Dear Everyone –
I write to you this Monday morning to thank you all for so many kind wishes on my 73rd birthday this past week on the Eve of All Saints (Halloween.) May we all be Blessed by the ever present silent Protection of all our Saints and Ancestors as we celebrate the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls.
We’ve had some exciting and awesome changes here at Mercy as we boldly walk into our 41st year in the slums. What a privilege, all these years, to be accepted by our slum neighbors and all of you, our Mercy Family, really, for a lifetime and beyond.Our Ms. Usanee has stepped up the ladder as a member of our family to become our International Ambassador both here in Thailand and beyond the seas. Our new Parish Priest, Fr. Wirach, has firmly grasped the tiller as our new Executive Director, steering our good ship Mercy. He is eminently qualified as for the past 20 years he has been helping us whenever he could. He began with us as a seminarian with our Slaughter House Catholics and neighbors. Our slum neighbors accept him, as do the relevant local government agencies, and our staff are happy. Most important, our children think he’s great. He has many university degrees (literally a handful), which is not important, but helps. So the great worry of “who will succeed Fr. Joe” is answered and dealt with. What a relief!!!
Our Board of Directors has approved Fr. Wirach as Executive Director, together with the Church appointing him Parish Priest.
Me? The “old parish priest of the slums,” I’m as healthy as can be, slowing down a bit, but I take lots of walks through the slums and visit old neighbors and friends made through the years, which is the love of my life.
Our Ms. Wannee, who has been with us 28 years and who was previously in charge of our 180 teachers and all our kindergartens, is perfect as our new general manager and in dealing with the day-to-day decisions. In addition, as before, we have Khun Choi who liaises with slum leaders and politicians; Ms. Sudaporn looks after our 22 kindergartens; Khun Samran represents slum kids in police stations and on the street; and Ms. Phrong takes loving care of our Mogan Sea Gypsy children.
This past year three of our slum kids graduated from American universities. They have come back home to Klong Toey, Bangkok and are helping us with our child sponsorship program, fund raising, and communications. Together with their Mercy teams, they are arranging a January 2013 concert featuring Thailand’s most famous folk-rock band. (Details to come.) They expect 12,000 in attendance. Many of our 50,000 kindergarten alumni, spanning the past 40 years, have already bought tickets.
On other fronts… our kindergarten alumni have initiated “slum merit making” on our behalf: parents, grandparents and young alumni offer alms to form a “money tree,” which they give to the Buddhist Monks at our local temple, who then offer the gift to our slum schools. It’s true, our slum kindergartens can never be totally self-supporting, but this helps a great deal! Let me point out that we absolutely need continued funding from the West, but we in Thailand are picking up the pace and doing our best.
More later…thank you so much, as always, for all your kind thoughts and for all your support in countless ways for our children and poorest neighbors.