January 2021 Update

    At New Year’s Day Mass with the kids, we all prayed that the new Year of the Ox would be better than the old Year of the Rat. But the threat of Covid has closed schools up along the Mekong River for at least a week, and big gatherings of people were forbidden. Then on January 7, Sarnelli House experienced a terrible hit. One of our boys, Choke, was killed in a motorcycle accident. He had been at a wedding party and was taking a 15 year old girl home, when his motorcycle swerved to avoid an articulated lorry that was eating up road space while making a U-turn. Choke went off the road and hit an electric pole. Choke broke his neck and died instantly. The poor girl broke both her arms, and one leg. The other leg was so messed up that the doctors had to wait a few days to find out if it was broken. The girl also had bleeding from the brain. Right now, it looks like she will make it, but recovery will be long and very painful. The motorcycle caught fire right after the crash, and people working in a nearby field ran up to pull them both out of the fire. We had 3 nights of wakes and Mass in the Joseph and Mary Hall, and then on Sunday January 10 we had the funeral Mass and cremation. Many of Choke’s friends showed up and asked to be the ones to carry the body from the hall to the cremation site.

    Choke came to us in 2003. He was found in a garbage dump in the Nongbualampoo Mountains. The couple who found him took him to the hospital in Udon Thani, and he wound up with us at Sarnelli. All he had was a dirty threadbare blanket that a Buddhist monk had given him. He was severely undernourished, and had TB. It took about one year to nurse him back to health. He was a cheerful little guy despite his being abandoned in a garbage dump. He did not know his parents, or where he came from. Choke finished school and just a few years ago, had a traffic accident. He was on a motorcycle and was hit by a pickup truck. The truck was at fault, but the people in the truck loaded Choke in their truck and took him to the hospital and paid for his expenses. He had fractured his thigh bone, and then it was discovered that an artery was crushed in suck a way that blood did not get to his lower right leg. The doctors finally amputated his leg. Choke bravely learned how to use crutches and then walk with prosthesis. According to custom here, all Choke’s belongings were burned with him, save for the crutches he used after his operation. Choke was a popular, cheery lad who is sorely missed. 

    The latest on our traveling volunteer nurse and her fundraiser husband, namely Kate and Brian, is this. Kate finally got permission to fly from Sydney and make her way to Cork, Ireland, where Brian eagerly awaited her. She has to complete 14 days of quarantine before meeting with each other for the first time in 8 months. They are waiting for travel restrictions to ease before attempting to come back to us here in Nong Khai.

    Sarnelli House has a newly ordained priest coming to spend 6 months with us. The kids look forward to seeing him after being stuck with this old fossil ever since Fr. Ole left a year ago. We will have a different newly ordained priest coming in every six months for 2 and ½ years. Hopefully, though, we will have a priest trained and ready to take the reins when this old man fades away! 

    We hope your start in the New Year was better than ours! Stay safe and healthy!

Fr. Mike Shea

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