‘Participation, Communion and Mission,’ the theme of the Synod, is lived out in the daily life of our community. The requests of the poorest are always heard and answered in the name of God who gives us the grace to do this service’, said Father Adriano Pelosin, a PIME missionary in Thailand for more than 40 years, and today also superior of the local Thai missionary institute. In his annual Christmas Letter he recounts life in the parish of St. Mark in Pathumthani, among the shantytowns on the outskirts of Bangkok, which were badly hit by the pandemic. Yet, he tells us that even this crisis has been an opportunity for many young people to discover “an Other greater than ourselves.” (This is reposted from AsiaNews)
Last year we celebrated Christmas in silence but not without meaning, as we did the first Christmas in the stable in Bethlehem; only the angels and a few shepherds participated in Mary and Joseph’s joy for the newborn child. The situation has remained the same here in Thailand and has worsened since April giving signs of improvement in these last days: you will have gathered that we are talking about Covid 19.
In prayer, in silence, in service to others we also experience Christmas every day and like Mary we show Jesus to the poor and to the Wise Men. Despite the official closure of churches the poor come to our church that always has its doors open. Our hearts are always close to the hearts of so many who for various reasons are suffering and sometimes come close to despair and suicide.
So many people here in Thailand and also in Italy participate in bringing smiles back to the lips and light into the eyes of the people affected by Covid 19. We must thank the Lord that He has chosen us to bring this material, moral and spiritual aid to about 500 (five hundred) families. About 100 families are Cambodians, Burmese, Laotians in the construction sites, and about 100 families are Vietnamese who were working in the factories. The jobs have been closed and the money is gone. The other 300 families live in the slums around our St Marks church. We give preference as always to the abandoned elderly, orphaned or abandoned children who live with poor and sick grandparents.
In St. Mark’s parish we have 14 lay missionaries working full time to assist the poorest in Buddhist communities. There are also some parishioners who devote their free time to this mission. “Participation, Communion and Mission”; the theme of the Synod is lived out in our community. The requests of the poorest are always heard and answered in the name of God who gives us the grace to do this service.
We live communion especially in the morning when we sing lauds together with a dozen of young people who live in the parish, then we participate in the divine liturgy where we listen to the word of God read and preached and receive together the same body of Our Lord. We then continue sharing by briefly discussing the work to be done that day and then we have breakfast together. There are about 30 of us, both young and old. Everyone does his or her job and in the evening we meet again for the Office of Readings, Vespers and dinner.
After breakfast and the cleaning of the rooms, two lay missionaries (Nok and Chat) went to pick up a small group of children from the “Condo” slum to take them to the parish to study “on line”. A lay missionary (Toy) takes New Moses and three year old Paul (abandoned children that we have taken in at the parish) to Wat Sake where Paul’s twin brother John is in kindergarten with missionary Keng.
Two other lay missionaries (Pon and Su) go to a construction site to teach the children of Cambodians and Burmese who would otherwise not go to school. Laki and Pim help the kids (But, Pong, Bun. Pan, Te, Big, Pale, Spai, Tengmo) who reside in the parish take online classes, while Deacon Tii and Tum teach young people (Ben, Katin, Pon, all orphans) who have stopped going to school and prepare them for state exams. Fon follows the Catholic center of Lat Lum Kew opened two years ago to assist the poor of the slum. Four teenage girls without families (Muk, Fern, Hai, Chanchai) also live there.
Mr. Prasit, who is 50 years follows the slums near the church and every afternoon-evening he brings food to some groups. Here we pay particular attention to children and young people who, if they are not taken care of from an early age, will be ruined too soon and then become irrecoverable. Prasit is well assisted by Mr. Paolo Lorenzi, a volunteer from Trento. Ot is a Vietnamese lay missionary who oversees the work of the garden where we produce vegetables, bananas and other fruit for ourselves and for the poor. Ot also serves as daddy to three-year-old New Moses.
Then there are others who are not official missionaries but are an integral part of our community; the cook Pai who prepares three hot meals a day for all of us and also for the guests who reach a hundred on Sundays. Bunma, the husband of the cook, is the factotum of the parish complex, Pen who takes care of the animals: sheep, goats, ducks, geese, rabbits, fish and chickens and also another vegetable garden, Mak and Chalong are two men who have remained mentally as children but are always ready to help, Chup and Kof are two aspirants to become missionary priests who help mainly in the distribution of food and milk to about three hundred families of Pakistani refugees and in the work of the vegetable gardens and maintenance of the parish complex.
Then there is me who thanks the Lord every day for his assistance, guidance and love. I ask God that in my old age I don’t make mistakes that are too serious and that I may be more and more worthy of the mission He has called me to do, always keeping in mind that every event is a benefit for those who love God and are loved by Him. This is how we interpreted God’s will in Covid 19.
Covid 19 has put us in touch with many people and especially young people we did not know before. Some of them have understood that our interest in them, our charity, does not come from us, but from Another greater than ourselves and they willingly come to Church to meet and thank Him. So on Sundays we pick up about a hundred people, mostly young people, and bring them to church for breakfast, mass, charitable activities, lunch, games and sharing the word in some family; some even stay for dinner. Lay missionaries and Catholic volunteers are involved in these activities. When Covid has passed we will also begin teaching catechism for baptism preparation.
We ask God to give us patience in not being able to do everything we used to do because of Covid; to develop other more sincere ways of being together and collaborating together in mutual technical, moral and spiritual development.
There would be so many other things to tell, but I see that I’m getting long in the tooth, so I’ll end by sending you a sincere wish for a Merry Christmas. God being born man to make us like God, how great! Great for us and also for many others who do not yet know this truth.