12/10/2015, 00.00
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For PIME missionary, Advent represents hope for abandoned people on the outskirts of Bangkok

by Adriano Pelosin
Fr Adriano Pelosin has been in Thailand for 37 years. In a Christmas letter, he tells the story of Noi, an elderly widow who had lost her faith after her son's death. "God saved me when I was desperate, and now I want to help others." He also talks about his outreach activities in the city of Pathum Thani, among Buddhists, orphans, alcoholics and drug addicts. "May the birth of Jesus bring the strength to resist evil and build a better world."

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - Fr Adriano Pelosin is a priest with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME). Born in Loreggia (Padua, Italy), he has been in Thailand for the past 37 year working extensively in the slums of Bangkok, where he has saved children from sexual predators, traffickers and organised crime. He has also helped them get an education to become productive members of society.

In May 2013, Card Kriengsak kovitvanit, archbishop of Bangkok, appointed him pastor at the St Mark Parish in Pathum Thani. Here he started a new adventure in a small Catholic community, in an area that is largely Buddhist and Muslim. Fr Pelosin is also the superior at the Thai Missionary Institute, which this year celebrates its first 25 years.

What follows is the clergyman’s letter to his friends and benefactors, on the occasion of Advent, to tell them about his activities and the stories of grace and conversion that came out of them.

Dear friends and sponsors of our children,

At a time when everyone in the world is wondering whether our planet has a future, let us once again heed God’s word, which sheds light on the words of men and the events that concern us.

"Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come"(Matthew, 24:11-14). On that day, “those with insight shall shine brightly like the splendour of the firmament, And those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars* forever” (Daniel, 12:3).

Let me illustrate this prophecy with the following fact.

On 12 November 21 2015, I stopped to visit Grandma Noi in Sam Kok. I wanted to see the small flat we fixed up for her: two rooms, a bathroom and a kitchenette.

Everything was in order, but I was surprised by her new vitality and joy. "You look much younger and in good health," I told her. "Yes. You know. My diabetes is gone from 300 to 90 and the blood pressure dropped. I want to do things, work. I would like go back to my old peddling job. I want to help my grandchildren."

Five years ago, Noi’s only son died in a car accident. She took on debts to pay a lawyer to seek redress. She won her case and was due to receive 470,000 baht (US$ 13,000). At the last moment, her lawyer disappeared and Noi was left penniless. Her daughter-in-law returned to her parents with her two children. Then last year, Noi’s husband died. With donations collected at his funeral and some loans, she bought a piece of a porch, closed it off with pieces of plastic sheeting and bamboo branches, and that was her new home. Meanwhile, the daughter who lived with her left to seek her fortune elsewhere.

Three months ago, we built a house for Mr Lek Dam. Her old house was destroyed in the flood of 2011 and she and her family of five lived under plastic sheeting. On that occasion, we met Noi, who was seriously ill, and was living with an eight-year-old grandchid.

We asked a lawyer to take up her case. So far, so good. The court has already seized and sold the cars of the company responsible for the accident in which Noi’s son was killed.

Later we gave her some money to go back to her old job of peddler (selling toys at parties, fairs and markets). Noi is a Protestant, and the tribulations of life had driven her away from God . . . Now her faith is strong and she is telling everybody about how God helped her when she was hopeless. Two other grandchildren came to live with their grandmother.

I have many stories to tell such as this....

Let me give you also some news about St Mark Parish, whose pastor I have been for the past two and a half years. After many difficulties, the Holy Spirit has created a small community of about twenty parishioners. Every Sunday at 3 pm, they gather to read the Gospel of the day, comment it and then, from 4 to 6 o’clock, they go into that section of Pathum Thani that is home to the downtrodden: abandoned seniors, orphans, alcoholics, drug addicts, disabled. They go with joy and come back with even more joy. The people we visit are all Buddhist.

On every Saturday and Sunday evening in December, we split in two groups and visit all the Catholic families in the parish, some 50 people in all. We carry the statue of the Infant Jesus, read the Biblical readings of Advent, pray together and . . . wish each other Merry Christmas. This is a deeply felt tradition in all the parishes of Thailand.

This year, 16 adults are preparing to be baptised on Easter Sunday 2016. They include a lawyer, two Cambodians and a number of illiterate women. Five parishioners follow the catechumens throughout the process of preparation.

Activities for children and seniors living alone continue in Wat Sake, Lat Lum Keo, Soi Som Prasong and Ko Ping. We also continue to visit prisoners in these communities.

Now I want to thank all the benefactors who helped in these works of mercy, sponsors who give hundreds of children a chance to go to school and create a brighter future for themselves.

I thank Fr Antonio Curti and his parishioners in San Lorenzo in Collina, who enabled me to build houses for those who did not even have this space that creates dignity for people and families.

I want to thank the missionary group in Madonna della Pace di Vicenza Parish, which helps me to support the seminarians at the Thai Missionary Institute. They are eight this year and each costs me about € 6,000 (US$ 6,500), including school fees, living expenses and accommodation.

I want to thank Silvio and Luisa Moro for the beautiful olive wood crucifixes they sent me. Some of these crucifixes will be placed in catechumens’ homes. The smaller ones will be blessed by the bishop and delivered to missionaries leaving for the missions.

Finally, I want to thank my brothers and sisters who this year took me into their homes during my holidays and all the people of Loreggia who are actively participating in my mission, especially this year, by donating 10 per cent of the restoration costs of our parish church for the construction of a chapel in northern Thailand, where a missionary from the Thai Missionary Institute is parish priest.

I want to thank my relatives and friends in Gemonio and surrounding areas who follow me with so much interest.

I thank the Lord, God of everything, for the difficult moments in which I felt I was going to die from anxiety or concern for the people entrusted to my pastoral care. These have been the most fruitful moments, for they taught me humility and trust in God. Moments of joy made me open my heart to gratitude and surprise . . . especially when I see a person come back to life and take heart again, changes his or her life, and becomes happy to be alive and part of society.

I pray for all of you, for your families and your friends. I pray that for the birth of the Son of God made man we can all be reborn children of God, and feel deeply loved by Him; and that, in this love, we may find the strength to resist all evil and the hope to build a better world: the Kingdom of God.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2016.

Fr Adriano Pelosin PIME

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