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OCTOBER 9, 2016

This Sunday's Gospel reading tells the story of the Ten Lepers cured of their affliction by Jesus as he travelled to Jerusalem along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As one of the well-known stories in St Luke's Gospel it is often used as a reference to the need to express gratitude, as only one of the Lepers returned to thank Jesus after being cured.

 When I was first ordained a priest, I went to stay in a leprosy colony for 3 days as my “honey moon.”  I cooked with them, ate with them and celebrated the Eucharist with them. Every time I go back home I take time to visit some Leper Colonies run by the Sisters of Charity, or the Lovers of the Cross or any other Catholic Orders who show the love of Christ to the most outcast in this world, the lepers. 

One colony is in Di Linh in the Diocese of Da Lat. Founded by a French Bishop Jean Cassaigne in 1928, the colony is now led by Sr Joseph Mai Thi Mau, an extraordinary lady whose compassion for her patients and their families is paramount. The quality of the care provided and the high standard of health care administered to the community there is a tribute to the work of the Sisters of Charity.

The colony, located on 30 hectares, accommodates about 100 patients and 200 of their children. Most of them belong to ethnic minority groups.  Each family is given a house valued at 22 million Vietnamese Dong (2,500 Canadian dollars) and one acre of land for farming and raising livestock. They are asked to contribute part of their earnings from crops to the colony for five years. In addition, there is a day-care center and a nursing home for elderly patients. Some children of patients with leprosy have become doctors or nurses and work at the colony.

The leper colony is just one of a number of wonderful examples of the Church reaching out to those who are disadvantaged as a result of disease, disabilities and poverty. Also included in such programs is the care of the elderly who have no family to assist them, families affected by HIV, the indigenous Vietnamese living in isolated areas and young people with significant disabilities who face great challenges in their lives.

 A notable feature of how the Church reaches out to the poor and disadvantaged in Vietnam and any part of the world is that it does so without qualification. Just as Jesus didn’t question the lepers as to which of them were Jews and which were Samaritans, nor does the Church require a particular status or category of those requesting assistance. In fact most of the people impacted by the outreach of the Church have most likely never heard of the Catholic Church and have little or no knowledge of Jesus Christ, yet they benefit from the work of the Clergy, Religious groups and lay people, performed with love and care in the name of Jesus.

 As I have witnessed in these colonies, the Catholic Church does outstanding work with a great heart of the Lord Jesus. This is certainly in keeping with Pope Francis' call to reach out to those in need, particularly the poorest of the poor.

 The opportunity to witness the marvellous work of the Church in these colonies inspires me in my ministry. It provides me with the challenge to ensure that my commitment to the message of Christ is delivered with the same selfless commitment of the many people I have had the privilege to meet in a very poor condition

The word “Eucharist” means Thanksgiving.  Every time we come to Mass, we offer our thanks to the Almighty God. Outside of the Mass the works of mercy speak loudly of our gratitude to the Lord.