World AIDS Day 2013

This year World AIDS Day is observed on 1 December. Here we feature three Columban missionaries working with persons affected by AIDS/HIV, Sr Mary Dillon, an Irish Columban Sister in Myanmar, Jhoanna Resari from the Philippines and Kim Jung-Woong (Bosco) from Korea, two Columban Lay Missionaries in Taiwan.

‘AIDS’ Angels

by Sr Mary Dillon SSC

Columban Sr Mary Dillon has been in Burma (now Myanmar) since 2002. Here she tells us about her work with HIV/AIDS patients at the Hope Centre, a respite house that she established to enable people from distant places to avail of medical care. Sister Mary has also developed a home care health program for people with HIV/AIDS. She relates her work to the gospel story of Lazarus.

Last year in Myitkyina, Myanmar, I met a Lazarus, a young man with AIDS, thrown out of the family home, abandoned by all and living in a small hut nearby. No one spoke to him. No one visited him. His brother would push in a plate of food to him once a day without saying a word.

world aids day 2013
Sr Mary Dillon at the Hope Centre

When I saw him, I could only think of Lazarus at the gate, the searing parable Jesus told the Pharisees in St Luke’s gospel (Lk 16:219-31). He spoke of a poor man lying at the gate of a rich man’s house, covered with sores which the dogs licked.

I found out that his name was Du Hkawng. He was a small man in his early 30s, unmarried and belonging to a fairly well-off family. He had taken anti-retroviral drugs for a while but decided to do without them and gradually his immune system broke down. Unable to walk or sit up, he lay day after day under a piece of tarpaulin, unwashed, incontinent, stinking. It was in this miserable state that I found him, this poor modern-day Lazarus.

Solidarity with people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS

By Jhoanna Resari and Kim Jung-Woong (Bosco)

The authors are two Columban Lay Missionaries working in Taiwan. Jhoanna, ‘Jao’ to her friends, is from San Mateo, Rizal, Jung-Woong is from the Republic of Korea.

Jhoanna Resari

I was 26 when I first arrived in Taiwan, a little apprehensive about how I might cope with all that would be so different from what I had grown up with in the Philippines, my home country. Even while I was in college I was interested in reaching out to others and doing something worthwhile with my life, but I did not know quite what that might mean in practical terms. One Sunday on my way to Mass I saw a big banner outside the church announcing, ‘Columban Lay Mission’. I realized immediately that as a lay person I could also be a missionary, but when I phoned the Columban contact person and answered her questions about my age, studies and work experience I was advised to get a job and come back in three years.

world aids day 2013
Nicole Yang, founder of Harmony Home Association, Taiwan

I found a job and continued discerning. I worked as a graphic artist and in my free time did volunteer work in emergency relief and community outreach, all of which seemed close to my idea of mission work. I thought that if I liked this then I’d probably like mission work.

Kim Jung-Woong, Bosco

Before joining the Columban Lay Mission program I had a varied experience of life. Among other things, I worked for eight years in a hotel chain in Seoul, Korea, as a room sales manager. For three years I wandered around Australia and New Zealand working and learning English.

world aids day 2013
Ji-Young (Tina) and her husband Jung-Woong (Bosco)

During the Columban Lay Mission orientation period in Seoul I visited Columban Sisters who were running a shelter for HIV/AIDS patients. Even though I was afraid when I shook hands with patients, I was moved and wanted to overcome this fear. Later, in Taiwan, I chose to work at Harmony Home with people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.