February 19, 2013

Chuyện Bây Giờ Mới Kể: Father André Lamothe SJ

I met father André for the first time at Vietnamese land refugee camp in Nong Samet. He arrived toward the end of our refuge there, around July or August 1983. We met him in better condition than anywhere before that, but we were still in depression about the whole situation. Some of us were lucky to be transferred to Panatnikhom for resettlement, but there was still no hope for the  rest of us. He celebrated mass and talked to us, showing care for each person he met. Before he left, the refugees handed him a big sack full of letters, there must be hundreds of them. We asked him to add the stamp and to mail to our relatives. It seemed normal and customary that we asked any Westerners to mail letter for us.

In March 1985, I was transferred to Bataan to study English and American culture. By chance I saw him celebrate mass at Bataan church and I met him the second time at his residence. Time has passed and many events have intervened in between, but his memory did not fail. He still remembered me well and treated me fondly. I was so moved by his kindness.

I became a kind of personal secretary for him thereafter until he was called back to Canada. I was cooking, eating, staying overnight some times with him. The whole time I was to write letters to many, many people who wrote to him. There was always a thick stack of letters, most in Vietnamese, some in English, all asking for help. I did not understand the situation of each of the people who wrote the letter, so he would patiently explain to me, in Vietnamese, because Vietnamese was  what he wanted to write with, and I would write the reply. Some very short, some very long, but always ended with love and well wishes. I would see his face brighten, his smile broaden every time I finished a letter and read aloud for him to hear.

Father André left for Canada one day in April 1985, barely one month into my transit in Bataan.

I felt sad and lonely again

But life flows on. Time passes and many events go by. My memory does not fail, I believe his does not either.

Until I hear he departed once more, for the last time, in 2010.
* *

Please keep us in memory, Father, watch upon and pray for each of us, as you replied to each of those who wrote to you.

With Father André Lamothe in Bataan PRPC- 4/1985
From left: Hùng (refugee from Taiwan), Vân, Hòang, Óanh, Father André Lamothe, Hưng, Thanh-Hương


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