New Shrine in Kerala, India

"My House shall be a House of Prayer for all Peoples" (Isaiah 56:7)

The newly built Shrine of our Lady of La Salette at Kayakunnu, Wayanad was blessed on May 20, 2017 by Bishop Mar Jose Porunnedom. It is a dream comes true for the La Salette Missionaries in India as we consecrate and dedicate the Shrine of our Blessed Mother. This will be the first shrine in Kerala dedicated to our Lady of La Salette. 

A Place of Prayer

Untitled 1From left: Our Lady of La Salette; New La Salette Shrine in IndiaThe La Salette Shrine is open for all people and will be known as a place of prayer. People of all faith will be welcomed at our shrine and I strongly believe that this shrine will be a center for reconciliation and a place of consolation for many souls.

I have a dream to see La Salette Ashram as a great spiritual center. I am sure that the new Shrine, new house and the retreat center will support us in making this dream come true. The Ashram ministries, the retreat center, vocation promotion, lay association and all other ministries that we do around the area will be supported by our blessed mother and her intercession. 

Our Blessed Mother asked us to make her message known to all her people. We can be proud of the ministries we do in making the reconciliation message known to the entire world… The shrine becomes a reality for us through the great support of some well-wishers of La Salette…

Read more: New Shrine in Kerala, India

Among the Ruins of Arakan

Untitled 1The Great Image or Mahamuni, Mandalay, Burma; author: Wagaung at English Wikipedia
Arakan, the western Province of Burma extending from north to south (and vice versa, of course) along the Bay of Bengal, is not listed in tourist guidebooks among the places you must visit before you die. The towering Yoma Mountain ranges that separate it from Burma proper have reduced Arakan to the level and condition of an unloved step-daughter. Today it manages to maintain a precarious place on the map only because it has become "a filling station" for the Imperial Sea-planes and for "Air France", as well as for sailing-vessels that come in to Akyab for paddy.

And yet like every other corner of the world, wherever man has pitched his tent, Arakan has its history and its places of interest. On a recent trip through the districts of Akyab and Paletwa, I visited several old towns where there still remain extensive ruins testifying to the ancient glories Arakan once knew. In the chronological order the first of these is the old Mahamuni Pagoda, said to be the oldest in Burma, ante-dating even the famed Shwe Dagon of Rangoon.

Former Capital

Though I have often resolved before now to leave the visiting of ruins to younger legs, the prospect of another ruin in my neighborhood always seems to weaken my resolution. And so I found myself cycling along the six miles from Kyauktaw to Thayetbin in the mid-day sun grumbling to my companion that for a certainty this was the ruin to end all ruins in my life-time.

The dust of the road, the heat of the sun, a burning thirst – all contributed to making my experience a feeling of kinship with the venerable old pile called Mahamuni Pagoda, when we arrived there. My kind companion and guide explained with thrilling eloquence how this was the first capital of the old Arakenese Kings who flourished (to use the terminology of the best historians) hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Here was to be found formerly the famous image of Buddha, deposited by that good man as he was sailing through the skies one day over this very town, and to which image he imparted the life-giving warmth – whatever that is.

Read more: Among the Ruins of Arakan

Born a La Salette

Untitled 1Sister Antoinette Marie-Claire Raharisoa, SSND, on the Holy Mountain
Sister Antoinette Marie-Claire Raharisoa was born in Tsarahonenana in the district of Ambohibary, diocese of Antsirabe, Madagascar. She grew up in a large family of ten brothers and sisters of which she is the seventh.

As good practicing Catholics, we went every Sunday to Sunday Mass, without asking any questions. We were not allowed to work on Sundays. Every evening at home we prayed. We prayed together to Our Lady of La Salette. I did not even know where these prayers came from or to whom to address it but I said it with all my heart.

Every Sunday before the celebration of the Word of God, while waiting for all to arrive, our catechists had us pray the rosary followed by the Litany of Our Lady of La Salette. In fact, since my childhood, the Message of La Salette has been an integral part of my faith journey. Thanks to this faith I received from my parents and the Church, I have always sought how to please Jesus, by giving myself entirely to him. This led me to answer a very special call.

Answering a Special Call

This is how I joined the Sisters of Our Lady La Salette! Arriving in France in 2004 as a novice on internship, I made my first vows in October, 2004 and made my solemn profession in March 2011. I have a religious sister with the Sisters of Christ.

After my first profession, I was sent by Sister Marie Victoire, Superior General in 2004, with two other sisters of my promotion, to open a new community in the diocese of Gap. After 6 years, I am appointed in the diocese of Saint-Flour. Then return to the diocese of Gap. It was here that the Congregation appointed me provincial superior of the NSDS of France. It is in the community that I find fraternal help and the necessary moral support. It is this fraternal life that carries me.

Prayer, Community Life and our Congregation

I experience that praying is not always easy. It is not easy to confide in God in the face of difficult situations and trials, and even in the face of my successes. I need humility. I know that I must be guided by the Spirit. It is he who invites me to look further, towards the beauty of his call which I have benefited from.

Read more: Born a La Salette

The Faith of Malagasies

Untitled 1Fr. John Brady, M.S. (1907-1970), a Missionary in Madagascar welcomes Bp. Francis Dantin, M.S. (1870-1941) in 1935
One of the chief obstacles to the cause of our Catholic Foreign Missions is very often the apathy of our good Catholics "back home." The question is oftentimes asked by these well-meaning folk; "Is it not a hopeless task to try and convert an unbeliever? Why all this waste of our finest youth? Money? Time? Why these lives of exile and hardship in primitive lands?"

A thousand answers might be given to these queries, fully justifying the foreign mission movement, if the words of Christ Himself were not enough: "Go and teach ail nations." The opinion seems to be quite common that the natives in uncivilized lands never really imbibe the true faith, even after years of endeavor on the part of the missionaries.

Perhaps the following short sketches of little incidents that took place here at our mission of Morondava, Madagascar, within the past month may help to convince the skeptic that the faith is really taking root and making progress in foreign lands. These examples are typical of a thousand other proofs we witness daily around us, showing that our Malagasies treasure the same faith of which we are so proud.

A Simple Envelope

The first incident I quote took place the day after the feast of St. Joseph. Our good lay Brother was removing the temporary altar which we had erected in the sanctuary as a shrine in honor of the saint. As he took down the statue, a small white envelope fell to the floor. Not knowing what it might contain, the Brother brought it to the house and laid it upon my desk.

Returning to my room about two hours later, I found the envelope with two or three other Ietters. Ignorant of its origin and contents, I opened the envelope indifferently and read with amazement the following:

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Promises Kept

In November 1941, three newly ordained La Salette priests boarded the S.S. President Grant in San Francisco, California, to sail to the La Salette Missions in Burma. On December 8, Pearl Harbor was bombed and America was at war with Japan. The passengers of the ship were ordered to disembark and sleep on the shore. At night, the ship slipped away with all the passengers' luggage to Australia.

Untitled 1On their way to Burma, in fall of 1941, they were captured in Manila: (from left) La Salette Frs. Frederick Julien, John Doherty, and Joseph Decoteau.
Manila was occupied by the Japanese who placed all foreigners under house arrest. The three La Salette priests: Joseph Decoteau, John Doherty and Fred Julien sought and found refuge with the Jesuits. In 1944, Fathers Decoteau and Julien were moved to Los Banos, in the hill country about 40 miles from Manila. There they joined other internees, including two bishops, 243 priests, nuns and brothers plus 2,000 Protestant Missionaries and their families. Father Doherty remained in Manila.

Having discovered the Japanese plan to execute the internees, General Douglas MacArthur mapped out a daring rescue. In the early morning of February 23, 1945, while the Japanese were doing their calisthenics, some 200 U.S. paratroopers dropped from the heavens and separated the Japanese from their guns. As the first paratrooper touched the ground, the Filipino guerilla scouts, hidden in the nearby mountain, surrounded the camp and began their attack.

A Battle Around Us

"A fierce battle took place," said Father Julien. "Bullets flew over our heads. We all lay flat on the ground praying the rosary. I was convinced some of us would die. Trembling from head to foot and unable to control my head pounding on the ground, I promised Our Lady of La Salette to erect a Shrine in her honor in the Philippines should she help me survive."

Amphibian tanks broke through the fences and the internees were herded on even as the Japanese continued shelling from the hills. Miraculously, not even one internee was killed. The camp went up in flames.

Soon the three La Salettes were reunited and deported to the United States where they petitioned the Seven Dolor Province to allow them to return to the Philippines. Back in Los Banos in 1944, Bishop Constance Jurgens invited Fathers Descoteau and Julien to come to Isabela, a province up north, to help when the war was over.

Patiently Seeking Permission to Fulfill His Promise

A postulatum, therefore, petitioning to accept the Philippine mission and signed by all the La Salettes in Texas and Louisiana was presented in the Provincial Chapter in 1948. But the decision was to maintain Burma. Henceforth, all ensuing correspondences were addressed to Father Elmeric Dubois, the Provincial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Province, eventually paving the way to the acceptance of the Philippine mission.

Read more: Promises Kept

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