Dear Columban Friends,
For Catholics and Christians of all denominations, the month of November is a wonderful time to pause and give thanks for all of the gifts we have received from our loving God. As we look forward to the beginning of Advent, the enclosed Christmas Cards also serve as a reminder to prepare spiritually for the coming of our Savior, the birth of the Christ child at Christmas. Please accept them with my deep appreciation for all you do for us. With the ongoing pandemic, this November and our Thanksgiving holiday will likely look a lot different than those in other years!
I am reminded frequently that there is great suffering and hardship at home, throughout the world, and certainly in our missions. This is the situation in Myanmar, where Columban Fr. Eamon Sheridan contacted me from his mission in Kachin State. He shared the following:
"We are doing 'ok' here. All Masses have been canceled. The effect on the local economy has been disastrous. Most people have little or no income. Relief agencies and churches are providing assistance to the neediest. If you came to Myitkyina you would think on the surface everything is somewhat normal. But scratch a little bit beneath the surface and many people are suffering. One of the things that often strikes me is if someone gets sick, the choice is between food or medication. Of course, they choose food, and so many die young.
"Drug (and alcohol) addiction is endemic in Kachin and Shan states where I work. It is tearing society apart, and it is no exaggeration to say that every family has somebody addicted to drugs (mostly heroin and amphetamines). Although drug addiction is rife across all strata of society, for cultural and social reasons the epidemic among women is hidden. There is not one facility in Kachin state that offers a recovery program to women. In response to this fundamental human rights and health void, and to the community leaders and clients that are ceaselessly requesting the Columban Rebirth and Recovery Center (RRC) offer a program for women, we are starting a program in the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic. This may seem foolhardy to some, but I am heartened and inspired that our co-founder, Bishop Edward Galvin started our missionary Society during equally diffi cult times back in 1918.
"Our program will provide a client-focused recovery program for women, based on the proven program we offer to men. We will incorporate Daily Mass, Adoration, Creative Prayer, Meditation, Faith Sharing, and Bible Reading.
"This will be a first in Kachin state. For the very first time, women will have an opportunity to engage in a program that offers them a return to long-term sobriety, a release from the exploitative conditions (including sexual exploitation and human trafficking) that many women addicts are suffering, and the regaining of health, quality of life, and a sense of dignity and self-worth. The long-term goal is that the women will be restored to, and reintegrate into, their families and communities and bring with them the message of hope that a path for recovery is available to those who want to start that journey. These recovering women will be examples to other women and men in their communities that recovery is possible. The building up of a group of sober women who can then help other women who suffer from addiction will be a fundamental change of immeasurable value in Kachin state.
"I have been a Columban priest for 33 years, and I have never been more passionate about a project. I am firmly convinced this is God's work, and God and our benefactors will supply."
Fr. Eamon's faith and conviction in doing God's work no matter what the circumstances is what your dedicated support makes possible. It is only in partnership with friends like you that Columban missionaries can bring the Light and Love of Christ to the poor, the incarcerated, and those suffering with addiction. Now more than ever, your unceasing support helps us support those most in need. You can be assured that when Columban missionaries pause and give thanks this year, we give thanks for you and your faithful support of Columban mission.
Gratefully Yours in Christ,
Fr. John Burger
Director, U.S. Region