Fr. Sergio writes:
Tomorrow I will start my long journey back to the States, but let me tell you what happened in the past days.
We crossed the border with Myanmar where a car was waiting for us to take us to Keng Tung. The difference between the two countries, Thailand and Myanmar, is immediately visible. Poverty strikes you just few yards inside Myanmar, with the exception of a few new SUVs belonging to the members of the military.
We stopped in Mong Lin, leaving for a few miles the main road to Keng Tung. I was really excited to see the place where Venerable Fr. Vismara spent the first 30 years of his missionary life. He built several buildings, most of them still standing, on the land given him by the King of the Shans. That land, then a forest, was inhabited by tigers and evil spirits. Nobody wanted it, that’s why they gave it to Fr. Clement. With a highly dramatic move he took his horse, a long knife, a rosary, went into the jungle and spent the night there. When he came back, in the morning, the evil spirits were gone. The locals still remember (oral tradition!) this event!
We saw the rectory he built with the famous coffin, still unused. (Note: Fr. Vismara built a coffin for himself, saying “If I was a bother to anyone in life, at least I won’t be after I die.”) Well, they tell me that he built many coffins but he gave them away. In fact, he died and was buried in Mong Pin, close to the border with China, where we were not allowed to go.
We arrived in Keng Tung just minutes before they closed the last checkpoint and started the curfew. The welcome of the Bishop, Peter, and of the clergy was overwhelming. They consider themselves the children in faith of the PIME missionaries, who evangelized the whole province in the early 1900’s.
The Catholics there are so proud to be such! Their faith is so simple and strong, though they are discriminated against. And we are proud for helping them through our generosity. We prayed together for all our benefactors, Mission Medical Relief and Foster Parents, Chapel Program and Native Seminarians. It was overwhelming to see the results of such generosity!
We visited the Catholic Cemetery where few months ago they vandalized the catholic graves breaking the Crosses. They respected the graves of the Italian Sisters because they had the bright idea to put a picture on their Crosses, scaring those who vandalized the cemetery.
The tension is high indeed and it is hard to keep good relationship with those who want the total control of the population. Buddhism too is used to control people. Many Buddhist monks are not really monks!
We saw the Leper Camp – Nuang Kan – that the Sisters of Charity and the Diocese are taking care of. The place became famous for two movies shot there in 1956 and 1959 by Bill Deneen. They are telling me that what I saw few days ago was exactly the way it was 50 years ago! The hospital where Fr. Dr. Cesare Colombo, PIME, operated is now abandoned. It is kept clean by the Sisters.
We talked to some of the lepers, the old ones who still remember Fr. Colombo. Their children and grandchildren are working on their farm and are now going to school.
After a long journey through beautiful mountains, and under a violent monsoon storm, we reached Thailand yesterday night. Our visit to Myanmar has been very brief, but definitely a highlight of my all my Asian journey.
Tomorrow we will visit another two or three PIME missions where we have many children adopted through Foster Parents.
In a few days we will be back in Detroit with tons of pictures and videos. You will hear about this journey well in the future!
God Bless and pray for the many Catholic who are discriminated against and persecuted and for all those who are denied a decent living.
(A “technical difficulty” prevented me from posting photos of Fr. Sergio in Myanmar. They’ll be added ASAP!)