The Oblates of Mary Immaculate have been working with the Hmong people since they were called to help in Laos in the mid 1900’s. Hmong People are among the Miao groups who have migrated out of the southern part of China. According to the anthropological studies, about 2,000 years ago, the ancestors of the Hmong lived along the lower reaches of the Yangtze (Chang Jiang) River in China.Wars and persecution in the 18th century forced them to flee southward to settle in the mountains of Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam making them permanent settlers, refugees or illegal migrants.
Due to political unrest and turmoil, following the death of several missionaries and lay people and two of which were Fr. Mario Borzaga,OMI, and his Hmong catechist, the Oblates had to leave Laos in 1975. However, some of Oblates wanted to continue serving the Hmong people in South-East Asia and the rest of the continent. Fr. Yves Bertrais, OMI, thought of a brilliant idea that best way to cross borders and reach these people was through Radio with short-wave frequency which could reach all the people in the region. Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a Manila-based station, the Hmong people were, and are being served through radio programs which offer spiritual nourishment, news and current affairs around the world, appreciation of the Hmong culture and tradition. A potential audience of 5 million Hmong people spread across Australia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand avidly patronizing the radio program. Research and audio files are done in Good Shepherd Center in Petchabun, Thailand and aired in RVA Manila.
The daily 30 minute program includes includes the following:
- Sunday: Eucharistic Celebration on the last Sunday of the month; Christian Spirituality and Catechesis.
- Monday: daily life of the Hmong (legends and reflections for everyday life); alphabetization.
- Tuesday: life of a Saint.
- Wednesday: news and problems in the world and in the church today.
- Thursday: answering letters and requests received through telephone.
- Friday: homily in Green Hmong for the coming Sunday.
- Saturday: homily in white Hmong for the coming Sunday.
- each program begins with 6 minutes of World News daily except Sunday.
In Petchabun province, about 345 kilometers North of Bangkok, where the Good Shepherd Center is located, there reside the biggest Hmong Village in Thailand of around 20,000 population. The Center is affiliated with the local FM Community station in Kheknoi and pays a slot for a daily broadcast every 19:00-20:00 to reach out to more than 70,000 Hmong people residing around villages. The first 30 minutes is a repeat of the program aired in RVA Manila and the second 30 minutes is spent on playing songs (in Hmong Language) as requested by local FM listeners and some community service such as announcements.
The Good Shepherd Center which started its operation in the year 1992, dedicate itself to the service of the Hmong people to help both Catholics and the non-Catholic listeners understand the Catholic faith. This is one of the many ways to evangelize them so that they get to know who Jesus is. The Center also produces magazines twice annually : one is about news and Hmong culture and events happening over the year; the other is devoted to Hmong Catholics in order to help them understand Catholicism better.
New technologies also help in this overwhelming task. The radio emissions are now broadcast in the different social media and every one in the world can listen or see the Hmong people and their culture through the Good Shepherd websites (www.hmongrpa.org or http: www.hmong.rveritas-asia.org ) and FB page (Hmong-RVA).
Our ministry to Hmong people has become part and parcel of our ministry in Thailand and Laos. As a congregation, we find ways to continue this very important legacy left to us by our confrere – to cater to the preservation of culture and holistic development of the Hmong people. In our 50 years of existence in Thailand, we continue to help Hmong people keep their faith burning and their culture alive. This is our response to the challenge of our founder St. Eugene de Mazenod to “love the poorest of the poor and the most abandoned.