Father Joseph H. Maier, C.Ss.R., born Oct. 31, 1939, is an American Redemptorist priest who lives and works in the Klong Toey slums of Bangkok. For over 40 years, he as administered to Bangkok’s poorest families, providing vulnerable children alternatives to and havens from violence, sex abuse, child trafficking, and prostitution in squatter slums.
As a missionary priest, Fr. Maier’s original Religious Obedience, in 1967, was to Bangkok to study official Bangkok-spoken Thai; then as Parish Priest to a remote Lao-speaking Catholic village in the rural North East of Thailand, thus another language; then to a Catholic Hill Tribe Village in Northern Laos, where he studied the H'mong language and ministered to first generation Catholic communities.
The raging civil war in Laos forced Fr. Maier back to Bangkok in 1972 to serve a 25-year tenure as the Parish Priest to the Catholic community in the slaughterhouse neighborhood. Fr. Maier joined with Sister Maria Chantavarodom in 1973 to start the Human Development Foundation-Mercy Centre for his poor neighbors of all religions.
Father Maier holds advanced degrees in Theological Studies and Urban Planning as well as an honorary doctorate in Social Administration from Thammasart University here in Thailand, and Acadia University in Canada. He has received numerous awards for outstanding citizenship, including a lifetime achievement award presented by Her Majesty the Queen of Thailand.
Today Mercy Centre is home and family for 180 abandoned, orphaned, and trafficked children, about 40 HIV/AIDS infected. Fr. Maier’s foundation also operates 23 Mercy pre-schools around Bangkok that teach, protect, nurture and nourish more than 2,500 poor children every school day. In the past 41 years, 40,000 poor children have learned to read and write and earned their preschool graduation certificates in Mercy preschools. The Mercy Centre legal aid center supports, protects, and defends poor children in courts, juvenile centers, all 88 local police stations, and on the streets across the city. They also coordinate the education of convicted children, either during or after completed sentencing. The Mercy HIV/AIDS Community Home Care teams educate, train and support HIV/AIDS positive children and adults in the slums, at schools, and works closely with government institutions in Thailand, Laos, and Burma. Under Fr. Maier’s guidance, the foundation has build or renovated over 10,000 homes in the slums. The Mercy Centre is also a community drop-in centre for the elderly, the handicapped, adults living with AIDS, and anyone in need.
Father Maier still lives in and works for the children and families in Klong Toey where his work here first began.