Insights from AIC International Assembly

by | Apr 1, 2013 | International Association of Charities - Ladies of Charity, Vincentian Family | 2 comments

Bangkok-Mar-13.1-189-150x150Three Vincentian Family members from Great Britain attended the AIC International Assembly addressing the theme “Education a Two – Way process”

Thanks to Dee Mansi and Christine Crump for their informative account of the AIC INTERNATIONAL ASSEMBLY held at the Assumption University, Bangkok from 13th – 17th.March, 2013

When colleagues ask, how did you enjoy your holiday, it’s not always easy to find the right answer. Before joining the AIC Assembly, we had asked to see some of the local association’s work and were fortunate to experience two of them. The recycling project organized by AIC Bangkok is an inspirational use of discarded containers and materials which the rural poor in Northern Thailand find beneficial. The by-product of this enterprise is that foreign visitors or ex-pats, Catholic or not, find such joy from helping for a few hours per week.

Then, on to the next project. This time last week, we were walking in the Khlong Toei slums in 95 degrees, both saddened by the living conditions of its 48 communities but privileged to be in the company of Sr.Joan, a Presentation sister, to see something of her work and visit her home of the last 20 years in the heart of the slum. It had begun after her retirement from teaching at a boarding school in Western Australia.

On this particular occasion she had picked up provisions from the AIC south-east Asia distribution centre in Bangkok and was carrying bags of rice and water for some of her neighbours who were destitute (no benefit system here except for elderly people). Her particular pleasure was in the dozens of her neighborhood’s children who could access education because of her provision of transport, uniform and a school bag and books. Her stories of families, especially the sale of babies for the sex trade, were harrowing. But her dedication and gratitude to her former Australian pupils who largely financed her work were touching. This, other similar experiences and the Assembly itself were in fact far better than a holiday. So the only appropriate answer to the holiday question seemed to be “It was special”.

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On to the Assembly. The International Association of Charities has in the past alternated venues for its bi-annual Assemblies between Europe and Latin America. This was the first time it was held in south-east Asia.

Dee Mansi, our newly elected AIC President, enthusiastically led our delegation of three including former President Christine Crump and Executive Board member Marlene Burt. We joined 120 other representatives to listen and talk, formally in plenary sessions and group work, and informally at meal and other times. The occasion has always been particularly special with participants from the five continents, but more so on this occasion as large numbers were able to travel from neighbouring Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia as well as the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan. So good to hear of their very different countries, culture and work. The welcome and efficiency of our Thai hosts was quite exceptional and their gentle, courteous and unassuming style an education. We all delighted in the chosen Assembly venue at Assumption University in the countryside outside Bangkok.

The Title of the Assembly – “Education a Two – Way process” was a theme that continued throughout the four days. Listening and learning from God, each other, our poor and society re-emerged in presentations on Spiritual Growth, Projects Review, NGO representation, in statutory presentations, elections, workshops – and notably in a description of the Vincentian programme of Dialogue with Islam. See www.vindialogue.org

The beautiful evening Eucharists were celebrated by Vincentian fathers who had come as spiritual directors of their groups – from Mexico, Ukraine, Thailand and Philippines – an opportunity to listen and reflect more deeply on Scripture, enhanced by music of our different cultures and to celebrate our good fortune as Christians and charism as members of the Vincentian family. What an unusual and wonderful way to spend St Patrick’s Day!

There were less formally, joyous times – a folk evening with national costumes in abundance; the ‘solidarity bazaar’ to raise disaster funds where the daughters of charity were our biggest customers by far; and an afternoon Bangkok river trip, Eucharist with the bishop and Thai evening meal.

During the Assembly, the BBC and CNN informed us in the small hours of the great news of the election of Pope Francis 1 whose hope we understood is for a poor church for the poor. This and, on coming home, the enthronement of Archbishop Welby, points surely to a Time of Hope for us all, and most especially for humble service alongside poor people.

2 Comments

  1. Lucy Ann Saunders

    Thanks for sharing this report with the Vincentian Family and Friends!! Please note that Margaret Hanson, AIC representative for the Ladies of Charity USA (LCUSA) was also in attendance at this international meeting. LCUSA is proud to be a member working in collaboration and supporting AIC’s service to the poor throughout the world.

    • jbf

      A report from Margaret Hanson of the USA…

      The AIC Delegate Assembly was held in Bangkok from March 14 to March 17, 2013. On the first day of the assembly the new pope, Francis, was elected by the College of Cardinals. After introductions and opening ceremonies the Asian associations welcomed all to Assumption University operated by the brothers of St. Louis de Montfort.

      The scope of the Asian communities is extensive. Groups from Japan and Taiwan, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam as well as the Philippines and Indonesia attended. There were about a hundred and twenty people in all. The AIC spiritual advisor, Fr. Eli Chavez dos Santos, C.M., was unable to attend, but his message to AIC was given by Fr. Serafin Peralta, C.M., and Fr. Serafin represented him in other significant ways including dancing the tango a la the style of Holy Father, Francis 1.

      Prior to the Eucharistic celebration in the spectacular St. Louis de Montfort church on campus, AIC President, Laurence de la Brosse presented her evaluation of the implementation of the Operational Guidelines. Dinner was followed by an Asian Folkloric night in the Banquet Hall. This entertainment was presented by Joan Sarasin, Coordinator for AIC-Asia, and before going to bed everyone was dancing.

      The second day of the Assembly began with prayer as did all the others. The emphasis today was on AIC projects and a video presentation of the work of the AIC Secretariate and others provided inspiration for workshops in language groups in the afternoon.. The topics included Shelters, Food and Nutrition programs, Home visits and Understanding the Operational Guidelines. The evening Soldidarity Bazaar allowed for good shopping to benefit the AIC Solidarity Fund. The money raised provides for emergency relief in time of crisis.

      Each continent had a opportunity to meet during the third morning with a view to discussing the formulation of action plans for the coming year. The afternoon was spent on a river cruise which provided an opportunity for the Thai group to tell their history as well as show off the ancient and modern wonders which grace the banks of the Chao Phraya River. After Mass celebrated by Bishop Philip Banchong Chaiyara, C.Ss.R. at Holy Redeemer Church the group was treated to dinner at the new pastoral center which serves as a headquarters for AIC-Thailand.

      On the last day of the Assembly, Laurence de la Brosse, AIC president, addressed the national presidents and delegates. She discussed the work done by the commission which researched AIC as a mainly female organization open to male members, but not serving as officers of AIC. During the Statutory Assembly which followed, spiritual moderators met with Fr. Serafin Peralta, C.M., while voting for the new executive board was conducted by Tayde de Callatay, legal counselor for AIC.

      During this election Margaret Hanson from the USA was elected one of two vice-presidents; Aliette de Maredsous of France being the other. Laurence de la Brosse will continue as president for this coming two year term. At the conclusion of the election the Assembly was adjourned.

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