Last Survey Tour
We were getting ready for the General Chapter of 1976, and it was wise to have a complete survey of all our various missions. This would allow the Assistancy to be able to present a complete picture of each area at the forthcoming Chapter. But I now make what will probably be my last report of the missions that I loved so very much.
Our mission in Japan is the one that was struck very hard recently when our school in Kobe was completely destroyed by a great earthquake. We were able to carry on with makeshift temporary facilities, and after two years of hard work and a lot of help from the government and the local people we are now back to complete service. It is incredible how hard all worked to make that possible. Now Kobe carries on in full force with only a few Brothers left.
Kumamoto is a different story, for the problem there is the lack of Marist Brothers. We had hoped that we would be getting some vocations to take over eventually and replace us. That has not occurred. Our school is running well, for Brother Patrick had seen to an efficient staff before leaving. Our only Japanese Marist continues as the superintendent in charge of the school and tries to maintain our special Marist spirit. We thank the Lord for the few Japanese Marists we have had.
Everything continues well even after the return of the island to China, for the various administrations have not been disturbed so far. Our two schools continue in Kowloon and in Tseun Wan. Our Brothers continue teaching and also send a few Brothers to slowly start some activities on the mainland. At least we are looking after our mainland Marists. In Taiwan, now that the last Marist Brother died, the school in Kaohsiung is in the hands of the Dominican Bishop for whom we had been working since we first started there. Our strength here, as in all Asia, is the alumni with whose help we hope to be able eventually to return to mainland China.
Malaysia is really the headquarters of our China Province. The Provincial House, the Catholic High School, the Brothers residence and the Scholasticate are all here at Petaling Jaya. It also serves for our retreats. We have no more Brothers in Ipoh. We still have hope for vocations from Melaka and its Catholic school, which is also a source of vocations. The only other large school in the Province is the one in Sibu, Sarawak, where we have been working for over thirty-five years.
Singapore is still outstanding because of its well-set-up Marist Stella School with its exceptional and popular kindergarten at Flower Road, which is also a retreat house for the elderly Marist. We continue to wait for the right moment to be able to get back to the mainland. And for the time being I would guess that our strategy is to Return, Restart and Rebuild. Singapore is also the seat of a General and Administrative Bishop for all of the Chinese outside of the mainland China.
In 1998 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our first coming to the Philippine Islands by the Americans on August 15, 1948. This Province has experienced a drop in the number of vocations, but it is outstanding in its work for and in the schools. Of the original four Marist American Brothers, only one is still alive and not yet retired, but he is back in the U.S.A. All three others have died and two are buried in the Philippine cemetery at our Novitiate in Cotobato.
We have six schools, all of them with kindergarten, elementary, and high school; four of them are colleges, and one of these is a university. We have a total of 26,087 students in our schools with only thirty-nine Marist Brothers to do all this work, and only two of these are Americans. The vocations are fewer than before; vocations, at least, are possible in that country.
The General Administration has also been using the Philippines for a new training center for our young Marist Brothers of all our missions in Asia. It is known as the Marist Asian Center.
Our Korean mission is doing quite well. The Brothers have been going to spend their summers with our Brother in Japan where they get the opportunity to speak English and to live community life with them. This has been beneficial to both groups. The main house is in Seoul, and a Novitiate was put up at Suwon-Shi. There is a leprosy hospital at Kyonbuk where the sick are treated, and from which those with leprosy can get medicine. The children of the leprosy families gather each summer and are brought to our house in the capital where they can enjoy various sports and programs and have the opportunity to view some educational movies. There is a special training program at Kyonggi-Do. Those who are ready to start some college courses are sent to our Asian Center in the Philippines, where they can complete their studies with all the other Asian countries without Scholasticate facilities. The care that we offer for the lepers covers all the lepers of at least eight cities in the same Diocese. It is named Damien after the famous Father Damien the Leper.
The Marist Asian Center is under the care of the General Administration and provides courses and full academic training for all the Marist missions of Asia, which do not yet have a proper Scholasticate and do not have the means to provide one. This is a great help as well as a place to hold all the various Asian retreats or meetings of all the Asian Superiors. A similar program has been organized and is offered in Kenya for all the college-level training for the various Provinces or missions of Africa, which do not have those facilities. This has been a great help also for the study of main languages needed in our various missions. We have also accepted religious of nearby orders as well.
This was in fact in one of the first missions assigned to me, and the one that I became most anchored to. Negombo, where the Provincial Office is, as is our oldest school, is now the seat of the Province and home to our most famous school, and the one that has the most famous alumni. When the government wanted to take over our schools, it was our alumni who stepped in and took over the schools and paid the teachers’ salaries. The government understood that it was losing its attempt to take over the school, and that it would do better to support Marist Stella. Our oldest community was Our Lady’s Hemitage, which had been the seat of all training from the beginning. It had been a small farm and now helps support the Province. Our newest schools are Kalutara and Kotte, open to all denominations and doing well. Our school up-country continues as a school, but we use our house mostly for rests and retreats. It is to Sri Lanka’s credit that it has become a center for the early program of missions to India and Pakistan.
We were asked by the Church in the early ’60s to start this mission. It was a great sacrifice to ask this of a very small Province, but it proved to be the right move, and Sri Lanka has become a center for the training of all Pakistani young candidates as well as the first young candidates of India. Our success in Pakistan stems from the death of Brother Bernard, the Spanish Brother who had come as a missionary to Sri Lanka and was asked to go to help out in Pakistan. He had a strong influence on the people who all loved him. We had now started with our school for the poor of Peshawar, for that is what our Founder would have done. We have a school in Peshawar and later opened in Sargodah another school for the poor children of the country.
What has enabled us to succeed and to get vocations in both places was our sincere dedication to the training of youth for which we provided a youth hostel. The hostel became a center for vocations as well and graduated one of the highest-ranking Catholics in the country who is in charge of Caritas, the organization of the Church to help out the poor. The young candidates who come out of Pakistan go to train first in Sri Lanka and then go for their college work at our Asian Center for the training of young candidates.
India was off to a good start because of the help of some of the foreign missionaries who had come to Sri Lanka. They first started to help out with the growth of Sri Lanka and came as missionaries from Spain and Italy. Our first group of missionary candidates was not adequately trained, and Sri Lanka had no other help to offer as it was an expense they could not handle with their already poor finances. So they asked the Superiors for help, and the new mission of India was then assigned to one of the provinces of Australia, and remains so today. Our Australian set-up in Trichy is suitable for a training center for Indians at present. It will take some more time before we have enough trained Indians to be able to take over the mission work in their country.
What pleases me most is that even India, as young a mission as it is, expects to be able to start some missionary projects in northern India, which can develop to the point of providing more Indian missionaries where they are most needed and wanted by the Church. Our latest news is that our mission work in India is now completely in the hands of our Indian Marists.
last updated on June 10, 2004