Thailand

2020 March 19
Solemn Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary

Dear Lasallians in the Frontlines,

Greetings of peace and well-being! We salute and support your gallant efforts to quell COVID-19 as you perform your responsibilities beyond the call of duty while putting yourselves at great risk. We stand in solidarity with you as part of the health and medical team directly assisting the sick and infected, or as researchers and scientists pressed to review test results or find effective antidotes to the virus, or as round-the-clock logistics and security forces, public servants and volunteers doing your share to reassure the public, restore and maintain order and provide much needed services to everyone.

We are one with you during this very challenging time and assure you of our fervent prayers as your fellow Lasallians in East Asia. We will especially remember you as we pause for a few minutes of quiet prayer daily to remember all Lasallians in the frontlines and to intercede for all those who are working earnestly in many different ways to provide solutions and address the challenges we face.

For you, all Lasallians in East Asia will gather together and by association in their respective homes and communities at around 5:00 p.m. beginning today March 19, feast of St. Joseph, Protector of our Lasallian Institute, and ending on May 15, feast of our Founder, St. John Baptist de La Salle. May the good Lord ever keep you in the palm of His hand. Live Jesus in our hearts, forever!

Fraternally yours,

Br. Armin A. Luistro FSC

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Loving Father, our Lasallian Family draws near to you in fervent prayer for all those affected by COVID-19. 

In FAITH, we lift up to you our fears and anxieties and the sufferings of those who have been infected always remembering that even in our darkest hours we are in your most holy presence. 

In SERVICE, we beg you for strength and wisdom to do all that needs to be done knowing that we can be channels of your healing grace when we do all our actions for the love of you. 

In COMMUNION, we stand in solidarity with all the frontliners who risk their lives for others and pray for all medical teams and support personnel who earnestly seek its cure and provide remedy and comfort to those who are sick and most vulnerable. Most Loving Father we entrust our lives and the health and well-being of our families and communities to your care and protection for with you we will be safe and secure.

Amen.

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Br. Armin Luistro FSC, LEAD Visitor, made a canonical visit to Sampran Community and La Salle Sangkhlaburi on 3-7 January 2020. He met with Brothers individually and called for a community meeting. He encouraged the Brothers to continue working with the poor in Sangkhlaburi. He also would like to see that the young Brothers be trained well for the next set of leaders not only for Thailand but also for LEAD and the rest of the Institute. Br. Armin will continue working closely with the Brothers in Thailand in order to strengthen the foundations of the Lasallian Mission in the sector. The visit at the two communities gave Br. Armin much joy and he prays and lifts his intentions to the Lord, that He will bless the De La Salle Brothers and Sisters in Thailand and all the teachers, students, and members of the community in the sector. (Text & Photos: Br. Joseph Klong Chaiphuak FSC)

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On 19-20 October, the LEAD Vocation Promotion Team met at La Salle Bangkok, Thailand and spent time together to brainstorm ideas for Pastoral Ministry of Vocation programs. This was the first face to face meeting of the team; they usually have online meetings before finally seeing each other in Bangkok. The team members are: Br. Francisco Chadang FSC (Director), Br. Rey Mejias FSC, Br. Josaphat FSC, Br. Benedict Chaiwat FSC, Br. Ranier Guillergan FSC (Secretary), and Br. Antonio Cubllias FSC (Auxiliary Visitor). (Text & Photos: Br. Benedict Chaiwat FSC)

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It has been an annual tradition to have a special Easter Issue featuring photos, both serious and not so serious, of the annual Holy Week retreat held in Malaysia (Hotel Equatorial, Malacca), Philippines (Benilde Retreat and Conference Center), and Thailand (Redemptorist Center, Pattaya).

Special thanks to the retreat facilitators this year: Br. Aidan Kilty, Br. Jorge Gallardo, and Br. Vincent Pelletier. Kudos also to the retreat coordinators: Brs. Andrew, Alex, and Francisco. Thanks to Br. Ranier for collecting these photos and posting them online. Happy Easter and enjoy the photos! (More photos in this link: https:// bit.ly/2XLfYR5)

It was our honour to welcome Br. Armin Luistro FSC and Br Joseph Klong FSC to La Salle Chanthaburi (Mandapitak). Their visit brought joy to the Brothers and the school. On Friday, February 7, 2020 during the school assembly, the school organized a simple welcoming ceremony where he listened to a brief report of the school by a student from Grade 10. Br. Armin then gave an inspirational speech. He encouraged the teachers to take care of the students like a plant, look after them well, water them enough, protect them from insects and all dangerous things, and one day the plants will grow strong and bear much fruit. He also introduced to them an old boy of La Salle Chanthaburi who is now bearing much fruit to the Institute of La Salle Brothers, Br Joseph Klong.

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Then, Br. Armin requested to visit “Miguel House”, a project to help the financially poor students in Chanthaburi province. This shows how much he gives importance to the poor. His action reminded us to continue to carry out the mission of the Institute.

We continue to pray for our Brother Visitor to be an instrument of God to inspire people wherever he goes. (Text & Photos: Br. Benedict Chaiwat Phanomworachai FSC)

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On April 6-7, 2019, all Lasallian Teachers, Brothers and Sisters from four schools gathered together at La Salle Bangkok to celebrate Tercentenary of our Holy Founder’s completion of his early journey. The event began with the Mass led by Cardinal Michael Michai Kitbunchu. He emphasized on One Heart One Commitment One Life with Holy Founder Saint John Baptist de La Salle.

In the afternoon, there were two sharings by Br. Joseph Klong on biography of our Holy Founder and Br. Peter Boonchert on the history of La Salle in Thailand. On the second day, we began the day with morning prayer and listened to Br. Eugene Prapas on 12 Virtues of a good teachers. We also invited Mr. Warin Chaiaphabul who is close to Lasallian Family in Thailand to share about organisational culture.

The first missionaries arrived in Thailand on August 31, 1951. At present there are four schools, 570 teachers, and about 10,280 students. The mission is continuing to grow, let us ask God to bless Lasallian Family in Thailand so we can carry on the work that our founder had begun. (Br. John Pongpat FSC)

Together as one! For this time of assembly, we were very happy to have Brs. Josaphat and Lucas from Myanmar joining us in the activities. We would like to pay our gratitude to Brs. Antonio and Joseph Klong who accompanied us throughout the assembly.

As we come together in the assembly, from 18-21 January, we met with the Initial Formation Board (IFB) on January 18. The meeting was very meaningful in the sense of becoming together as one LEAD.

On Monday, 20 January, we were able to meet Brs. Felipe and Antonio as the representatives from the Leadership Team. Br. Felipe shared his insights and encouraged the Young Brothers in Myanmar and Thailand to enrich the mission in our respective Sectors as well as to go beyond the borders. Very late in the morning, we traveled to Pak Chong District where we shared our mutual happiness. We went to the amusement park called Thong Somboon Farm. There we had to challenge our accuracy of shooting the laser guns. Surprisingly, after the game, Br. John Pongpat got the first place in the rank. We continued enjoying ourselves in the many activities there.

As we come together as one, the assembly invites us to work “together and by association” regardless of the obstacles and difficulties we encounter. (Text: Br. Matthew Thawatchai FSC; Photos: Brs. Antonio Cubillas FSC, John Worawut FSC, and John Pongpat FSC)

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The Closing of the ceremony of the death of St. John Baptist De La Salle was organized by Brother Peter Boochert, the Director of Bangkok School. An evening mass was celebrated by the Redemptorist Priest who was the one presided the opening ceremony in November 2018. The ending remark was given by Brother Felipe, Auxiliary Visitor who represented Brother Armin, Visitor. The participants were old boys, alumni, teachers from four schools and the Brothers and Sisters in Thailand.

Dinner was organized after mass for all participants. The highlight of the closing ceremony was the power-point on the various events of the celebration from the four schools during the year. The exhibition on the life of the Founder was exhibited outside the main chapel for all to see.

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Last 18th of January 2020, the 2nd LEAD Initial Formation Board (IFB) gathered for its schedule meeting at La Salle College in Bangna, Bangkok, Thailand. Ms. Coreen and Brs. Nicholas, Rey, Joseph Klong, Joseph Aung, and Antonio started working of the agenda of the meeting.

During the meeting, the IFB worked in advancing the elaboration of the LEAD Guidelines as well as the Parmenie Program Guidelines for the Brothers who are preparing for Final Vows. After the Chapter of Vows done by the District Council in Hong Kong, the IFB reflected on the commendations and recommendations done during the evaluation of the communities as well as those expressed by the DC members. In particular, the team determined how this feedback could be integrated into formation activities and evaluation formats for this year. More information will be provided in due time to the Brothers in the District.

The afternoon was dedicated to meet the young Brothers working in Thailand. Among the 9 young Brothers, 5 were able to participate. The rest, due to their master degree studies, were not able to participate since their classes are on Saturdays and Sundays.

The first part of the gathering was dedicated to know each other or catch up for those who were familiar which each other. Sharing vocation stories and new years resolutions helped create the right environment for the last part of the meeting. The last part of the meeting was a dialogue where these three aspects were the main content: 1) sharing positive experiences in ministry, 2) identifying positive practices that increase identity as LEAD District, and 3) identifying elements that facilitate working in other sectors of LEAD.  Among the elements that facilitate working in the different sectors of LEAD is the importance of accompaniment for the young Brother assigned in a particular community and the role of the Director of the community in the accompaniment as well as the importance of welcoming communities. Also, defining what is the role and work of the Brother in the assignment in another sector will facilitate that transition. 

The IFB expressed their gratitude to the Brothers’ Community at La Salle School in Bangkok, the Provincialate for hosting both gatherings and their warm welcoming of the IFB members, and the Young Brothers working in Thailand for their fraternal and meaningful sharing.

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As we are about to close the 300 years of the death of our founder St. John Bassist de La Salle, La Salle Chotiravi Nakhonswan School led by Brother Eugene Prapas FSC school director, together  with school administrators and school staff have organized a Mini Marathon for the alumni, students, school staff and general people. The number of the participants in this event is approximately 5,000 people. This Mini Marathon was provided two groups; 5 kilometers and 10 kilometers.  

This event allowed us to be one and join hands to realize about health concern and the most important issue is to support the Lasallian educational projects for the youth especially for the poor in the sector of Thailand. 

Many thanks to very sector for making this project occur true and end up with the impression of those who have participated in this event and very thankful to all Brothers especially Bro. Eugene Prapas FSC, school director who was the head making this Mini Marathon happening and come true. (Bro.Niran Suksankrasin FSC)

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As part of the Tercentenary celebration, the Thailand Sector organised a seminar for new teachers who are part of the Lasallian Mission from 2015-2019. There were 107 new teachers who came together at La Salle School Bangkok on 5-6 October 2019. The theme of the seminar was “One Dream, One Team, One La Salle.” Br. Peter Boonchert FSC shared on the history of La Salle Schools in Thailand, while Br. Eugene Prapas FSC talked about the 12 Virtues of a good teacher. The main speaker was Mr. Warin Chaiaphabul, who focused on the main theme. We pray that this seminar will help the new teachers understand the Lasallian Mission in Thailand and continue teaching minds, touching hearts, and transforming lives. (Text & Photos: Br. John Pongpat FSC)

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In February I had the opportunity to visit the La Salle Bamboo School, Sangkhlaburi, Thailand. After a lengthy six plus hour ride from the Bangkok airport to the Bamboo School, I was warmly welcomed by the Brothers, the teachers and the students. While most of them know very little to no English, communication was established immediately and the warmth of their welcome was felt and experienced throughout the week. The purpose of the visit was to bring funds from the 1911 Community to help in some of the schools’ urgent needs, and to return to Manila with a list of further needs, allowing the 1911 Community determine to what degree it can be of further help in the future. The students at this school are from families that have been displaced in their homeland, with no identity papers, no citizenship, not wanted by the Myanmar government, and not helped by the Thai government. More on that later in this article.

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A little history and information about the Bamboo School. It was started by four Thai women and set up at the Myanmar (Burma) border in 2008. Instruction was for young, especially kinder age children. Eventually the La Salle Brothers were invited to come in and start administrating the school. Once it was decided to expand the school to include grades up to and including grade six, a new location had to be found, since a concrete style building could not be built at the Thai/Burmese border. A site, about a ten minute ride from the border was found, and is now the location of a school from Kinder through grades six, the present enrollment being around 500 students. The original Bamboo School building is still the site of Kinder, Pre Kinder, and even Pre Pre Kinder students, about 80 of them. While mentioning Kinder children, there are some whose ages go up to 11 or 12. In the grade school classes, some ages of the children are in the high teens approaching 20. Virtually all of the students are from Myanmar, crossing the border each school day morning and returning each evening. These children are almost all undocumented, meaning they have no birth certificate, and no citizenship. Little, if any, help is offered these children in Myanmar. In Thailand, their education is tolerated but not supported in any way by the Thai government. That support is available only for documented children, a lengthy task undertaken by the Brothers and the school for all the children, but a task which rarely ends with success in getting documentation. The parents of these children also cross the border, working in the rubber plantations located nearby. Some parents have even found the ability to establish a home in Thailand, but for the most part, are too poor to have the wife go into a hospital to give birth, so their children, while technically Thai citizens, remain undocumented since they do not have birth certificates. Because of the poverty of all of these families, there is no tuition charged. Funding must be found for all of the school operations. The children must be fed, teacher salaries, school building repairs, computers, just the ordinary expenses of maintaining school buildings, all must be funded from groups outside the country. While many are funded, so many other areas are lacking and need funds.

One of the features of the school is the Blue Sky building, a dormitory for orphans and unwanted/abandoned children. Presently there are 32 girls in the dormitory. They surprised us with a dinner one evening. Since they are there day and night, additional programs are available for them, especially further English classes, so these girls were able to converse in English to some extent.

As one walked around with the help of people at the school, I couldn’t help but observe the computer room, full of computers, but then found out that more than half were not working. In the school canteen, the stove used to cook and heat up food, was not functioning. In the Blue Ski building, the washing machine was not working. Increasing the number of toilets in the various areas in the school is a high priority. School uniforms are needed. Additional food, oh my these children are hungry.

Considering all of the financial limitations, it is amazing what kind of work is being done for all these children, giving them hope for the future, helping them get into grades seven and up, and while the outlook as far as college education seems so low, work is constantly done to get these young people that opportunity also. Anything to help give these children a brighter future. For any who want to help, a visit will do more than any writing like this. Visit and open your heart to these lovely children. And give to this great charity work of the Brothers in Thailand, in the LEAD District.