Father Joe Maier, Redemptorist made a return visit to Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa the first week of November to be with friends and to raise some money for his work in the slums of Bangkok, Thailand. While in Ottawa Fr. Joe stayed at our Government’s Rideau Hall, as he is a personal friend of our Governor General Adrienne Clarkson and her partner John Ralston Saul. Both Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul had met Fr. Joe and his work in the slums of Klong Toey, Bangkok. In fact in one of John’s recent novels, Fr. Joe and his work gets a chapter. Until she became governor general, Adrienne and John hosted a dinner for the past few years here in Toronto at the Young Thai Restaurant and friends would be invited. After dinner and a word from Fr. Joe, guests were very generous in their response to the needs of his work. Because it is not proper for our governor general to host such fundraisers, this year’s event was held at the old Round House made into a micro-brewery the Steamwhistle and folks gathered to spend a wonderful evening of Thai food, dancing and discussion. The evening was hosted by CBC’s Michael Enright who read a wonderful letter sent to the event by our Governor General Adrienne Clarkson and her partner John Ralston Saul. The invited guests included a Nobel Prize winner, people form the Canadian Media and a cross section of the community at large.
In his reflection, Fr. Joe Maier spoke of the reality of the slums of Bangkok. He spoke of the drug trade, the homeless child and now the reality of AIDS that is everywhere present especially in the lives of the children who are abandoned. Thailand became the R and R stop over for the American soldiers during the Vietnam War. Bangkok later became a sex capitol for tourists from Europe and North America. The culture of Thailand was deeply affected often destroying the relationships between Thai men and women as the tourist and foreigner could offer the women immediate monies in a way that was not possible by Thai men. The social problems that followed were inevitable. Fr. Joe’s work among the poorest of the poor is a small sign of hope for the citizens of Klong Toey.
The Canadian government has been very helpful with some of Fr. Joe’s projects. Thanks to the University of Toronto’s law school a legal aid program has been set up to help the children of the slums in Bangkok and students especially from Upper Canada College and Havergal have gone to Thailand during their Spring break or during their summer holidays to have a hands on experience of very less fortunate people. It has changed their lives.
Fr. Joe Maier and his work are very much at the heart of the Redemptorist charism. We were founded as a religious Congregation within the Catholic Church to preach the Word to the most abandoned especially the poor. Today many want to see a sermon rather than hear one. Fr. Joe and his work are truly at the heart of the Gospel and our Congregation’s tradition.
Paul E. Hansen