An unforgettable Christmas . Louagprabang-Laos: the Bethany community.
Where is Luangprabang located?
The city of Luangprabang is located in the north of Laos and is surrounded by magnificent mountains. It is the ancient capital of Lan Xang (”one million elephants”) and is one of the oldest cities in Laos, founded about 1,200 years ago. It is well known for its many Buddhist temples and monasteries. Every morning, hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk the streets to collect alms.
Luangprabang was once the royal capital. Currently, the population of the city is about 56,000 people.
It was in 2008 that the Church in Laos (through the Apostolic Nuncio in Thailand) in collaboration with the government, entrusted as a mission to the Sisters of Charity, the school for the deaf and dumb found in the northern part of the country.
We welcomed this new mission with courage and faith in God, because there are no Laotian Catholic communities, except for some Vietnamese Catholic families working in Laos. There is no church, we have no right to teach religion either in school or in the community. We can live our faith without any signs other than our religious habit and our cross.
The diocese of Luangprabang has a bishop called Mgr. Tito Bangchong and 5 priests. Every morning we attend Mass in his house and on Sundays Vietnamese Catholic families who have a strong faith, participate too. We have a good relationship with everyone, and we try not to get discouraged when we feel controlled and restricted by the local authority.
Today the Bethany Community is composed of 3 sisters. We live our mission with the poorest of the poor, as our 83 deaf and dumb students and also with the teachers sent by the State. It is important to be able to speak sign language with these students, because it means that we are care for them, respecting their human dignity.
Despite the difficulties, this is a beautiful mission that truly corresponds to our charism as Sisters of Charity. Above all, we are made stronger in faith, we truly live the experience of faith in God as at the time of our Mother Giovanna Antida, especially in these years with the Covid-19 pandemic. For two years, like so many people in the world, in the city of Luangprabang we lived in silence, everything is silent; without tourists, many families are without work, without food… However, Christ was born in the midst of this disease, as he did in Bethlehem in thepast!
We lived our Christmas with some Vietnamese families, preparing a festive meal and distributing it to poor non-Catholic families. A non-Catholic lady said: “Jesus gave us a great gift”!
It was the most beautiful moment of the year,a gift that the Child Jesus had prepared for us in a wonderful way. Although our sharing has not been great, we are sure that it gave the joy of Christmas to these people.
Let us thank God for this beautiful experience of joy, as a gift to our community. We are certain of His presence in our midst, in each of us. With Him there is no fear, anything is possible!