Golden Jubilee for Fr. Richard Daschbach SVD
Fr. Richard Daschbach, the founder and director of Topus Honis Shelter Home in East Timor, marks the 50th anniversary of ordination this year.
Fr. Daschbach, a native of Pittsburgh, founded Topu Honis in 1993. He has lived in the region since 1966 and has dedicated his life to serving the people of the Oecussi mountains.
Topus Honis provides a loving happy home for children and works to find sponsors for college education for its graduating members. In addition, it serves the surrounding community through medicine disbursement. midwifery, agricultural training. support for widows, and cultural preservation.
Topus Honis is located in one of the world's poorest countries. Timor-Leste has a per capita GDP of $536/year (2010 IMF estimate) and a child malnutrition rate of close to 50%. A patriarchal culture results in high rates of domestic violence and limited opportunities for girls and women. Topu Honis not only meets the practical needs of food, shelter, and clothing for its members, it also works towards gender equality and women's empowerment.
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Fifty-two Years of Faithful Service
Father Gerald J. Theis SVD, now 81 years of age and a native of Aurora, Illinois, began receiving a call to be a missionary back in 1940. As a child he dreamed of becoming stunt pilot, and as a hobby he used to build and fly model airplanes. By the time he was 13 years of age he felt called to be a Divine Word Missionary and so started on the long years of study for the missionary priesthood. He had heard some missionaries used airplanes to travel about their mission.
When he was close to ordination he was asked in what mission country he would like to work. His love for flying had not diminished and so he mentioned to his superiors that he always wanted to be a pilot and would not mind becoming a flying missionary priest. He could use an airplane to get around a large parish with remote pockets of the faithful. His superiors sent him to Papua New Guinea, where he would serve for the next five decades. He never became a pilot, but he moved around the mission in airplanes piloted by other Divine Word Missionaries.
Having arrived in his mission in 1961 he proceeded to his appointment in the Vicariate Apostolic of Mt. Hagen. To get there, he was flown by Fr. Heine Hoff SVD, in a Cessna 180 light plane. The first few months he devoted to the study of the Melanesian Pidgin language, culture of the people, and learning how to organize catechumens and ministering to baptized Catholics. Fr. Arnold Steffen SVD gave him those first lessons. While studying in the Mt. Hagen area, Fr. Theis could learn from great missionaries like Bishop George Bernarding SVD, Fr. William Ross SVD, Fr. Joseph Krimm SVD, Fr. Edward Misik SVD, Fr. John Labor SVD and Fr. John Dunn SVD.
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