Bangkok (AsiaNews) – 23 people will be baptized this Holy Saturday in Bangkok’s Cathedral of the Assumption. They are adults, who in their desire to deepen their knowledge of Catholicism attended a special programme called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) headed by Fr. Vira Aphonratana, Secretary General of Catholic Commission for Catechetical Education.
Fr. Aphonratana said “Since the year 2000 and in 2005 when Pope John Paul II passed away I recognized that there were a great number of people interested to learn more about Catholics before deciding to be baptized. The figures show that each year there are about 200 converted Catholics among 70 parishes within the Archdiocese of Bangkok. Some of them know about RCIA through the website www.cathoic.or.th, or Udomsarn Catholic weekly or monthly magazine, or their Catholic friends persuade them to join Sunday Bible class before entering the RCIA program”.
Two women who attended the course described their experiences and feelings to AsiaNews. Korramai Saithum, age 30 said “Many friends of mine who are Catholics were always telling me about Jesus so one day I asked them to bring me to the Cathedral, where I bought a bible so I could read and know more about Jesus. I must admit that I did not understand what I read at all, so I kept the book for years until another friend of mine persuaded me to attend RCIA program stating that it will help answer all my questions about God”.
“What impresses me most – she added - is that I was told to love and serve others like serving God and to forgive even those who hurt me. This teaching touched my heart and I still remember an inspiring verse stated ‘Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good’ (Romans 12:21)”.
Krisanee Sotayakrit aged 39 “A Catholic friend in my office told me about the RCIA program at Assumption Cathedral. At first I thought it impossible and useless to study another religion. He also told me that ‘God is Love and my God teaches me to love one another like I love myself.’ His humility and deeply religious character, made me reconsider. So one day I visited a Catholic parish I know. I felt very warm and calm attending the rite. People were friendly and I had to take notice of those sitting next to me in order to follow the mass. As my family rarely practices Buddhism they do not mind that I want to convert, as long as it makes me happy. They think that joining the RCIA program is just like a kind of social activity. But it has helped me to deal with real, every day situations, so I’m not as tense as before. It has changed my life and I am very eager to be baptized and to receive Communion this coming Easter.”
Fr. Apornratana explained “The RCIA program do not end at Easter but it will be extended 7 weeks more so that the ‘New Catholics’ will have a chance to meet with people in different Catholic organizations which they may join on their own freewill. It is a time for them to get to know some other Catholics in the community and to strengthen their faith. Moreover there will be a reunion yearly which is a time for sharing their experiences with their classmate”.
“I tell all my students – he concluded - that Religion is like breathing, vital for life. So you have to be serious practicing it to make you strong enough to stand on your own and to help your neighbours as the Gospel tells us to”.