Written by Earle Hitchner, in Echo Lifestyle
A standing ovation greeted Father Joseph Maier when he walked onto the stage at Manhattan’s Symphony Space about midway through a special benefit concert on Sunday night, Oct. 12. “Father Joe: Slum Priest,” an eight-minute segment on him and his great work at Bangkok’s Mercy Centre, had just been shown from PBS-TV’s “Religion and Ethics Newsseekly” series on a large stage screen.
On at least two occasions the audience applauded statements he made in the segment about the need for a Catholic priest to be where Jesus would be, with the poorest of the poor in Bangkok, and how he would probably be thrown out of the United States because of the direct, effective manner in which he was fulfilling his religious vows and vocation.
“I hope you don’t believe any of that,” Father Joe said to the crowd from the stage after the PBS-TV segment was shown…
BANGKOK, Thailand: When Father Joe got word that George W. Bush was planning to visit the children he cares for in Bangkok's largest slum, the first thing the American priest did was ask them: "Do you want to meet him?"
Rev. Joseph H. Maier, a tough, no-nonsense man who mixes easily with drug pushers, thugs and prostitutes, is hardly known for being deferential — even when it comes to the president of the United States.
We are shy about shouting out news about ourselves, but we want everyone to know that a new book has been recently released - a biography on Father Joe Maier, the co-founder of the Human Development Foundation. Father Joe and co-founder Sister Maria Chantavarodom have been developing our programs for the poorest of the poor for over 35 years. We are very proud that Father Joe’s life story is being told and hope everyone has a chance to read it. Details and a sample review below.
The Gospel of Father Joe: Revolutions and Revelations in the Slums of Bangkok
By Greg Barrett, preface by Nobel Laureate Rev. Desmond Tutu
Available at local bookstores, including Barnes and Noble in the US and on-line at Amazon.com
By DENIS D. GRAY
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - When Father Joe heard that President Bush was to visit children in Bangkok's largest slum, the first thing the American priest did was ask them: "Do you want to meet him?"
Rev. Joseph H. Maier, a tough, no-nonsense man who mixes easily with drug pushers, thugs and prostitutes, is hardly known for being deferential - even when it comes to the president of the United States.
"We always ask our children when anyone and everyone is coming to visit, because it is their home - the only home they have - and they heartily agreed," he said before Bush's scheduled visit on Thursday.
"The children see him as a kind uncle coming to visit, not in his official position."
Bush, on a three-country tour of Asia, will spend some time at the Mercy Centre and Human Development Foundation. Maier, a native of Longview, Wash., started the foundation nearly 40 years ago to aid often desperate residents of the vast Klong Toey slum.
Ministering first to a small Catholic community of slaughterhouse workers in the grimiest depths of the slum, the 69-year-old priest now looks after a shelter for street kids, four orphanages, a hospice, kindergartens for more than 4,100 slum toddlers and a home for mothers and children with HIV/AIDS. Most of those helped are Buddhists.
His work has earned him international awards and honors from Thailand's respected monarchy although he's challenged authorities, plied officials with whiskey to bend the rules and cut deals with the criminally inclined in defense of his turf and charges, especially the children.
"There are geniuses, poets, artists and physicians among the kids who call Mercy their home, and yet they are labeled as Klong Toey children and not the children who are worthy of proper education and jobs," he said.
"The visit of Mr. Uncle President is telling them they are of great value, and not to believe any of the bad stuff people might say," the priest said.
He said his children would be asking Bush to carry a message back to youngsters in America: "Yes, things are tough here in Thailand. The streets and slums are rough. We have been beaten up, used and abused, but today is fine and tomorrow is going to be even better and today we are going to have as much fun as we possibly can."