We visited the Maryknoll Sisters’ School and Hospital, both now managed by laymen. Elderly folks were exercising, eating fresh produce from the “wet markets.” (The Chinese could outlive us all if they could control air pollution.) Outpatient services and a palliative care pavilion offering short-term, “hospice-like” stays serve the poor. Walking the streets of the Kowloon parish, we watched Father Bob Astorino, MM, chat and laugh with his former parishioners in the market. Gazing up at huge apartment houses in this crowded city, he remarked, “Each window houses a family.”
With Bob Astorino and Peter Barry, MM, we visited the Holy Spirit Study Centre housed at the diocesan seminary. At the Centre, Chinese researchers and Maryknollers like Peter provide support and communications that bridge Hong Kong with the Chinese mainland. A quarterly journal, Tripod, helps track the complex relationships between Chinese government and the Catholic “registered and unregistered” churches. Bob Astorino, a founding member of the Union of Catholic Asian News (in 1979) explained that it serves as the hub of a network of Catholic media outlets throughout Asia.
Thailand. Father Tom Dunleavy, MM, an Irish super-connector, has worked on immigration and refugee needs with Maryknoll and other programs in Cambodia, Viet Nam, Laos, and now Thailand, since 1980. Thailand has long received people fleeing persecution from surrounding countries who are housed in refugee camps there. As elsewhere in the world, many ethnic groups live spread across borders and suffer persecution as minorities.
The US. Both Lao and Cambodia endured fierce US bombardments (authorized by neither the Congress nor the American people) during the secret side of the Viet Nam war. That war netted two Communist countries, an American defeat, and an enormous number of deaths.
San Diego. I was struck by unexpected long-distance links between Maryknoll folks. Several years ago, Erin Rickwa, a San Diego Affiliate then volunteering with Catholic Charities, invited our chapter to welcome a newly arrived group of Karen—an ethnic group in various countries of Southeast Asia. From Myanmar (Burma), they had spent years in Thailand before receiving political refuge in San Diego. We didn’t speak their languages, nor they ours. Yet we had fun connecting at a picnic on Mission Bay. Affiliates Karen and Pat Reilly continued working with some of these new arrivals.
Winners of an essay competition for immigrant youth in San Diego schools were two young Karen women from Myanmar. Having trekked with their families through jungles to enter Thailand and eventually arriving as refugees in San Diego, they will soon start college. More connections!
Another key link in the chain is San Diego Chapter Coordinator Jim DeHarpporte. Based on his many years working with CRS in Southeast Asia, he was the ideal person to orient us for our journey. Amazingly, his son had studied and graduated from the International School of Bangkok where our daughter and son-in-law teach and three grandchildren now study!
Is this a small world? Sheer coincidence? Divine providence? Or what? Your choice!
The story lines are straightforward. For example, Tom Dunleavy, a Maryknoll priest in Thailand whose mission is service, has been instrumental in sending refugees and immigrants on long, hard journeys for a better life—more than 8,000 miles to San Diego. Some of these arriving refugees found compassion from Maryknoll Affiliates here. Our mission, too, is service.