(Editor’s note: For many years, the Oblates have ministered with the Hmong community in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fr. Daniel TAILLEZ, a French Oblate who had worked in Laos served them tirelessly, both in St. Paul and in Thailand. On the occasion of the retirement of Fr. Harry WINTER, Dr. Sia Lo, a parishioner at St. Patrick’s parish in St. Paul, wrote these words of appreciation. They are strikingly similar to countless other reflections made by individuals whose lives have been touched by Oblates who have dedicated their lives to be “Close to People.” So, this expression of love and appreciation is presented as a reflection on all Oblates everywhere, and the people who love them.)

Fr. Greg GALLAGHER baptizes a Hmong child at St. Patrick’s Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

On behalf of the Catholic Hmong congregation here at St. Patrick, I want to thank you, Father, for bringing us to this church. Without you, we might not be here today. So thank you so much for everything that you have done to find us a home.

About a century or so ago, it was other Oblate priests from France like you that found our people in the jungle of Laos. They risked their lives to find us in that jungle. Once they found us, they took the time to learn our culture and our ways — in order to truly teach us about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

When they found us, we did not have a written language and so they created one for us. Using the roman characters, they developed our written language for the first time. Today, all the Hmong around the world can communicate with each other through writing or through the use of the internet – thanks to our Oblate priests. In fact, every time I write in Hmong, I cannot help but think about them. (Editor’s note: Oblate Fr. Yves BERTRAIS [U2007] was the author of the first Hmong-French dictionary, published in Vientiane in 1964.)

Hmong people

When we were refugees in Thailand, the Catholic Church was instrumental in bringing our people into the U.S. and Minnesota. It was the charity of the Catholic Church that clothed and fed many of our families until we were able to provide for ourselves. So, our community is truly indebted to you and the Catholic Church.

But of all the good things that the Catholic Church has done for us, we are most thankful for our Oblate priests — and especially you today, Father, for being who you are. For you are a true representative of Christ here on earth. Through Christ, you clean our souls every Sunday with holy water and protect us from evil. Through Christ you taught us the blessing of heaven and the true purpose of life. Through the power of Christ, you have lead us to be closer to God and for that we cannot thank you enough. (from  www.omiusa.org )