Takhek (AsiaNews) – The small Catholic community of Laos is all set to celebrate two more ordinations to the priesthood: on 9 December, Peter Wilaiphorn Phonasa and Luke Sukpaphorn Duangchansai will become priests. They will be ordained by Mgr John Sommeng Worachak, Apostolic Vicar of Takhek (southern Laos).
The double ordination comes a few months after the historic ordination of Fr Somphone Vilavongsy, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, on 18 June in Vientiane after 30 years of persecution and an absence of vocations.
Since 1975, it has been impossible for international, religious institutions to enter and function with foreign members. There are houses of formation for the Lovers of the Cross Sisters (Vietnamese) and the Sisters of Charity of St Jean Antide (French): all are young Laotians. There is a major seminary, approved but strictly controlled, with Laotian educators and lecturers. This institution is in Takhek, where the Church has enjoyed relative freedom for some years. One religious goes to Laos once a year as a tourist and holds a very intense eight-day course in theology.
The Oblates have special ties with Laos. More than 100 of them, especially French and Italians, were missionaries there between 1935 and 1975, the year when the Communists of Pathet Lao came to power. A small but lively community developed and some villages were almost entirely Catholic. During the war, seven Oblates were killed and all the rest were expelled after the Communist victory.
Laos has around six million residents including just over 42,000 Catholics, who are divided into four Apostolic Vicariates across the country. The vicariate of Luang Prabang in the north is practically deprived of members of the clergy. In fact, it could be said to rely only on the presence of the Apostolic Administrator, Mgr Tito Tito Banchong Thopanhom, who is assisted by some catechists.