Home Features Modern-day Catholic missionaries in Thailand

Modern-day Catholic missionaries in Thailand

The first Catholic missionaries in their white habits with black cappa and leather belts first arrived in Thailand in 1567. Two Dominican priests – Hieronymus of the Cross and Sebastian de Cantù – established three parishes at the Kingdom of Ayutthaya with about fifteen hundred converted Siamese in just two years before they were murdered in 1569. 

Nearly 500 years later, the Catholic Church remains a minority in Thailand with 388,468 members – a figure that represents about 0.58 percent of the Thai population of 69 million. However, Catholic missionary work has been continuously growing and expanding over the years.

On June 30, the Vatican honored one of Thailand’s modern-day Catholic missionaries for his “outstanding service and unwavering dedication” to the Catholic Church, the country, and the wider community.

Dr. Somsak Leeswadtrakul, an industrialist and a prominent philanthropist, received the honor of Knights Grand Cross, the highest rank within the Pontifical Order of St. Gregory the Great. It is one of the most prestigious awards the Catholic Church can bestow upon the laity.

Dr. Leeswadtrakul and other Catholic laypeople in Thailand, who followed the footsteps of the first missionaries, are examples of Christians “living in harmony with Christ’s discipleship by living as an eyewitness amid the world’s challenges with faith and courage,” according to the Camillian Sisters.  

Somsak Leeswadtrakul (left) receives the honor of Knights Grand Cross of the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great on the observance of Pope’s Day, June 30. Photo credit: Catholic Social Communications of Thailand

These modern-day missionaries, who do not have to wear habits and who are very unlikely to suffer the same fate as the early missionaries, are the backbone of today’s social action ministry of the Catholic Church in Thailand. 

Serving the poor and marginalized

- Newsletter -

The Ministers of the Sick of St. Camillus (Camillian Sisters) is one of the many Catholic congregations in Thailand that run its missions with the help and generosity of the Thai laypeople.  

Camillian Sisters of Thailand. Photo supplied

Camillian Sister Maria Goretti Vichuda Goosap, Superior of the Minor Provincial Council of Thailand, said lay missionaries such as Dr. Leeswadtrakul “enabled us to help people continuously and more.”

There are 45 Camillian sisters, divided into seven groups, who are working in almost every region in Thailand. Each group has a specific mission that is responding to the needs of the Thai people.

In Chiang Rai, the Camillian sisters are working with ethnic groups. They are also attending to the elderly and sick people at Mae Sot Hospital in collaboration with the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR).

Camillian sisters are seen tending the sick in this undated photo.

The congregation is also responding to the needs of Myanmar refugees in Chonburi Province. It also runs an orphanage for children infected with HIV from their mothers. Sister Goosap said these children are “discriminated against and singled out”. 

In Ratchaburi Province, “our field of work is a nursing home for the poor and the elderly without relatives,” the nun said. “We serve them with care and education to the children in need.” 

“These priestesses with Jesus Christ as the example, live side by side in joy and in sorrow with them like family members. We work with our own hands alongside the volunteers to convey our mission spirit calling upon the sisters to give all their time to the sick God who is suffering and needing help,” said Sister Goosap.

A Camillian sister is extending care to an elderly person in this undated photo.

Dr. Leeswadtrakul, who has known the Camillian sisters for nearly 40 years, has been instrumental in advancing the congregation’s missions in different parts of Thailand.

“The mission of the Ministers has always been side by side with him. He provides financial assistance and advice, and gives suggestions like a friend with sincerity, encourages and empowers with prayers,” said Sister Goosap.

Archbishop Peter Bryan Wells, the Apostolic Nuncio to Thailand, described the missions of the Catholic Church as an embodiment of the Thai people’s “kindness”. A trait, he said, that has “become a distinct aspect of the culture of the Kingdom.”

“All Thais are representatives of this beautiful country. It is within this culture of kindness that the Holy See and the Kingdom of Thailand have for more than 50 years now continued to strengthen the bonds of cooperation,” said the prelate.

For the Camillian sisters, the Catholic missionary work that started nearly 500 years ago will continue to grow and nurture because of Thailand’s modern-day missionaries – the laity.

© Copyright LiCAS.news. All rights reserved. Republication of this article without express permission from LiCAS.news is strictly prohibited. For republication rights, please contact us at: [email protected]

Support Our Mission

We work tirelessly each day to tell the stories of those living on the fringe of society in Asia and how the Church in all its forms - be it lay, religious or priests - carries out its mission to support those in need, the neglected and the voiceless.
We need your help to continue our work each day. Make a difference and donate today.