Father Joseph Cheah - A Friar of the Order of the Servants of Mary
Fr. Joe is a nationally recognized scholar in the study of Burmese immigrant communities in the U.S. He has written books and articles about the intersection of race and religion in the Asian American experience. As an academic, he feels that it is important to have one foot in the pastoral arena. He is an Advisor to the Connecticut Karen Community Association and has provided sacramental services to Karen Catholics in the Hartford area, as well as to the parishioners of the Church of Saint Ann where he resides. He has co-sponsored an orphanage in his native Burma and assisted in many other humanitarian projects. He considered himself an accidental scholar in that, shortly after his ordination, he responded to the order's call to do missionary work in Burma. At the time, neither the military regime nor the Yangdon diocese was ready for American priests for fear that we might evoke the dangerous memory of Jesus in the land of the pagodas. Before Fr. Joe was aware of what had transpired, the newly elected Provincial asked him to get his doctorate. That began his maiden voyage in the academic world that eventually brought him to St. Joseph College. From the eyes of faith, notes Fr. Joe, nothing happens by chance. In retrospect, it seems that God has allowed Fr. Joe to hope for what he can, but fulfills those hopes in ways beyond what he could have imagined or wished for. In his ministerial life, Fr. Joe has been invited into the lives of many wonderful people. One such person is Helping Haitian Children's Founder, Mary Lou Benoit-Connors. She has done a tremendous job in to supporting the Karen refugees in the city of Hartford. She was also an invaluable help in assisting him in the care of his mother during the last few years of her life. I look forward to working with Mary Lou and the members of the Board to do my part in the betterment of the Haitian children.