They put on their robes. Donned their caps. And with great pomp, circumstance, plus a few giggles, 702 children celebrated their Graduation Day at Mercy Preschools throughout the slums this week. It was an especially joyous day for their families as moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunties, and grandmoms joined their children in the celebrations.
At the ceremony, Father Joe, in his doctoral robes, spoke to the children about the importance of staying in school, as he has on every graduation day since 1973. “If you’re hungry and have no shoes, what do you do?” he asked them.
Our almost eight-year-old Klong Toey Miss Nong Ming made the Bangkok 10 o'clock night TV news a couple of nights ago. She shouldn't have though. In fact, it was "bad form".
True, the camera blurred her face, but, "darn it", for some dumb reason they blurted out her full name and showed the place where her family camped out under the tollway along with Miss Nong Ming playing with other street kids, recently off the street at a "family child protection centre".
This past Sunday 40 children from the Human Development Foundation’s Mercy Centre attended Mass at Assumption Cathedral in Bangkok. It isn’t unusual for these former street children, who are raised in the Buddhist religion of their mothers and grandmothers, to join in a Christian ceremony. Their home at the Mercy Centre, founded by Father Joe, is a religious house; and the Mercy children are brought up to respect all religions.
But this was a particularly special ceremony for these poor slum children. Following Mass, Father Joe received a replica of the holy icon of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa on behalf of his children, and all slum children in Klong Toey, as a symbol of protection, joy, and love.
The holy icon was presented as a gift to the children from the Polish Embassy of Thailand, represented by First Counsellor, Dr. Zygmant Langer, and blessed by Msgr. Marek Zalewski, Deputy Head of Mission Apostolic Nunciature, before the children carried the icon from the Cathedral to its new home in Mercy Centre. (Please see our Photo Gallery.)