1 Volume 33 No. 1 | Autumn 2023 Society Matters … by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus … ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’. (Acts 20:35) A NEWSLETTER OF THE DIVINE WORD MISSIONARIES INC - AUSTRALIA PROVINCE Volume 33 No. 1 | Autumn 2023 Society Matters
Volume 33 No. 1 | Autumn 2023 2 Society Matters Message from the Provincial Superior Dear Friends, Welcome to the first edition of Society Matters for 2023. In his Message for the World Day of Peace, celebrated on January 1, Pope Francis called for us to “journey together, valuing the lessons that history has to teach us”. He noted that while the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic is passing, its effects, for so many people around the world, are not. Many of the poorest in our world remain hardest hit by the disruption to their fragile economic systems, as well as ongoing healthcare challenges, education and so forth. In this edition of Society Matters you’ll read about how the Divine Word Missionaries in Zambia are helping provide basic necessities to some of the most vulnerable members of their community – the elderly. These older people, who are often reliant on younger families for survival, have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. Not able to rely on the help of their family, many are facing hunger. The SVD is helping provide them with some of the staples of life. In his New Year message, Pope Francis said we are facing the effects of twin crises – the effects of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Our response must be personal, he said. “We must let our hearts be changed by our experience of the crisis,” he said in his message. “We can no longer think exclusively of carving out space for our personal or national interests, ... instead we must think in terms of the common good.” And he called on all those in positions of responsibility and on all men and women of goodwill to “promote actions that enhance peace and put an end to the conflicts and wars that continue to spawn poverty and death”; “to join in caring for our common home and in implementing clear and effective measures to combat climate change”; “to battle the virus of inequality and to ensure food and dignified labour for all, supporting those who lack even a minimum wage and find themselves in great difficulty.” As we move forward into 2023, these seem like good aims to keep in mind. We give thanks for the SVD missionaries in Zambia and in so many other parts of the world who are giving practical effect to these ambitions by reaching out in love and mercy to the people in their local community. We give thanks also to you, our valued partners in mission, who help support such important initiatives. Yours in the Word, Fr Asaeli Rass SVD Provincial Superior Cover Story: The SVD in Zambia are helping to support both families and the elderly who have suffered under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are facing hunger. Read more on pages 4-5. 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. 1 | Autumn 2023 Society Matters Fr Tin Minh Trinh SVD ordained for life of missionary service The Divine Word Missionaries joyfully celebrated the Ordination to the Priesthood of Tin Minh Trinh SVD in November – and for the first time, the ordaining prelate was Bishop Tim Norton SVD, Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane. The Ordination took place at St Christopher’s Parish, Syndal in Melbourne, where Tin has been serving as Deacon and featured contributions from the local Vietnamese community, in tribute to Tin’s home country. Tin’s parents and other members of his family were also present, having travelled from Vietnam and the United States. Bishop Tim, who was ordained a bishop earlier this year, congratulated Tin on choosing the Gospel reading from Matthew, where Jesus outlines what it means to be great: “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.” “How easily we ask for the wrong things, just as James and John and their mother did,” he said. “And how quickly we apply the world’s standards for leadership, particularly in Church. The Pope, bishops, religious, priests. We do the same as presidents and politicians. We apply those ideas of leadership. “So, I’m really happy you chose this gospel, as a reminder that authority, leadership, is a form of service. And that those who exercise it, must suffer. “The reign of God is actually built on this level of service. We set ourselves apart by the depth of our generosity of service. All of us.” Each of us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, must discern how God wants us to serve, said Bishop Tim. “Tin will serve as a priest. Others of you will serve as parents, aunts, uncles, workers, farmers, cleaners, teachers … so, greatness of spirit is in moving from being caught up in our own concerns and beginning to engage with the real needs of others.” Following the homily, the Rite of Ordination took place, with Bishop Tim placing his hands on Tin and anointing him, the litany of saints being sung over Tin lying prostrate on the floor and Tin making his promises to be a faithful priest. At the conclusion of the Mass, Tin delivered his thanksgiving speech. “First and foremost, I would like to say thanks to our God, who formed me, before I was born, I believe, and loved me unconditionally and supported me all the time,” he said. “I thank also especially, Mother Mary, the one I always come to, to pray when I am down, when I am sad. “And thanks to God for giving me my parents, my family … thank you very much for supporting me all the time, for being the first teachers, the first friends in my life.” Tin also thanked his SVD confreres and formators and all who had contributed to the ordination Mass. At the conclusion of the Mass, Provincial, Fr Asaeli Rass SVD announced to the congregation that Fr Tin’s first missionary assignment would be to Taiwan.
Volume 33 No. 1 | Autumn 2023 4 Society Matters Divine Word Missionaries in Zambia extend helping hand to ‘abandoned’ elderly In a parish on the banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia, the Divine Word Missionaries are working hard to improve the lives of the people, with a special focus on providing assistance to the elderly and people with disability. St Arnold Janssen Parish was opened in 2003. It is a huge parish, spread throughout the entire District of Mwandi, and it faces many different challenges and difficulties. The SVD are also present at St Frances Parish in Dambwa in the same diocese of Livingstone. “Mwandi village is situated along the bank of the Zambezi River, which separates Zambia and Namibia,” says Fr Rajesh Praveen D’Souza, SVD. “Like other parts of the western province of Zambia, Mwandi is covered by very deep sand which is not fertile enough for farming and agriculture. “The Mwandi area is semi-arid with dry climate conditions and high temperatures in summer, very cold in winter and floods during the rainy season. “Consequently there is poor agricultural production, lack of access to basic resources like water, lack of education and lack of health care. Employment opportunities are minimal, if any.” Fr Rajesh says most of the people in the parish are Lozi by tribe. Culturally, the life of the people here is very much influenced by cultural beliefs and traditional practices. Hence, there is a need for prophetic dialogue with the culture.” In the Lozi culture, old people are counted among the most abandoned by the community, apart from children and youth,” Fr Rajesh says. “Whereas in other cultures, old people are always taken well care of by their daughters and not their sons, this reality doesn’t happen in Lozi culture,” he says. “Lozi women leave their parents when getting married to follow and stay with their husbands. The impact of this is that their parents are not taken care of properly when they are old. “To make matters worse, the old people suffer a lot if they are left behind in their homes with their married sons. Their sons will not bother with their parents who are old because they also need to take care of their children and wife.” Fr Rajesh says the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the situation. “The old people struggled financially and turned to the parish for support. In addition to that, with the parish being located on the border of two countries, the lockdown and closing of the border also affected the economic life of the old people. “Some business sectors closed, and the rising cost of living has led to hunger. Day to day life is very hard for them because of poverty.” Fr Rajesh says there are more than 50 elderly people living in the parish, most of them suffering from poverty. There are also a number of disabled children and people disabled following a stroke, who need care.
5 Volume 33 No. 1 | Autumn 2023 Society Matters The SVD in Zambia • Located in southern Africa, Zambia is a land-locked country. • The country was born when the British colony of Rhodesia became the independent nation of Zambia in 1964. • After some years of one-party rule, recent elections have been deemed free and fair although the harassment of opposition parties and other political turmoil continues. • The population of Zambia is 17 million. Among these, 95.5 per cent are Christians (Catholics being 20.2 per cent), Muslims 1 per cent, Hindus, Bahai, Buddhists 1.7 per cent and those without religious affiliation are 1.8 per cent of the population. • The majority of Zambians are subsistence farmers. • The literacy rate is 70.9 per cent for males and 56 per cent for females and life expectancy is just 52.7 years. • Zambia was erected as an SVD Mission in 2014, separating it from the Botswana Province. The SVD focus is on primary evangelisation in the dioceses where they are present. Family and youth are also areas of priority, along with enhancing the biblical apostolate and mission animation. • In their Mission Statement, the SVDs in Zambia say they “strive to share in the daily dreams and struggles of our people”. • The main ministries of the Zambia Mission are parish pastoral formation, education, social ministry and prison ministry. • There are lay partners established in three SVD parishes. • Issues of concern in the area of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation include deforestation, rampant mining, poor waste management, conservation of water, and energy. • Challenges around communication exist, as access to the internet is expensive and service is inconsistent compared with other countries. “We intend to help them in providing food and the basic necessities of life,” he says. The SVD food relief program provides needy parishioners with such staples as cooking oil, rice and soap and is intended to help the most vulnerable and those hit hardest. Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish is another parish assisting its parishioners, many of whom are elderly following the pandemic. The parish is situated about 8km from Kabwe Town and has a population of around 2,600 people. “The economic situation of the community is difficult. Most of the parishioners are engaged in small farming, growing maize and vegetables for their own consumption,” Fr Rajesh says. “Many of them are retirees, widows and widowers, taking care of their children and orphaned relatives. “This area has many social problems, such as unemployment, alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, broken marriages, environmental degradation and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The SVD in Zambia also have projects underway focused on education for vulnerable children, social assistance for families and empowering girls and women. “Of course, I’m offering the course free of charge. But the measurable impact shows that the project is worthwhile and will improve the livelihood of the young people and their families in the village of Sankhomphatthana.”
Volume 33 No. 1 | Autumn 2023 6 Society Matters Church and mosque in Indonesian village a dream come true for Fr Boni When Fr Boni Buahendri SVD saw the need for both a church and a mosque in his Indonesian home-village, he joined with others in setting about fulfilling a dream of how to build them. “The project came about in response to the need of the people in the village,” he says. Compang village in West Manggarai Regency on the island of Flores, is home to mostly Catholics, but there is also a significant minority population of Muslims. The remote location meant that the people were in dire need of worship facilities. “The people come from two religions and they live side by side, with both communities getting on very well, and even sharing significant religious celebrations,” he says. “For the Catholics, the main parish is very far away, so they desperately needed a church in the village. “And to have a simple, small mosque in that place as well is really something.” Fr Boni, who is currently serving as parish priest in Brisbane at St Mark’s Parish, Inala, says the Catholics and Muslims in Compang village are descended from the same ancestors and so everyone is considered family. “I am Catholic, but my uncle and aunt are Muslims, so I have to think and dream and pray for both,” he says. It took four years to raise the necessary funds to build the church and mosque. Fr Boni worked together with a network of friends and classmates around Indonesia to help make it happen. “I asked them to do the official proposal, and then we worked together to raise the funds,” he says. “And the parish priest there, who is a Divine Word Missionary, he also oversaw it.” At the opening and blessing ceremony of the two places of worship, Fr Boni said the church and mosque in Compang village were “symbols and models of harmonious tolerance based on the indigenous culture of Indonesia and Flores”. He hoped the project would serve as an example for other villages and regions in the country. “Tolerance cannot be discussed solely on a scientific level, through seminars or conferences, but must be rooted in the community’s culture,” he said. “Tolerance must be based on culture and respect for culture because cultural values shape a person’s character before religious principles. “Religious tolerance must be grounded in culture and grassroots community cooperation. This is genuine tolerance.” Fr Boni says the Compang village project is a grassroots example of the SVD commitment to interfaith initiatives. “It is very much connected to the SVD charism and spirituality,” he says. “It is a practical expression of that charism and spirituality, which responds to the need of the people.” The new church for Compang Village Fr Boni Buahendri SVD with local soccer teams in front of the new church The new mosque caters for the minority population of Muslim villagers
7 Volume 33 No. 1 | Autumn 2023 Society Matters Madagascar visit gives first-hand view of project impacts The projects funded in Madagascar by the SVD Australia Province through the generosity of our benefactors and partners in mission are helping the people there to fulfil some of their most basic needs, says Fr Sunil Nagothu SVD, following a recent visit to the island. Fr Sunil visited Madagascar last year, representing the SVD AUS Province at the Thanksgiving Mass of Fr Francois d’Assise Andrianihantana SVD, who was ordained in Melbourne in November 2021, but not able to celebrate his first Mass in his home village for another nine months, because of pandemic border closures. Fr Sunil’s visit also had the aim of meeting with the formation board in Madagascar to further develop the relationship between the two provinces in supporting the formation of men from Madagascar. While in Madagascar, which is listed among the poorest countries in the world, Fr Sunil was able to spend time with the local SVD community, who showed him the situation of the people and the efforts of the SVD to assist their development. “It was eye-opening, that’s for sure,” he says. “They have so many challenges, especially in the very basic things, like having enough water, food and medicine. “The SVDs there have many outlying communities to visit, all by foot. They work with lay catechists. It takes four hours to on foot to reach one village and they stay overnight, celebrate the sacraments and then move on, carrying all their food and water. “There are big distances to cover and most people have no power at all. There is no running water and no roads. It’s a big island, but it is very dry, there is no water on most of the island, except during the two months of monsoon. On top of that, unemployment and illiteracy is very high. It is a tough life.” Apart from their sacramental presence, the Divine Word Missionaries are working hard in rural Madagascar to improve the lives of the local people, from young children, through education, to adults through justice and peace initiatives and women’s health projects, as well as reafforestation of the environment. The AUS Province also supported a project to help care for twins born in the Diocese of Mananjary, where one of the prominent tribes believes twins are a bad omen and they force parents to leave their twins in orphanages or be shunned by the tribe. Fr Sunil says his visit showed him how much the people appreciate the presence of the SVD in their communities. “The people are poor, but they don’t consider themselves poor, they are happy and satisfied with the little they have,” he says. “The faith of the people is also very strong and they come to church in droves. “The confreres there are very happy and willing to work hard. They welcomed me to see their situation and I know they are thankful for the support they have received from the SVD Australia Province through our benefactors.” Fr Peter Rego SVD with twins who are being supported by the AUS Province for the local parish to provide food and medicine for them. Fr Sunil Nagothu SVD pictured with the formation team of students and staff in Madagascar, with mission station confreres
Volume 33 No. 1 | Autumn 2023 8 Society Matters The funds raised, together with some funds from the Province, have enabled the Province to purchase a small campervan which will allow the missionaries in Central Australia to stay with outlying Aboriginal communities for longer periods. The utility vehicle on which the campervan will sit has already arrived and been put to good use and the camper component is due to be fitted soon. Prior to this, the missionaries would drive hundreds of kilometres to be with the people in those communities, but often, after celebrating Mass or other sacraments, they had to turn around and make the long drive back to Alice Springs again. “For us, it is really important to be with the people and spend time with them, getting to know them and their culture and their way of life,” says Fr Olivier Noclam SVD. “We are very thankful to everyone who donated to support us in our ministry. Generous response to special appeals already changing lives The friends and partners in mission of the SVD Australia Province raised more than $70,000 in recent months for two special mission appeals – one to assist the people affected by the war in Ukraine and the other, to purchase a campervan for ministry to remote communities in Central Australia. “We are very grateful for the generosity of people who donated to these special appeals,” says Mission Secretary Fr Viet Nguyen SVD. “In both cases, the funds have already been put to use, ensuring that your generosity goes straight to work in the communities where it is desperately needed.” Fr Viet says the Ukraine fundraising appeal, which raised $41,000, was part of a call by the SVD generalate in Rome to support the work of SVD communities in Ukraine and Poland who have been helping families whose lives have been torn apart by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The Divine Word Missionaries in Ukraine have stayed with their people since the Russian aggression began on February 24, organising help, food and shelter for those in need and continuing to celebrate the sacraments. In Poland, the SVD is also receiving refugees from Ukraine in their mission houses in Chludowo, Krynica, Morska, Lublin, Nysa and Warsaw. Meanwhile, a little closer to home, about $31,000 was raised in a special appeal for a campervan to assist the ministry of the Aboriginal Catholic Chaplaincy in Central Australia. 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 9015 @svdaus Society Matters Fr Ollie Noclam SVD at the wheel of the new utility vehicle which will soon house a campervan The SVD are providing food and shelter to Ukrainian refugees. Fr Budi Kleden visits Ukraine