Visit to the Foundations of Thailand and Myanmar

The OFM General Secretary for Missions and Evangelization, Br. Alonso Morales, visited the Foundation of Our Lady of the Angels in Thailand from July 1st to 5th, and was received very warmly by the friars. 4 missionary friars (from Indonesia, Thailand, India and Switzerland-Italy) were present and there were opportunities to converse with each of them.

The Order is already beginning to spread in this region of the world, with one local Solemnly Professed friar-priest, and two local friars in Temporary Profession.

The friars have established a HIV Hospice which gives excellent care to about 20 patients, providing friendship, medical attention, and palliative care. This is a solidarity-based project and is the kind of engagement that we should encourage in Thailand and in other countries where the friars have a presence.

The friars also have another important project that is beginning to take off — a retreat house that welcomes people from Thailand or from neighbouring countries who are looking for spiritual accompaniment, a retreat, or a place for reflection. The retreat house makes a significant contribution in a region where people are in need of places to contemplate, meditate, or withdraw for a while

Our hope is that this project will continue to flourish and that, in the future, it might also become a place where interreligious dialogue can be promoted, since this one of the purposes for which the friars arrived in Thailand.

The visit to the mission in Myanmar took place from July 5th to 11th.

The Franciscans arrived in Myanmar in 2005, having been invited by the Archbishop to provide spiritual accompaniment to clergy, religious, and laity.

There’s a good spirit among the friars and this was evident during the visit. Some are involved in the accompaniment of the young Myanmarese/Burmese men — whether for a brief experience (Come and See Experience), or to begin Franciscan Formation proper, which begins in Yangon and then continues in the Philippines. The friars who wish to continue their studies and prepare for ordination to the priesthood attend the major seminary in Yangon.

Some friars are engaged in the study of the local language, while the local friars study English. There are good relationships with other members of the Franciscan Family (FMM and SFO). A friar is also involved in rosary beads production, a project that gives work to about 4 families in Yangon.

Currently, the friars hope to bring two projects to completion:

  1. The existing Formation House is fully occupied with the result that no candidates can be received at this time; the friars wish to build a Formation House to remedy this.
  2. The friars aim to develop an inclusive project that could integrate the Formation House, the Spirituality Centre (used for meetings, retreats, and spiritual accompaniment), and some land for an ecological agriculture project. A site has been identified in one of the most northern dioceses (Mandalay) and if this land were to be used, then the friars would leave Yangon.

This seems to be a really interesting project, and in time the Spirituality Centre could also become a centre for the friars to engage in interreligious dialogue with Buddhism.