04/02/2007, 00.00
THAILAND
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Easter in Chantaburi, where 6 Buddhists will be baptised

by Weena Kowitwanij
New converts tell their story. Easter week is seen as occassion to invite friends and acquaintances to participate in the Way of the Cross and Mass. The Catholic Church, brought to Thai soil by 1711 Vietnamese immigrants, is alive and lives Holy Week with intensity.

Chantaburi (AsiaNews) – Padre Josef Yod Senarak, rector of Chantaburi Cathedral, South East Thailand, not far from Bangkok, says that this year his Church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception has been blessed: six Buddhists will be baptised during Easter Vigil celebrations.  

 Unchalida Arch-sa, one of the six says that it was her Catholic husband who brought her to Christianity.  “Taking part in mass together with my husband – she explains – and seeing other families go to Church together, made be want to be Catholic”. 

Another new convert is Vietnamese Thee Chaeng. “When I see my husband receive communion – she says – I am happy because soon I too will be able to receive it.  Having one single faith is important for family unity”. 

 Utumporn  Boonyopakarn, the church officer for 3 years says “The Catholic members here are very active.  They are eager to participate in the church activities.  The rector only sets up on what to do and inform them at the end of each mass, those interested will form a team to arrange the activities with the agreement and the support of the priests. People convert every year and most say their belief helps strengthen their spiritual growth”.  

Professor Salaya Phansiir from the Asian Institute of Technology said “Since my early childhood, I have a vivid, clear memory of how the Catholics in Chantaburi prepare themselves for Easter.  It is only three hours’ drive from Bangkok, the Capital so every year I invite my friends who are interested to join the event with me.  It is a kind of brief retreat that makes it possible to withstand the hardship and difficulty in today’s materialistic society”.

Father Josef  tells AsiaNews that “The preparation for Easter is like that organized in other Catholic communities, but we try to emphasize the family and the elderly….for example to encourage their children who work away from home in the Capital Bangkok to return for the event.  Starting with the Adoration of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday evening, the cathedral will be open 24 hours for those who want to pray before the Eucharist.  Before going back home parishioners will get each a loaf of bread symbolizing and reminding them of the Last Supper of the Lord”. “Good Friday we relive the Way of the Cross in the 14 stations, starting from the Discalced Carmelite Sisters (Carmelite Convent), persuading those we meet to join the procession that leads to the cathedral. The Good Friday event starts at 7 p.m.  With the scene of Pilate up to the death of Jesus.”

 Chantaburi Church, the first Catholic Diocese to be installed in 1944, was born from 130 Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in 1711, during the reign of Ayudhaya, when the bishop Pyong de Chesae invited Father Huette. The diocese takes in 8 south eastern provinces, with 38.918 Catholics out of a total population of 4.3, with 87 priests and 202 sisters. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the largest in the country has 8.700 registered faithful.

 

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