Missions director recalls hospitality, faith of Nepalese people
By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
Those on the East Coast may be exhausted by the number of recent nor’easters that have knocked over trees and left many without power for weeks, but imagine the impact a 7.8-magnitude earthquake might have on neighborhoods, employment and entire lives.
The residents of Nepal don’t have to imagine: their small Asian nation, nestled between India and China, suffered devastation to its cities and villages after a catastrophic earthquake in April 2015, much of which has not yet been repaired.
Photo Gallery: Father Alindogan's Mission Trip to Nepal
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Though its architecture and resources may be suffering, the people’s hospitality and strong faith are undamaged. Father Peter James Alindogan, director of the diocesan Office of Missions, visited the country on a mission trip from Jan. 29 to Feb. 6 and found a determined spirit among those striving to repair their infrastructure.
“I try to visit one country each year on behalf of the Pontifical Mission Society,” he explained. “I went to Nepal because we have a longstanding relationship with Nepal and Father Joe Thaler for over 40 years.”
Father Thaler, a priest of the Maryknoll order, has been caring for the villages for years and knew how to rally the people behind him. The area is an apostolic vicariate, noted Father Alindogan – “It is one step below a diocese because of their small size, and there are only about 8,000 Catholics among 30 million inhabitants.”
Touring the area to see how they might help was difficult, noted Father Alindogan, who also serves as pastor of St. Jerome Parish, West Long Branch, and St. Mary Parish, Deal. He and Father Thaler used an all-wheel drive car to reach the remote village of Bhimtar, where the Maryknollers were working and preaching.
“In the village of Bhimtar, people are getting their houses rebuilt with the help of Father Thaler. We visited the brick factory to train the workers about HIV on their lunch breaks,” Father Alindogan said. “Some of them had trouble with their eyes because they would carry the bricks on their heads and the dust would fall in their eyes.
“Their children attend school nearby in a two-room classroom with about 70 students per room, divided into upper and lower grades,” the priest continued. “They are fed twice a day while their fathers work.”
He said the people’s faith and hospitality stood out among his fondest memories of the trip.
“One invited us to share some tea with him. When we got to his house, we saw he only had a small propane tank to heat up things, and he had had to walk seven miles to refill it.”
Father Alindogan said the people of the Diocese of Trenton can help those in Nepal by giving to Mission Sunday collections, as well as learning from the missionaries who visit area parishes each summer.
He expressed his admiration of the Maryknoll order, which strived to both repair infrastructure in Nepal and evangelize souls.
“They were uplifting human beings. They aid with education and preach about Jesus more through their actions than words,” Father Alindogan said. “I was really impressed.”