Monday, November 16, 2009

A community of witness

Though it may come as a surprise to some, St. Michael Archangel Church is the first and the only Catholic church in the entire Nong Bua Lamphu province, NE Thailand. Nong Bua Lamphu is a relatively new province, less than 20 years old. It is also one of the smallest and least developed provinces in the country.

The church was consecrated in 2002. However, it was not until October 2008 that the parish had a full time pastor assigned for a period of five years. Previously, priests assigned to the parish could only stay for a short span of time, the longest staying two years. A total of six priests have passed through St. Michael. Fr. Anthony Duc Le, SVD the present pastor, is the seventh priest.

Needless to say having a full time pastor assigned for a significant period of time is essential to the development of the parish. Not only the pastor, knowing that he will be at the parish for a while, feels comfortable to start pastoral programs and initiate parish activities that have long term goals in mind, but parishioners also have more opportunities to join hands with the pastor to accomplish the various goals set forth.

Any church development can’t be done without the presence of a parish council. Moreover, a Catholic parish cannot go without essential activities such as various liturgical celebrations and feasts, catechism programs, youth groups and faith sharing activities. At St. Michael’s Church, parishioner participation is most visibly seen in such activities as families taking turns donating flowers to the church throughout the year, parishioners heading and contributing to fund raising efforts to finance activities, and the youth having a visible role in the actitivities of the church through their enthusiasm in serving in Mass. The faith and community life is further nourished by monthly gathering at parishioners’ homes for praying, scripture sharing, and food sharing. During advent, gatherings take place on a weekly basis.

In the beginning of 2009, the parish council adopted a year-long multi-pronged pastoral plan aimed at developing parish life as well as helping to make the Catholic Church an instrument for development and change in the larger community. As a result, a sense of mission awareness is gradually being instilled in the heart of mind of the church members as they try to become better witnesses to God among the overwhelmingly Buddhist environment in Nong Bua Lamphu. With grace and guidance from the Holy Spirit, development will certainly continue to take place at this Catholic parish, which though small in size, is performing a very important Christian mission in the community.

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