The catechumenal experience of some faithful in the parish of Mary the Mother of Mercy in Nonthaburi. The importance of moments of sharing the faith. The need to convey the teachings offered by Christian experience to the world.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) - "The encounter with Christ deepens the lives of those who undertake a path of conversion and has a strong impact also at a community and social level," says Fr. Daniele Mazza, PIME missionary in Thailand and parish priest of Mary Mother of Mercy Church in Nonthaburi, 25km north of Bangkok. The young priest has devoted his mission to interreligious dialogue, in a country where Catholics are about 290,000, 0.46% of the population. Fr. Daniele (photo) shared the stories of some of his parishioners with AsiaNews, describing how the catechumenal path and baptism have changed their perspective on everyday life.
"These generations of new Christians - says Fr. Daniel - are a hope for the Church. It is up to us to form them some way of being Christians. That is the real challenge. What Church setting do we give them? They absorb what we teach. In our parish, the approach we want to give attention to the change that the encounter with Christ infuses into everyday life to bring this new approach to everyday life into the world. " Fr. Daniele firstly accompanies the catechumens in this verification process, meeting them regularly for the duration of the journey, which is about a year and a half. The missionary underlines the importance of moments of sharing the experience of faith, an aspect that greatly impacts new Thai Christians. "As a pastor, I try to form community life along the lines of a school, in which the Lord helps each one to take his or her own steps. I invite them to take every opportunity, even a quarrel, as a starting point for profound reflection. For me it is important to be attentive to all the dynamics of the community, to propose them as an opportunity for teaching, in which the faithful are called to grow, "states Fr. Daniele. In this way, catechumens really realize the change that Christ imposes on their lives, in their way of thinking and of acting. "It is in practicing the lessons learned that they are increasingly convinced of their path."
The first experience that Fr. Daniele wants to share concerns a young architect. The girl was employed as a designer at a construction company. Her job was very well paid, so she was able to take out a mortgage for a home and buy a car. However, her projects were made with poor materials, other than those she had chosen. The young woman was aware of all this, but only when she started walking to receive baptism, was she assailed by her first doubts. "We're cheating people," she said. Despite the uncertainty about the future, the economic difficulties and her loans, the architect decided to resign and open her own business. "Indeed the Lord never left me, every time I had a bill to pay I always did, maybe at the last moment, but I could always pay. I do not earn as much as before but now I'm in peace with myself, "the young woman says.
The second testimony regards a married couple who run a company that produces large decorated gates for villas. Often their blacksmiths failed to respect the design directions established with the customer. This involved large losses of money, materials, and hours of work. The problem came up again when the couple had just finished their journey to receive confirmation. On that occasion, however, the spouses dealt with the situation in a new way. "Let's talk to the customer," they said, "Whatever happens, we'll cover half the cost of building the gate, even though we are not responsible for the mistake. We will not get angry with the blacksmith, they have children. Now the damage is done. " "Having journeyed together, we immediately realized why we did it," they say. After praying for the help and support of Jesus, they both went to the customer, who, with great surprise, said to them, "The gate is nicer than the original design." "We have experienced that the Lord really supports us, when we make a right choice or we know that we are doing good, even if there is a risk that things will go wrong. However, we were free even in this event, "concludes the couple.
Father Daniele finally stresses the importance of transmitting the teachings offered by Christian experience to society. In this regard, he recalls the initiative taken by Card. Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, Archbishop of Bangkok, who worked hard to establish the Catholic Entrepreneurs Association. One of the pillars of the association is the fight against corruption which is an endemic problem in Thailand. "Ours is a community that sometimes risks closing in on itself - says the priest. “The sense of identity that originates from the minority is sometimes strong. It is important to help the Thai community itself to open up a little more. " Under the guidance of the Cardinal, five-year programs are set up in which parishes give some goals to be pursued. Among those of this five-year period there are the basic ecclesiastical communities (BEC), in order to help Christianity permeate the social fabric even more. The parish of Mary the Mother of Mercy can count on seven families, who hold regular meetings of prayer and sharing. In addition, children who study catechism go once a week to perform charitable activities for elderly people. "In Bangkok - concludes Fr. Daniel - the challenge is to revitalize the work of evangelization of the Church and reach all the geographical and social peripheries that the life of a megalopolis keeps on the margins. With the new pastoral plan, Christian communities are called to play an important and fearless role in society."
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."
“Too often people of different religions have too little time to talk,” but “Studying for two years with monks gave me” a chance to “ask topical questions without fear of being misunderstood.” "Those who are in contact with Buddhism should not emphasise theory or theoretical concepts, but rather communicating the Christian experience [. . .] and the ways to reach it." Interfaith dialogue is fundamental to the life of the Church in Thailand. The challenges of the future include the call “to grow freer from influences and be more and more the clear voice and image of its Lord."
The many conversions among northern people nurture Thailand’s young Church. Compared to ethnic Thais, tribal people are more open to the proclamation of the Gospel. The many languages and vast territory make pastoral outreach by the missionaries a difficult endeavour.