In Nepal, resoluteness, faith flourish years after powerful quake

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.
In Nepal, resoluteness, faith flourish years after powerful quake
In Nepal, resoluteness, faith flourish years after powerful quake


By Father Peter James Alindogan
Diocesan Missions Director

I missed the historic event Feb. 4 when the Philadelphia Eagles won their first-ever Super Bowl championship. I was on a hanging bridge over the Indirawati River in Nepal with a Maryknoller priest, Father Joe Thaler, when we first learned about it. It was the sixth day of my mission trip there.

We were on our way to Biktar, a village totally demolished by the killer earthquake barely three years ago. The first village we visited lost 300 of its inhabitants. The bricks and the reddish clay were silent witnesses of the lives that were lost and the lives that kept hope in humanity’s generosity of mission.

The villages are slowly rising from the rubble thanks for the most part to Father Joe and the Maryknolls. Their generous financial support and help in providing new, sturdy houses to the villagers superseded the government’s belated efforts in reconstruction and development.

That Father Joe was known to the community before the big earthquake struck was a big plus. He immediately utilized local goods and services, urged the villagers to re-use whatever they could save from the destruction, and without resorting to publicity – which some relief organizations are prone to do – was able to bring the community back to its feet and more.

Because of reconstruction and rezoning, the villages now had access to sanitary toilets, which they did not have before. More than 500 toilets were installed in one village alone, where before, there was only a handful.

The poverty, however, is very palpable. We were invited to one family’s home. We removed our dusty shoes and sandals, as was customary. Something can be said here about removing shoes or sandals before entering a house in Nepal. It is not just an Asian custom of espect, but also a matter of practicality and etiquette.

Ordinarily, a family of four shares one room, which functions as the kitchen, dining room and bedroom. There is no space for closets or refrigerators. There may be a small table or chair. That room is stacked with what little they have, or the most they could ever have. This type of living condition is generally observed in mountainous villages all over the country.

Thus, they sit on the floor. They eat on the floor. They sleep on the floor. They pray on the floor.

In fact, the main church for worship, the cathedral in Kathmandu, does not have any pews at all. Red cushions are neatly and orderly arranged like a corncob.  

The Sunday obligation is observed on a Saturday by most Nepalese. Father Silas, the vicar general, told me they adapted the Hindu day set aside for prayer, which is Saturday. With a population of 30 million, and a minority of 8,000 Nepalese Catholics, I was reminded of the call of the Second Vatican Council a half-century ago about enculturation in the practice of our faith.

Much more can be said about their steady growth in the number of converts, which can be the crux of most mission talks. However, the visit to Nepal opened my eyes to a wider perspective and knowledge of comparative religions.

Father Thaler’s office is staffed by Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. He is the only Christian in his mission crew of volunteers. But that does not stop him from spreading the mission of love and peace, which unites all religion. He has made tremendous progress in ecumenism.

With all the troubles in our world now, not by a longshot would we think that different beliefs can work together in harmony and peace. Just as not by a longshot did I think then that the Eagles would win the Super Bowl over the highly favored Patriots.

One prayer says it all – believe. One word may sum it all up – mission. And one name may be the reason for it, and the purpose for my visit – Jesus.

 

 

 

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By Father Peter James Alindogan
Diocesan Missions Director

I missed the historic event Feb. 4 when the Philadelphia Eagles won their first-ever Super Bowl championship. I was on a hanging bridge over the Indirawati River in Nepal with a Maryknoller priest, Father Joe Thaler, when we first learned about it. It was the sixth day of my mission trip there.

We were on our way to Biktar, a village totally demolished by the killer earthquake barely three years ago. The first village we visited lost 300 of its inhabitants. The bricks and the reddish clay were silent witnesses of the lives that were lost and the lives that kept hope in humanity’s generosity of mission.

The villages are slowly rising from the rubble thanks for the most part to Father Joe and the Maryknolls. Their generous financial support and help in providing new, sturdy houses to the villagers superseded the government’s belated efforts in reconstruction and development.

That Father Joe was known to the community before the big earthquake struck was a big plus. He immediately utilized local goods and services, urged the villagers to re-use whatever they could save from the destruction, and without resorting to publicity – which some relief organizations are prone to do – was able to bring the community back to its feet and more.

Because of reconstruction and rezoning, the villages now had access to sanitary toilets, which they did not have before. More than 500 toilets were installed in one village alone, where before, there was only a handful.

The poverty, however, is very palpable. We were invited to one family’s home. We removed our dusty shoes and sandals, as was customary. Something can be said here about removing shoes or sandals before entering a house in Nepal. It is not just an Asian custom of espect, but also a matter of practicality and etiquette.

Ordinarily, a family of four shares one room, which functions as the kitchen, dining room and bedroom. There is no space for closets or refrigerators. There may be a small table or chair. That room is stacked with what little they have, or the most they could ever have. This type of living condition is generally observed in mountainous villages all over the country.

Thus, they sit on the floor. They eat on the floor. They sleep on the floor. They pray on the floor.

In fact, the main church for worship, the cathedral in Kathmandu, does not have any pews at all. Red cushions are neatly and orderly arranged like a corncob.  

The Sunday obligation is observed on a Saturday by most Nepalese. Father Silas, the vicar general, told me they adapted the Hindu day set aside for prayer, which is Saturday. With a population of 30 million, and a minority of 8,000 Nepalese Catholics, I was reminded of the call of the Second Vatican Council a half-century ago about enculturation in the practice of our faith.

Much more can be said about their steady growth in the number of converts, which can be the crux of most mission talks. However, the visit to Nepal opened my eyes to a wider perspective and knowledge of comparative religions.

Father Thaler’s office is staffed by Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. He is the only Christian in his mission crew of volunteers. But that does not stop him from spreading the mission of love and peace, which unites all religion. He has made tremendous progress in ecumenism.

With all the troubles in our world now, not by a longshot would we think that different beliefs can work together in harmony and peace. Just as not by a longshot did I think then that the Eagles would win the Super Bowl over the highly favored Patriots.

One prayer says it all – believe. One word may sum it all up – mission. And one name may be the reason for it, and the purpose for my visit – Jesus.

 

 

 

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