Originally Published in the Franciscan Brothers of Peace News Magazine
By Brother Seraphim (Re-posted with permission) Among the stir of activity we had with our summer apostolates, ones that I would like to highlight are those that involved the Karen Catholic community. We held the first annual Karen American Catholic Family Conference (KACFC) at St. Casimir’s Church on the east side of St. Paul. This was a two–day event that was comprised of participants from Karen communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Nebraska. The gathering hosted several guest speakers from Myanmar. Among the speakers for the conference were Fr. Edward, a Karen speaking priest from Myanmar, Sr. Josephine FFM, a counselor and psychologist, and Br. Simon, a seminarian. The purpose and motivation of this event was to provide a conference for Sgaw–speaking Karen from Myanmar who were unable to speak Burmese and who had limited English to come together to support each other in their Catholic faith. This also gave our community the opportunity to provide pastoral support to other communities in the United States who lack these resources. We had Mass, confessions, and adoration all in the Karen language.
The event also provided an opportunity for several talks by all the guest speakers. I gave a talk which focused on the cultural difficulties people encounter when adjusting to American culture and conflicts that may arise between parents and children. We also had fruitful small group discussions and faith sharing which encouraged the participants to stay strong in their Catholic faith. A highlight of the Conference was the final Mass, in which the old custom of “Parents Day“ was celebrated. Held near the Feast of Ss. Joachim and Anne, this is a traditional day celebrated by all cultures and religions in Myanmar. At the celebration, some elders of the community were honored with songs and gifts—a truly moving experience.
Other events involving the Karen Community this summer included a Parents and Grandparents Retreat at Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Lacrosse, WI. It was a wonderful sunny day at the shrine. The theme of the retreat was on Martha and Mary. I gave several reflections on this theme which encouraged parents in the midst of the busyness of life to try to find some time each day to sit at the feet of Jesus like Mary did and listen to Him. I explained that this can happen in a variety of ways from spending time in Eucharistic adoration, going for a meditative walk, and praying the rosary. The retreat was spiritually fruitful for all who attended.
Also, each year the Missionaries of Charity and the Brothers work together in putting on a two-week long Summer Camp for the Karen and Hmong children in the area. This event is hosted by St. Vincent DePaul Church in St. Paul. The theme of the camp was “The Merciful Jesus.” There were seventy children participating this year ranging in age from six to fifteen years old.
During the retreat Masses were celebrated by Oblate Fathers, Mike Powell and Greg Gallagher