Last month, Westminster College was honored to host Father Joe Maier C.Ss.R., an international priest who has lived in the slums of Bangkok for nearly 40 years providing hope to families in need through his services at Mercy Centre. This center is home to approximately 180 abandoned and trafficked children receiving aid. Additionally, the foundation has 23 preschools around Bangkok that serve 2,500 children every school day.
The recipient of Mercy Centre scholarships since she was 5 years old, Westminster student Lekza Meechai ’17 (above) lived with Father Joe at the Mercy Centre in Bangkok for nearly 16 years before coming to Westminster. Below, Lekza shares her view of Father Joe’s visit to campus and what she has learned from him.
What was it like to have Father Joe as a visiting global leader on Westminster’s campus?
I think it is a good thing that he visited campus and the students here as a guest speaker. He likes to teach the students by stories and religions for them to understand. I think it is better to hear stories than listen to the speakers who only discuss serious theory.
What was his main message to students while he was here?
His favorite quote is, “Go to school” – no matter if you are rich or poor, or if you happen to be in a bad situation. He said school helps to protect the kids in Bangkok for a while when they are in school. For example, if they are hungry, they will have food at school. If they don’t have clothes, school will give to them. The school will protect the students from violence.
What have you personally learned from Father Joe?
I have learned a lot from Father Joe. Since I was young, I learned English from him. I learned how to give people what they need. I learned how to help people at the Mercy Centre. When we talk, we are talking about children, friends, and Mercy Centre work. He always teaches me how to fix problems if we have them. In two weeks I am going to visit Gonzaga University and give a talk about Father Joe and the work he does.
After her expected graduation from Westminster in 2017, Lekza wants to be a social worker and gain experience at foundations and embassies before going back to work with Mercy Centre.