A Faith greater than Fear

A Faith greater than our fear
​ "May your Faith be greater than your Fear" [Heb 13:6]    Fr Tony O'Connor sm writes from San Felipe de Jesus Catholic Church, Brownsville, Texas.Here we were : attending Central American Minors in their centers and in the parish; taking food, clothes, and provisions to the asylum seekers over the border; and to the poor "ranchos" on the other side of the river in cooperation with the valiant people there; getting our kids ready for First Communion and Confirmation, 30 R.C.I A. candidates adults and children;fully attended Sunday masses; baptisms; weddings;15 year old birthdays; Zumba; Yoga; Praise; Adoration; adult education; Bible; food bank;social assistance. Then COV...
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Easter Triduum at the Border

Tony O'Connor writes from the Mexican Border
Tony O'Connor writes of "Threads of the Easter Triduum at the [Mexican] Border":This past month, everything changed around me and keeps changing as "shut in" has set in on both sides of the border. Things as they were TENT COURTS Here the most notable travesties were the tent courts for the asylum seekers. At 4.30 am they would be lined up on the bridge on the Mexican side. The candidates who had been waiting days, weeks for this moment would be checked for louse, yes louse! Anyone not clean got left behind. Then they were marched over the bridge to the Tent Court, hidden behind a fence by the Gateway Bridge here in Brownsville. No one was permitted to witness the court hearings. Anybody wal...
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A letter from Thailand

Br Paul fms, teachers and students at 'Hope
​ Br Paul Murphy fms, Australia, recently sent this letter from his mission in Thailand:    A grey ribbon of narrow road, hedged by brush and swamp, snakes ahead running from 'somewhere to nowhere' until it bursts upon the shore of the Gulf of Thailand where finger wharves encompassed by tiny trawlers bob and ebb on a grey green sea. I had just come two hours south east from Bangkok to 'Hope's' most beautiful school at Wat (temple) Sirimonkon on the edge of the region of Samut Sakhon.  Wat Siri is a beautiful, loving school surprisingly part funded by the Thai government and nestling on the side of two active temples, both Buddhist - one Thai, the other Bur...
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Unusual Kindness

The Holy Family is still among us
The theme this year, 2020, for the week of Prayer for Christian Unity [18-25​ January], has been "Unusual Kindness" - words of St Paul, when given this experience during his own shipwreck off Malta. We share in this blog, in a timely way, stories from Tony O'Connor sm, working with People on the Mexican-USA border, who so much need those experiences of being shown an "Unusual Kindness". ​ "MILD MODERN DAY TORTURE"?Juan from Salvador, 16 going on 17, a tall stocky lad, well-spoken and decent hearted , arrived two weeks ago , crossed the river and was picked up by the border patrol a couple of hours from here. Is now in a center for migrant minors. They took him first as they do to all, t...
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There is always Hope

Centro Hispano Marista Graduates 2019
Dr. Leticia Valencia, program director of Centro Hispano Marista​  writes: Centro Hispano Marista is a ministry that provides affordable, bilingual, GED preparation classes for adults in Atlanta. Each Tuesday evening between 350 and 400 students arrive for classes taught by wonderful volunteers. Since its inception, the Centro has helped 290 graduates achieve their GED, or equivalent of a high school diploma, which has opened them the doors to higher-paying jobs, college, and job promotions. We have just celebrated our 2019 graduation on December 10th - see the cover photo! Although our program shrunk and had difficulties in the past, we keep seeing the potential in adult...
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HIV-AIDS Ministry - Ranong

Fr Gil Casio sm - Palliative Care
Fr Gil Casio sm, writes to us from Ranong, Thailand:  Marist prefer to work with the poor and vulnerable, opting for jobs that are unattractive or unrewarding. In 2006, we opted to go to Ranong, a border town across the southernmost tip of Myanmar which serves as a gateway for Burmese migrants to enter into Thailand. It has the highest density of Burmese migrants in Thailand, where many of them are working in the fishing - and its related - industries. It has a moving migrant population, extreme poverty, and migrant fishing population which increases the risks and vulnerability for getting HIV. Our Marist Community recognizes those living with HIV AIDS ...
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Francis and the Catholic Dormitory of Ee Tu Hta

​This is a story of a kind of 'sustainable development' by a refugee youngster. Former Mission Centre director, Fr Ron Nissen SM, remembers...  Francis Hsa Ku was a teenager when we first met in 2003. It was at MMC* Hostel, Maera Moo refugee camp, Thailand, deep in the jungles on the border of Myanmar.(*Marist Mission Centre Australia). He was one of the tens of thousands of refugees from Myanmar (then Burma) fleeing the brutality of the military regime.MMC had begun funding the Hostel in 1998. I first visited (on the back of an elephant!) in the rainy season of 1999. Since then the Hostel has continued to receive MMC support and is still known as 'MMC Hostel' despite attempts...
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Born beside the bridge: Mexico-USA

Cristian - born beside the bridge
​Fr Tony O'Connor sm, wrote recently from Brownsville, USA:  This is Cristian He was born in Matamoros yesterday morning. His mother "Jessica" had been living on the bridge on the Matamoros (Mexico) side for some time awaiting asylum now that illegally the US government leaves them in Mexico with all the risks of living in the street the Mañia (gangs) and hunger, thirst, heat, and rain . By rights little Cristian should be a US citizen but thanks to Trump he is a little Mexican Honduran chamarco. His mom from Honduras is 23 years old and does not want to live in the bridge it would be too dangerous for Cristian. Efforts are being made to find a place to stay for this litt...
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Marists in Ranong - Critical Times

Marist Mission Ranong - Critical Times
Fr Frank Bird sm, Director, writes:  Our Marist Mission in Ranong, Thailand, has been supporting Burmese Migrant children and families since 2006. In the past few weeks we have had some challenges that remind us just how vulnerable Burmese Migrants are. An order was issued from the Department of Labour in Bangkok to search and scan all 10 Burmese Migrant Learning Centres in Ranong. 32 Burmese Migrant Teachers were arrested and deported.With the 9 other Migrant Learning Centres, we closed our Preschool and Secondary Education Programmes to protect and keep our Burmese staff safe from the possibility of arrest. Sadly around 3,000 Burmese children have now been without the opport...
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Talad Thai Market - Pathumthani Province, Thailand

Talid Market - A Lottery of LIfe...?
A reflection by Br Paul S Murphy fms       The eight-lane, north-bearing mirage of motorway leapfrogs the struggling world below. I fly like a bird soaring above the reality and melee. This speedway could take me to charming, exotic and evenreverenced places like the old Siam Kingdom's Capital Ayutthaya sacked in the 14th century by the Burmese but never rebuilt, or to the tourist mecca of Chiang Mai or much further on to the new attraction at Chiang Rai made famous by the exploits of the cave boys (the 'Moo Pa - Wild Boars') football team and the heroism of those called upon to save them. But none of these interests me today. I am heading to the province of Pathumthani a...
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Marist among Migrants on Mexican Border

Kids in Marist-Brownsville with Blankets for Migrants
Fr Tony O'Connor sm writes from Brownsville on the Mexican Border:  Since our first blog 04 February 2019 nothing has changed. All written about San Felipe, and especially our work with the needy and migrants is still true, is still happening.  Yet in another way here on the border everything constantly changes. Nothing is ever the same. Each day the plot thickens and our indignation, constant tears and prayers continue and come closer to a certain desperation or at least a profound frustration.The Northern Triangle: Guatemala; Honduras; y Salvador:  Feelings are for so many people who escape the Northern Triangle: Guatemala because "the food does not grow there...
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Refugees at General House

Feraz - JC Colin - Mafoud
Here at the General House – Villa Santa Maria – we have two Christian Syrian Refugees with us: Mafoud and Feraz. They came to us through the "humanitarian corridor" , a pilot project carried out by the Community of Sant'Egidio, in collaboration with the Federation of Evangelical Churches and the Waldensian and Methodist Churches, completely self-funded.They have both learned Italian, are employed, and preparing for a new life….. ​ Here is a summary of Mafoud's story: "The place I come from in Syria has always been fully Christian. Despite the war we have never wanted to be involved. However, in 2013 we were told by the Islamic militia 'if you are not with us you are against us', then they be...
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40 years ago - refugees in Japan

40 yr sketch from a Vietnamese Refugee
Fr Jim Carty sm, Australia, writes of his missionary years in Japan:  The years 1978 and 1979 are remembered as the high-water mark for the flood of refugee boat people fleeing Vietnam.They had to face storms, diseases, starvation, drowning, and real and frequent plunder and rape by Thai Pirates. The lucky ones were either rescued by passing ships or made it to a shore of a safe country. Estimates of the number of Vietnamese people who died at sea according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, is the staggering figure of well over 200,000. No exact figure is available.The tens of thousands who did survive were accommodated in the many camps established by the UNHCR i...
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Marist Mission Ranong

Parents and children at Marist Mission Ranong
From southern Thailand, where the tips of Myanmar and Thailand meet, Fr Frank Bird writes. Marists came to Ranong on the Thailand-Burma Border in 2006 as a result of being pushed out of Myanmar.It didn't take too much research to realise the Thailand Burma Border is a forgotten part of the world suffering the effects of 60 years of military repression creating 9 refugee camps and a large number of Burmese Migrants fleeing to Thailand for a brighter future for their families.  It is estimated there are over 2.5 million Burmese Migrants in Thailand. Ranong is a busy Migrant corridor from Southern Myanmar into Thailand.The stories of the early days of the mission are full of tale...
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Living Water Foundation - Thailand

Wat Siri students with Brs Jose and Paul fms
Br Paul Murphy fms writes on another Living Water Foundation (LWF) supported school in Thailand:    This school is partially, significantly, and strangely government aided. It is situated near the pleasant surrounds and striking beauty of Wat Sirimonkow in the area of Samut Sakhon about two hours' drive south-west from Bangkok. The two temples (WATS) reflect the spiritual Buddhist culture of both Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). While most of the students are Buddhist there are several Christians too. The school is best described as a day co-educational primary school starting at Kinder and proceeding through to much older children in Grade Six. The school rec...
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Centro Hispano Marista - helping adults get a second chance for education

Second chance for adult Hispanic students
Atlanta is a vibrant city in the Southeast of the United States with an increasing Hispanic immigrant population. Foreign-born residents have felt the anti-immigration rhetoric in the political environment, particularly those young adults who did not know they were not citizens until they tried to get their driving license later in life. The state of Georgia has an estimated 22,180 people who fall into this category and that are eligible for "Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals" or DACA protections. In 2018, according to the Migration Policy Institute, only 35% of the eligible population participate in the program. To be eligible for DACA status, the solicitant must have entered the Unite...
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Sattahip - Superficiality hides the reality

Thailand - Burmese migrant children
Paul Murphy fms, Marist brother writes on a mission in Thailand:  The sweet smell of the sea and the pristine azure sky creates a positive impression. Sattahip is just 30 minutes south of the sex tourism playground of Pattaya - not that it counts for anything to our migrant families. So, take a right turn off the highway onto a long, narrow, winding road and you soon realisethat this road to the coast is a one way in but a no way out for scores of Burmese migrant families. ​Somehow, they survive in absolute destitution and squalor, eking out a living drying hundreds of tons of silver-sided sardines for Asian markets. There is no factory here as all the salting, cooking, drying...
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Bridging the gap

Burmese refugee youth, bridging the gap towards tertiary education
​BeginningsIn 1998, Marist Mission Centre Australia began supporting a small hostel in the remote refugee camp of Maera Moo in the jungles of the Thai-Burma border. Since then, a generation of Burmese youngsters have had somewhere safe to live – and the beginnings of education.In 2011, several young men and women from Maera Moo, 'graduates' of MMC Hostel, sought help to bridge the gap between their rudimentary camp high-school education and the possibility of tertiary studies. In the meantime, in 2004, MMC had helped set up Australian Catholic University's ambitious initiative of an online diploma course on the Thai-Burma border.'How can we get into the ACU course?', the Maera Moo ...
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On the Mexican Border at Brownsville, Texas

Tony O'Connor with Soup Kitchen team
 As Peter Chanel, the pro-martyr of Oceania was dying he said "Death is good for me" and this week on the Southern border, in this parish begun by the Marists in 1996 we will hear a similar refrain on this our patronal feast, from the young Felipe de Jesus, our patron and a migrant, the Proto- Martyr of Mexico, one of the Nagasaki martyrs of February the 5th, 1597. He was a Franciscan seminarian returning from Manilla to Mexico to be ordained and was shipwrecked and joined Pablo Miki and companions. He died repeating over and over again the name of "Jesus" "The night is slipping by so quickly. Tomorrow I will die executed on the cross, but I am not afraid."Here in the Rio Grande Valley ...
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