03/24/2006, 00.00
THAILAND
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250 catechumens to be baptized at Easter

by Weena Kowitwanij

The reasons prompting them to embrace Catholicism differ. "Being Catholic has changed my life," said one. "The teaching of the Church has taught me how to love."

Bangkok (Asianews) – Next Easter, there will be 250 new Thai Christians coming from six districts in the archdiocese of Bangkok. The adults' Christian initiation rite was held on 5 March in the Cathedral of the Assumption and all will be baptized at Easter.

Ten will become Catholics during the Easter vigil in the Cathedral of Bangkok. The reasons why they have decided to become Catholic differ. One of them, John Pantawat Romsakorn, said: "Being a Catholic has changed my life. I used to get angry very easily, but now I feel I can forgive other people more than in the past. Catholic teaching is the opposite to what the materialistic world has given me. I have learned how to love others.

"In catechism class, each of us has a chance to talk about our daily problems, and to discuss how the gospel helps us solve them, in the way Jesus asks us to face them. I came to seek and I found the treasure which no money can buy."

Cecilia Kanokporn Ow said: "A friend of mine is in the choir and she brought me to rehearsals. Meeting other Catholics, I became curious and I wanted to know more: I enrolled in the catechism course and I understood what my true faith was. My family is Buddhist but I am an adult and they don't mind what faith I practice: for them, any religion is good, as long as it is practiced as well as possible."

Mathew Meena Nareerat said: "Before I used to spend Sunday in bed after six days of work, but I never felt really good. Now I await Sundays anxiously to be able to meet my friends and the catechists. I feel very happy."

Tasanee Maturossuwan, the catechist in charge of the initiation course, told AsiaNews: "Most of the catechumens are Buddhists who went to Catholics schools and who knew Catholic youth. During the courses, they have the possibility to talk about themselves, to consider their lives from another perspective and to discuss solutions proposed by the Gospel."

"After the baptism, we have scheduled seven weeks of courses during which we want to be close to the new Catholics, to follow them up at the start of their new life."

Fr Francis Vira Arphonrat, Secretary General of Catholic Commission for Catechetical Education said: "The spirituality of catechists is fundamentally based on their unity with Jesus Christ, who called them to fulfill His mission. To support catechists, each Thai diocese provides a spiritual director and recommends at least one annual retreat, to exchange experiences and to strengthen and encourage one another."

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