I – Pastoral exposure in Thailand
We, Br. Francis Nge Nge, Br. Stephen, Br. Santino, Br. Marko and Br. Francis Buling, went to Thailand for our summer pastoral exposure. While we were there, we stayed in one of the Religious Missionaries of St. Dominic’s communities in Samut Sakhon. Samut Sakhon is one of the central provinces of Thailand where there are many shrimp factories. The Dominican community we stayed in is situated in one of the poorest area in the province named Tha Chin (Mahachai) where there are many migrant workers from Myanmar. The main work of the Dominican Sisters there is to help teaching the children and to take care of them in the centers for the migrants’ children. With the invitation of the parish priest, Fr. Vitaya Ladloei, who oversees the centers and of the Sisters, we went to teach in those centers. There are three centers for migrants’ children, namely: St. Joachim center, St. Ann center and Marist center, and generally speaking, all of them are under the supervision of the parish priest. Among those three centers, St. Joachim center is originally and officially under the care of the Dominican sisters of Missionaries; the Marist center is under the care of the Marist Brothers, and St. Ann center is under the care of the St. Ann parish priest respectively. We had to teach in those centers from Monday to Friday from 8:30 in the morning to 3:30 in the afternoon. We were requested to teach the children the academic subjects such as: Math, Science, History, English and Burmese. We also helped the students play sports in the afternoon. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, we had home visitation. On those evenings, the sisters, the Marist brothers, the teachers and we, went to the house of the students, mainly to visit their families and to discuss with the parents about how their children were doing in the centers.
There were two secular priests from Myanmar residing next door to the Dominican Sisters’ community. They celebrated the Mass for us from Monday to Saturday and for the Sunday Mass, we went to the St. Ann parish. With the help of one of the Burmese priests called Fr. Albert, we were able to visit and meet the Myanmar Catholic youth who were working in different parts of Thailand. With the invitation of this priest, we were able to perform some pastoral works such as: sharing stories and experiences, explaining to them about the religious life, praying, worshiping and so on. Through sharing not only did we come to know each other but also we really came to understand each other’s life. There were also two Xaverian priests from Italy living in the neighborhood of the sister’s community. They also invited us to join them when they went to visit the poor in the slum area of Bangkok where they had their main pastoral work. Through their help, we were able to meet some of the Thai Catholic youth as well.
When the feast of Saint Dominic came, all the Dominican Missionary Sisters all over Thailand came together to celebrate the feast in one of their communities in Samphran. Dominican sisters from Vietnam province who were living nearby also came to join our solemn celebration. The Mass was solemnly presided over by a Dominican priest from the Vietnam Province and concelebrated by his fellows and a Dominican priest from the Australian Province. After the mass, followed a banquet. It was such a great joy to celebrate the feast of our founder together with the brothers and sisters from different provinces.
We also had a wonderful travelling experience in Thailand. We travelled most of the time at weekends to different places. We went to visit many unique, historic and glorious temples all over Bangkok; to visit the historic city or ancient ruins of Ayutthaya; to the elephant ground to see the elephant show, to Pattaya to visit the biggest park in Thailand; to some of the most famous shopping malls in Bangkok and we went to the wet markets around Bangkok where you can get any kind of sea product you want. We once even travelled to the north, Mea Sot, to visit one of the Dominican Sisters’ communities which was also an orphanage and we stayed there for a couple of days. Apart from spending the days playing games and having fun with the children there, we were also able to go to the border of Myanmar and see the life the migrant workers were living. Not far from that place, there was a community of Xaverian priests and we were invited to visit their community. When we went there, the fathers showed us the works they were doing. It was so fascinating to see how their works were making big impact on the community there and its surroundings.
The experience we received from Thailand apostolate exposure is priceless and worth sharing. Since it was our first time to go for a mission in a country we had not been before and to meet the people we knew not, we learned many new things through this experience.
We were moved by the people who were really in need. We were happy to be there just to help them to be strong in mind even though we could not help them in their physical well-being. Despite the fact that we were not really well prepared for this mission, we were so happy to give them what we had. Most of the people we met in Thailand who were in real need were Buddhists. However, we were touched by the statement of a missionary priest who was helping them there. His statement is as follows: “Put aside what their religion is, and you will see they are just like us, another human beings. They are our closest neighbors and Jesus Christ taught us to love our neighbors”. Although our presence in the centers for the migrants’ children was a great help, we could see that it sometimes meant a big burden to the administrators of the centers because firstly, when they put us into their systematically run programs, they had to reorganize the whole thing just for the sake of us; and secondly, we were totally untrained for what we were to do and not really fit for the job. We finally would conclude that although we did not really make any big impact on the work there, we believe we did contribute something to what the sisters, the brothers and the teachers are doing. And most importantly, we are sure that all these experiences we had there would help us to serve others better in the future. Bro Santino, OP. Chronicler
II – Pastoral exposure in Timor-Leste
This summer year experience was special for many of us and hopefully these experiences will remain with us to remind us and give us courage to face our studies meaningfully. As we are celebrate the 800th years anniversary of our Dominican establishment, we, the brothers also have a special privilege to feel and encounter the missionary works in different places in our province (The province of Our Lady of the Rosary). For the two of us (Bro Ignatius and Br Peter) we were in Timor-Leste for two and half months as summer exposure to stay with the brothers there and to have some experiences of the missionary works done by our brothers in Timor-Leste.
It was remarkable period for us, for we not only see and experience the missionary works of our brothers but also we had chances to experience the cultures of the local people and their lives. We had the opportunity to live with and accompany our brothers who are working there by helping out with daily works in the house and going with them to the villages to minister the sacraments. The people are nice in a sense that they have highly respect and reverence for the missionaries like Father and Sisters and also they have beautiful cultures.
Since we are celebrating 800 years Jubilee of the Order, we also had a chance to participate in a special events which organized by Dominicans Family in Timor-Leste, the solemn feast of St. Dominic and Youth gathering as to mark special year celebration of the Order in Timor-Leste.
Indeed, for us the summer exposure experiences had been a meaningful and remarkable impression, which we like to repeat if there is a chance.