La Porte latine : Father, could you present to us the function you have in the Society?
Father Couture : On August 15, 1996, the entire Asian continent was made a District, and I was named its first superior. In 1986, the priory of India had been opened as an Autonomous House. Then in 1992, that of the Philippines was also opened as an Autonomous House. To facilitate the contacts with the General House and increase the frequency of the visits of the superior, these two Autonomous Houses were then joined together in 1996 to form the District of Asia.
La Porte latine : Your position as District Superior then enables you to know about practically everything about the Society in Asia?
Father Couture : Obviously. At this moment (April 1, 2004), we have three priories and a novitiate for the brothers. The headquarters of the District is in Singapore, with two priests; the priory of Palayamkottai, in the south of India, also has two priests; that of Manila, in the Philippines, has five priests (three of our Society and two diocesan priests, of whom one has just joined us, a young military chaplain). The Novitiate of the Brothers, in Iloilo, the Philippines, has four priests (three of our Society and a diocesan priest). The chapels are regularly served in nine countries of the Orient, and two more countries are visited occasionally. As the role of the District Superior consists above all of taking care of the priests: I need to travel, always travel, to go to meet the confreres and see their missions, without neglecting our own missions, those which depend on Singapore. Our District (i.e., the part of Asia in which we work at this moment) is not as large as the U.S.A. -- if you measure the latter including Alaska and Hawaii --, but its variety is certainly larger. Consider this : Between Vietnam, the Philippines, India and Japan, it is not just languages that vary, but national religions, habits, ways of life, and seasons. Here is some geographical information to give you an idea of the scale of the District. Recently, I have been able to accompany Father Thomas Onoda (the only Japanese priest of the Society and who is stationed in Manila), to Sapporo, in the island of Hokkaido, at the northern end of Japan. This small mass center, which only has a few months of existence, is now at the northernmost location of the District being at 43 degrees north. Let us go down to the south: Jakarta, in Indonesia, where we also started a little earlier, in October 2003, is located at 8 degrees south, therefore in the Southern Hemisphere. From Bombay at 72 degrees east (the mass center at the westernmost location) to Sapporo at 142 degrees east (which is also the mass center at the easternmost location), one needs a good 10 hours' flight on the plane.
And between the voyages made for these visits, the retreats of priests (one in the Philippines, one in India), the study sessions, the visas to be maintained, when there are "holes" in the program, after the administration and the mail, we try to find time to go exploring! It was in this way that we were able to make five visits to Vietnam, and many other visits to Thailand, especially to go to see Mgr Manat, a diocesan bishop and friend of Mgr Lazo (+ 2000) of the Philippines.
La Porte latine : Can you tell us a little about your new implantations?
Father Couture : The latest two, as I have just told you, are Sapporo and Jakarta. The former consists at this moment of only two families, where we visit every two months. Though they have had the mass only a few times (one of these families found the Tradition shortly before Christmas thanks to our Japanese website), one really feels being among traditional Catholics, with the children, with the hunger for the sacraments, the joy of hearing the solid doctrines, and the modesty in dress. At the time of this last visit, we showed them the film "The Passion", and made a presentation on Christian architecture, from the Romanesque to the Baroque. We also explained to them the importance of doing something to make the Tradition known, and that it is absolutely necessary to sow in order to harvest. In Jakarta, the Providence put in "the net" for us a group of young Catholics, abandoned by their priest, who meet for the last several years in the house of one of them. I was to make a conference after the first mass, which took place in the chapel of a Franciscan novitiate (where the superior received us in shorts and T-Shirt!) and without knowing it, the conference took place in the house of this person where the young people meet. It was their first contact with the Tradition. They are about fifteen, aged from 17 to 35, a group of Catholic friends, not knowing their faith very much but hungry like nestlings when one arrives with the true nourishment. At Christmas, we made a mini three-day camp, of the MJCF style, in a superb natural setting - a botanical garden. With another few visits, they seem to have understood much on the crisis so that the majority of the group has stopped going to the new mass now.
La Porte latine : And in the future, do you have new installation projects?
Father Couture : It is always very interesting to talk with the people during these visits in new countries. We always discover beautiful souls protected by grace, and fighting for their faith. We have several Indonesians here in Singapore who encouraged me to go especially to the islands of Flores, in the mid-west region of Indonesia. "They are the most Catholic, Father!" However, according to the methods that our venerable founder left us, it is necessary to follow the Providence in our missionary expansion. Then, after the Christmas camp in Jakarta, I thought of asking the young people if they knew anyone in the islands of Flores. What surprise to find then that three of them have an uncle, a priest, over there, who fought for the traditional mass, was "suspended" by his bishop for this reason, and then sent to a small island without road or telephone... However, from Jakarta, one needs a good three-day journey to arrive at this small island, with planes and multiple ferryboat rides that must be taken. To follow the Providence... If we ever manage to meet this priest, another door might open at once: that of East Timor, which is only a few hours from there, by boat. At the time of God!
La Porte latine : Father, can you describe to us your apostolate in Asia?
Father Couture : Our apostolate, provided by various priories, resembles very much that of the other priories: masses, catechisms, visit of the sick, preparation of the parish bulletins and retreats. Here are more precise details of what each priory is doing. In India, our priests have a dozen mass centers located between the southern end of the country and the northwest, in Bombay. In the south there is a small school in one of the villages we serve, and the priory is used as a "Hostel", house for young people, approximately 27 of them, coming from various mass centers of ours and stay on pension to go to the schools of Palayamkottai.
Manila, with its church, Our Lady of the Victories, is very lively with its 500 parishioners and the house of Bethany for the young ladies aspiring for the religious life. The priests of Manila are also in charge of Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea. In Iloilo, as I have told you, there is a novitiate for the brothers of the Society. At this moment, there are three professed brothers, two novices, two postulants and two pre-postulants. In addition to the courses given to the brothers, the priests of the novitiate are in charge of the entire central and southern regions of these 7107 islands that constitute the Philippines, i.e., about 10 more mass centers. Quite recently, Dr Dickes of ACIM, came there to conduct a lecture tour and was able to speak to the students of five faculties of medicine, nearly 2500 students in all.
La Porte latine : Were you not in Manila for some time?
Father Couture : The headquarters of the District was in Manila from 1996 to 1999. In 1999, we opened the priory of Singapore to release some load from Manila, which was overflowing and lacking space.
La Porte latine : Can you tell us a little about the friendly communities and the friendly priests?
Father Couture : As I mentioned earlier, there are diocesan priests, here and there, who help us: three in the Philippines, and four to five in India. There are no traditional religious communities within the District, except for the sisters of Bethany who depend on the SSPX (see above).
La Porte latine : What are your relations with the local episcopates?
Father Couture : Classic: they would very much like to see us leave! Especially when one or the other of their priests comes to the Tradition. The only exception has been Mgr Manat, in Thailand, when he was a diocesan bishop. I was even able to preach a retreat of St Ignatius with this bishop as interpreter, to about fifty of his faithful! It was quite an experience.
La Porte latine : And religious vocations?
Father Couture : We cannot but bless the Heavens, here. Although not all of those who test their vocation reach the goal, at this moment, there are Asians in the following communities :
FSSPX : 5 priests, 9 seminarians, 5 professed brothers
FSSPX, Sisters: 3 professed, 3 novices
FSSPX, Oblates : 5 engaged, 3 in formation
O.P. Avrillé (Dominicans): 1 brother and 4 sisters
O.P. Brignoles (teaching Dominicans): one professed sister
Carmel : one professed sister
Disciples of the Cenacle (Velletri, Italy): one postulant sister
OSB (Benedictines): two brothers
OFM Capuchins, Morgon: one brother
Redemptorists: one brother
La Porte latine : All these fruits coming from the goodness of God, are they also the fruits of the work carried out for the schools?
Father Couture : Not really because we do not have any secondary school at this moment. The crisis is, in some respects, coming a little late, due to the fact that these countries, except the Philippines, have never really been Catholic. Therefore, the Tradition can harvest in a land that still keeps some values. For example, the fact of living in poverty can very much help the detachment. The Indian brother who is in Morgon felt that he was moving up the social ladder in arriving at the monastery!
La Porte latine : This immense District must be a heavy human and financial load. How do you manage it?
Father Couture : Saint Joseph likes these mission lands and has always generously helped their missionaries of all times.
La Porte latine : Can the internet readers of La Porte latine receive your news in any other way?
Father Couture : Yes, we have a few internet sites to try to gather the souls of different languages:
- District of Asia in the English language,
- Website in the Japanese language,
- Website in the Korean language.
We even started to prepare a website in the Thai language, but there are unforeseen delays and it is not yet ready. It would be necessary to make websites in Tagalog (the Philippines), Vietnamese, and Chinese! However, it is the manpower that we lack. Following the visit of Dr Dickes, we have just launched an ACIM-Asia website, which is now ready on http://www.acim-asia.com. Ah! yes, and there is the bulletin of the District, the Newsletter, which goes out... from time to time, between two and four times a year. It is sent free to those who request it. The back issues are on our District website.
La Porte latine : We are moved and in admiration in the face of such an amount of devotion and confidence in the Providence. What can we do to help you?
Father Couture : Pray, first of all. Really, from the time I came to Asia, I have seen with my own eyes the fruits of the prayer, of the communion of the Saints. Sometimes, during somewhat delicate missions, knowing that monasteries, kept abreast of the mission, were praying at the same time, I really felt that the Blessed Virgin was directing everything, opening unexpected doors, making us meet priests, bishops and souls of quality. I count very much on the prayer of others, our "spiritual troops", for the development of our missions. And then, good heavens, if anyone wants to help us materially, it will not be refused! All these flights on the plane (which are often the only means of transport to go from one country to another), we must pay cash! Then, there are constructions of chapels here and there (we have just started one in Iloilo). And regarding our young vocations in formation, all of whom come from poor countries, we cannot let them be supported by monasteries or seminaries. Lastly, let those who travel Asia not hesitate to contact us for the schedules and places of masses, etc.
In any event, a big thank you to La Porte latine for making our District known. France has always distinguished itself much on its missions. It still does. Deo gratias!
Father Daniel Couture †
English translation by Arata Nunobe
To help the District of Asia, you can mail checks in any currency to:
St. Pius X Priory
Father D. Couture
110 A. Killiney Road
00 65 6235 36 60 00 68 6836 18 83
Détails du compte bancaire en France :
Acct. Name : Fraternité Saint-Pie X Mission Asie
Acct. No.: Bank : 0000079201B, clé RIB 65
Banque No. 30002
1 rue Mulhouse
68300 St Louis
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