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ARISE group provides water to Myanmar villages

Few things are as easily taken for granted as clean water, and that fact prompted a small Christian community in New Jersey to help their brothers and sisters half-way around the world.

According to Jackie McNulty of St. Mary/St. Andrew Parish in Bayonne, the small group that was experiencing its second season of ARISE Together in Christ from RENEW International was determined to turn faith into action.

During the third session of that ARISE season, the group was meditating on the story in the Gospel of John about the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

“We were all so moved by the story,’’ Jackie said, “that we were inspired to donate some bottled water to the local food pantry and bring it with us to Mass the following Sunday. Our entire group participated in this activity.”

The group was so motivated, that they wanted to act in a more far-reaching way to bring water to people in need—perhaps by making a donation to an organization that provides water resources in the developing world—and one of the members, Maisie Prussak was chosen to bring the idea to the pastor, Fr. Peter Wehrle.

U Thein Htay, left, headmaster of the school at Kyauk Pyin Kan, Myanmar,
stands with Rosemary Breen at a water tank paid for through a campaign
launched by an ARISE group at a parish in New Jersey.

In an example of what Jackie calls “God’s timing, always perfect and well-orchestrated,” Maisie met with Fr. Peter just after he had received news about his cousin, Rosemary Breen, who was working on a project to bring drinking water to villages in Myanmar, the South Asian country formerly known as Burma.

Rosemary, who had worked on projects to build large water tanks in Africa for capturing and storing rain water, before shifting her attention to Myanmar, was planning a trip to New Jersey, and she agreed to speak one weekend at all the Masses in the parish and to hold an information night.

“Father Peter agreed to have a special collection taken the next Sunday,“ Jackie says, “for what we called ‘our little water project.’ I was hoping we could raise enough for one tank, which typically costs around $1,500. I thought it was a long shot, but with Ro’s inspiring message at our Masses and her amazing presentation … God moved our parishioners so much that we were able to collect over $6,500 for the beautiful people of Myanmar.

“Our efforts were able to provide water tanks which were giving to the people of the nearby villages—clean drinking water, something that we easily take for granted. Inscribed on each tank is a message from the people of St. Mary/St. Andrew Church in Bayonne, N.J. and reads “Living Water Myanmar." We are half a world away and are given the amazing and divine opportunity, in the words of St. Francis, to be instruments of peace where we sow love, joy, and hope.”

The first 5,000-gallon tank has been installed near a school in Kyauk Pyin Kan, a village of more than 1,500 people. The school has 10 teachers and 275 students.

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