For it is not enough to begin if one does not also persevere. St Angela Merici, founder of the Ursulines
Taking care of those whose dignity and human rights have been trampled upon, requires courage to bear witness to Christ’s simple but serious call of, ‘loving each other as I have loved you.’
Yet in Northern Thailand, where the Thai government has forcibly relocated Hill Tribes people including Hmong, Karen, and Akha, to make room for resorts and ecotourism parks, the Ursuline Sisters, and Jesuits, as well as other religious orders and secular groups, have courageously taken it upon themselves to improve the situation of families and young people. Without Thai citizenship or land title, these semi-nomadic people endure high levels of poverty, poor access to health care and education, which stifles their employment prospects, political representation, and access to judicial processes.
JISA Faber Spiritual Director and Giver of the Spiritual Exercises, Steve Jorgensen was invited to help introduce Ignatian Pedagogy to the college of Regina Coeli – an Ursuline Catholic College in Chiang Mai of over 1500 girls, 90% Buddhist, who facilitate a scholarship programme for over 30 ‘Hill Tribes’ students.
He was also fortunate to visit a co-ed primary (K-6) school which is free to Hills Tribes children; as well as the Xavier Learning Community for vulnerable indigenous Hill Tribes which aims to provide disadvantaged and indigenous students with the integral formation and liberal arts education leading to a bachelor’s degree.
Steve’s experience in Thailand reminded him of the words of Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ, who in 1981 in a Bangkok address, spoke of the apostolate in Thailand as,
“one of the most difficult in the Society because of the cultural conditions, the political conditions, and all the rest. So, you require a great heart to work with enthusiasm in a work whose results you do not see.”
Steve writes that to see, hear, feel and viscerally experience modern day disciples courageously sharing the love of Christ with less affluent ethnic minorities, in a Buddhist nation of 0.58% Catholics, is to existentially relive the Pentecost joy of ‘praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.’ Acts2: 40