegation is a challenging mission. We do not have Oblate houses that we can call our own like in Manila, Cotabato or Kidapawan where Oblates can live and share as a community. In fact, the house in Loei District particularly in Lom Sak in the northeast is a rented one. Here the Oblates come down from mission stations and gather for 3 days to have the long cherished tradition of community life. Then return to the villages.
After the Loei visit, Fr. Claudio and I went to visit the Laos Mission. The journey took us about 50 minutes by plane to reach Vientiane. In Laos, we have a home we can call our own. We were picked up by Fr. Kykeo, OMI who is in charge of 2 OMI Deacons aged 47 and 48 y/o. Fr. Kykeo is also in charge of 3 parishes some 150 km from Vientiane. He celebrates the Sunday masses in these parishes.
In central Vientiane, administered by Bp. John Khamse, OMI, DD, Fr. Bennakone, OMI, is the parish priest of the Sacred Heart. 3 Daughters of Charity nuns who are Filipinas ably assist him. His Sunday mass goers are mainly Vietnamese, a few Laotian and Pinoys! I met Bishop Khamse in his village in Kengsadok with hope for more personnel who have the love of God, the Blessed Mother and love for the people.
Thailand Delegation, which includes Laos, is Mission ad extra for the Philippine Province. It has 16 members. The tendency to live alone and become a lone ranger throughout one’s life is very tempting, because of geographical distance from one another. It is a mission for those who love the underprivileged and marginalized.
The hunger to live in community is very much felt. There is a serious attempt to gather in community. Giving up a parish is never easy so that one can be freed to be with his brother Oblate and minister together like Jesus sending his disciples by twos to preach the Gospel.
There is a great zeal amongst the Oblates as they minister to the migrants, especially from Burma and Vietnam, the Hmong and Lao people. There are other marginalized people waiting to be ministered to... “Is it I Lord? I have heard you calling me in the night.” (Fr. Larry de Guia, OMI, Provincial Superior)