Chiang Rai: Joseph Briones, a PIME seminarian from the Philippines, ordained deacon (Photo)

The ceremony took place at the Ngao mission. Mgr Joseph Vuthilert Haelom and more than 35 priests from the northern diocese attended the service, as did scores of tribal people. For Fr Ribolini, it was "a beautiful moment of ecclesial participation in the Missionary Month".

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – The Diocese of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand celebrated the beginning of the Extraordinary Missionary Month with the diaconal ordination of Joseph Samaniego Briones, a seminarian with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) originally from the Philippines.

The service, which was led by Mgr Joseph Vuthilert Haelom, bishop of the young diocese, was held two days ago at the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Blessed Chiara Luce Badano at the Ngao mission attracting a large crowd of faithful and local clergy.

Among the over 35 Chiang Rai priests, some were PIME missionaries, like Fr Maurizio Arioldi, superior delegate for Thailand and Myanmar, and Fr Marco Ribolini, parish priest in Mae Suay.

The ceremony represented "a beautiful moment of ecclesial participation in the Missionary Month," latter told AsiaNews. "The church was full and almost all the clergymen in Chiang Rai came for the occasion. Several people followed the service outside the building.”

The new deacon has been in Thailand since October 2016, Fr Ribolini noted. In the last three years, he attended a Thai language school and carried out his service at the mission in Ngao, a village in the province of Lampang. Fr Arioldi supervised his training.

Brother Joseph made the final pledge on 2 August. He will most likely be assigned to the mission in this country, but nothing is taken for granted before the final announcement by PIME’s superior general.

At the end of the diaconal ordination, the faithful took part in a festive reception. "It is the custom here in the north of Thailand. When tribal people come down from the mountains for festivities and celebrations, it is necessary to feed them.”

"The villages where they come from are very far away and before they return, these people have to refresh themselves. Ethnic Akha, who are the majority in the diocese, were the most numerous but there were also Lahu and Cariani."

"The bishop,” said Fr Ribolini, “used this moment of celebration to make a vocational call to the faithful, emphasising that the Church in Chiang Rai needs local clergy. Mgr Haelom also said that next year, the priestly ordination of the second Akha, also a PIME deacon, should take place."