The Australian Province of the Society of the Divine Word reaches across to Thailand, where our members work with poor and marginalised communities in a range of areas, including parish work, teaching, and care for children and adults living with AIDs.
Mother of Perpetual Help AIDs Centre and Ban Mare Marie Children’s Home
The Society of the Divine Word was invited in 1998 by the Bishop of Udon Thani to take carriage of the fledgling AIDS centre and two brothers initially took up the challenge in 2000, taking time to first learn the language and culture. We now have 12 SVDs in Thailand from a range of different cultural backgrounds, incuding Vietnamese, Indonesian, Indian, American and German.
The Mother of Perpetual Help AIDS Centre, located in Nong Bua Lamphu, in the North-East of Thailand, about 100km from the Mekong River on the Thai-Laos border, works to make a difference in the life of people suffering from HIV/AIDS in the Northeast of Thailand.
Extreme poverty, isolation and stigma all collude to make the situation very difficult for people in the north-east of Thailand with AIDS. Young parents die leaving orphaned children who are often also HIV infected.
Since 1997 Mother of Perpetual Help Centre has been assisting babies and young children of HIV and poor families in Nong Bua Lamphu. The program started with assisting about 40 children and has grown into helping almost 400 people each year.
One of the priorities of the Mother of Perpetual Help Centre over the years has been the AIDS Education and Awareness Program with school students, which we take to up to 20 schools each year.
The Ban Mae Marie Home for Teenagers began as a home to care for orphans of AIDs, but has now been opened up for care of non-HIV-related teenagers and the elderly.
Parish Ministry in Thailand
The Divine Word Ministries have responded to invitations to take up parish ministry in the Diocese of Udon Thani.
One of our priests is pastor of St Michael the Archangel Church in Nong Bua Lamphu. Other priests have been assigned to various parishes throughout the Diocese. Many of them are in parishes which have required some building up.
With the small number of Catholics in Thailand, often there are many, but small parishes, so it is necessary to travel from one small church to another on weekends.
English Language Ministry
English language ministry has been an important task of the SVD in Thailand right from the beginning.
There are always people asking to be taught English. One of the Brothers has been involved in the local Government schools since his arrival in Thailand more than 14 years ago. More recently he has also started teaching at one of the local Kindergarten schools.
Teaching English is also one ministry that we offer to those coming for the SVD Overseas Training Program.
Vietnamese Migrant Chaplaincy in Bangkok
One of the newer ministries of the Thai Region is working with Vietnamese migrants in Bangkok, as well as in Nong Bua Lamphu.
There are about 50,000 Vietnamese illegally working in Thailand in various manual labour jobs. Our SVD priests in Bangkok not only carry out sacramental ministry, but also provide social and legal support, especially in situations of emergency, such as in the case of accidents or death, where they have virtually no other resources to turn to.
This work Vietnamese migrants in Thailand sits right at the heart of the Divine Word Missionaries’ commitment to walk with migrants, refugees and the marginalised.