Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Unity in faith

Rising up on the side of one of Nong Bua Lamphu’s newest roads is St. Michael Archangel Church. With its dark red roof and egg shell colored walls, the Church is a tidy structure placed in a well maintained surrounding with trees, flowers, and lawn. Although neither the church nor the land space around it is large, few come into the place without noticing its cleanliness and simple attractiveness. With a full time gardener and assistants, both the church and the adjacent Mother of Perpetual Help Center are kept beautiful throughout the year.

While St. Michael’s Church is often “mistaken” as the HIV/AIDS Center for obvious reason (being so closely connected to the Mother of Perpetual Help Center and the Mother Teresa Children’s Home), few know that this is a place of a variety of activities with the participation of a variety of ethnic groups. It is perhaps the location of greatest diversity in Nong Bua Lamphu province.

St. Michael’s Church is the only church in the entire province that has both male and female religious working side by side in their respective ministries. The SVD brothers come from the U.S. while the Charity Sisters come from the Philippines and India. The pastor is a Vietnamese American who often gets mistaken for being Thai. As for the parish population, there are Thai, Vietnamese-Thai, Chinese-Thai and people from a whole host of countries including the Phillippines, Vietnam, the U.S., England, and Germany.

One of the greatest witnesses to the richness of the small St. Michael’s parish is the social diversity in the church community. In the Sunday pews, one can find religious, government employees, professionals, as well as students, manual laborers and children. Sitting side by side are families in the community, patients from the HIV/AIDS hospice and HIV orphans. Listening to the Scriptures together are both people who are Catholic and Buddhists.

In some ways it is remarkable that in a rather small church in a small province of Thailand, one can find such lively signs of God’s love and unity among the people. In this respect, St. Michael’s Church is a beautiful witness to God’s presence and His love as lived out by the people from various countries and backgrounds who come together to form this very distinct and special community.

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