La Salette Feast in Madagascar
Cluster of Baobob trees, also called the upside-down tree, can reach almost 100 feet tall with a trunk from 47 to 155 feet in circumference. Several years ago, during a return visit to Madagascar, a highlight of the long trip for me from Antsirabe in the high plateau to Morondava on the coast was getting to see some Baobab trees. We stopped to see a particularly majestic one right at the edge of the road. When I saw the hollow trunk, I remembered a picture from a grammar school geography text with the comment that these trees sometimes offered shelter to the natives of the land. It must have been the same tree (almost)!
Along the way there were also many mangroves, along with cultivated plots of banana trees and tapioca root, with the terraced rice and wheat fields dominating the countryside. Some fields had pineapples growing. In deserted areas there were fields full of ant hills, like hundreds of teepees, two to three feet high, red earth against the pale brown of tough wild grass.
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A School for Bematazana
As part of a larger group from Quézac, France, I had an opportunity of taking a trip to Madagascar with La Salette Sisters Elisabeth and Jacqueline. Together we visited their religious communities, and it was during one of those visits that we travelled from the town of Ambararatabe to the village of Bematazana, where we were received an incredible welcome.
While there, we were asked to meet with a group of local residents who were very determined to build a school for the town. The group was comprised of parents, members of the parish council, and local town authorities. This meeting had one clear purpose. They already had a plot of land, and had made 25,000 bricks. But they could proceed no further on their own. They asked us to help them.
Working Hard, Possessing Little
Children in their school room: on right is old schoolhouse; on left is their new oneWhen one considers that the village is small, very poor, and quite a distance from any large town, the steps they had already taken to build a school were enormous.
They had also set aside in the village a house where the sisters could live when they came to run the school. All these measures already set in place manifested their clear determination to provide a school for their children.
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Physically Challenged People and the Beautiful Gate
|Their school teacher reviews
lessons with two of her students
While in Morondava, Madagascar several years ago, I often went to spend time at the Handicap Center, known as “The Beautiful Gate.” This name was taken from the quote in the Acts of the Apostles: “And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called ‘the Beautiful Gate’ every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple” (Acts 3:2).
This ministerial outreach to those physically challenged began in 1982. At first the children had to go up to the high plateau – some two days travel in the back of a Land Rover. But today there are doctors and orthopedic therapists who work with them near their homes on the coast and are thereby able to reach out to cities, towns and villages in a radius of some 100 miles. A few hundred children have been helped.
In 2000 this outreach was expanded to reach the lives of the mentally challenged. Today these alone now number over 30. Some can still advance in specialized classes geared to their needs. We bought them a television and VHS player long before there was live television in the city. They could watch and study while viewing specialized video programs.
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Nga Fu Goes to God
Editor: This is a happy incident in the life of a Burma Missionary, Fr. Edward O’Sullivan, M.S. His story was originally published on February, 1947, in our publication, Our Lady’s Missionary, pages 58-59. Unfortunately four years later, he was seriously injured in an automobile accident and died on Nov. 22, 1951. His absolute dedication to his people is typical of our La Salette Missionaries.
The simple history of Nga Fu is one of the most consoling incidents of my stay in Chaungtha, or Pleasant Creek, a village in the Arakan region of southwestern Burma. One of our standbys, a veritable pillar of the Church in that little Chin village, was U Shway U (Old Golden Egg). He was especially good at caring for the sick and preparing the dying for a happy death. Besides, he was father to all our orphans and to the children from the jungle who were boarded in Pleasant Creek at the expense of the mission in order that they might get their schooling and catechism.
God had blessed him with three brothers, U Shway Tu, U Shway Bu, and Nga Fu; or, to give the English equivalents, Old Golden Shovel, Old Golden Pot, and Mr. Hot. The last mentioned was a Baptist whose conversion had long been prayed for.
A Brother in Need
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