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Presentation Sisters Union                          News Update June 2009                             Print Version                          

the answer. [guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2009]  Messages to Fatima Rodrigo.

News from Fang, Thailand

Greetings from Fang! Our last news item was in Jan 2009 when we gave an account of how we ended the year 2008 in joy and celebration. The Apostolic Nuncio, in simple words, “the Ambassador of the Pope” in Thailand, Most Reverend Salvatore Pennacchio, came for a three-day visit and spent the last few days of the year visiting the mission centers and some villages in the mountains. The visit of the Apostolic Nuncio gave a particular enthusiasm to our people who, even now, after many months, still remember those days of great joy.

The month of January gives the occasion to celebrate the New Year in different ways. At Fang mission, for the first time, almost 500 Lahu people came to celebrate the Lahu New Year. The celebration, beautiful for the colors of their different customs, consisted in Lahu traditional rites, dances, games and the celebration of the Holy Mass giving thanks to God for the New Year.

At the end January, all the people of the mission experienced a sad moment: Clement Lipha, a “holy” catechist died of cancer (picture below on the left). He was baptized by Fr. Clemente Vismara, PIME, in Monglin, Myanmar. He was able to “influence” everybody in his own village through a life of example and prayers. Just before dying, at 52, leaving his wife and his eight children, he gave a great example of faith and closeness to God.

In March school closed (according to the Thai calendar) and what we can call “summer” started. It corresponds to the hottest time of the year, which precedes the rainy season and the plantation of the new rice. All the children living at the mission centers went home. Some of them, though, especially those who attend Junior High School, went to work in order to help their families. They usually go to work in the city of Chiang Mai as street vendors or cleaners in restaurants. Some of them work at the Chinese tea plantations where they can get two or three dollars a day!

At the end of March, two seminarians and a deacon came to stay at the mission to give a hand in our summer activities. The deacon will be ordained a priest this month of June. Their presence has been a very precious contribution to the missionary work of evangelization.

These seminarians, along with our Sisters, organized several catechetical camps both in Fang and Ban Thoet Thai, and in the villages on the mountains. This year the number of children who attended these summer camps reached six hundreds! The camps were so successful that even many adults preferred to stay in the villages in order to join these activities instead of going to work in the fields!

In the first week of April, Sisters, seminarians and teachers prepared fifty children to receive the Sacraments of First Communion and Reconciliation. During Holy Week we prayed in a special way for 150 people, children and adults, from different villages, who received the Sacrament of Baptism. Finally, after three years of training and formation all these people have fully become part of the “family of God”. Several catechists worked hard to teach these people: they regularly went to several villages to meet the catechumens and teach them catechism.

Through the help of our catechists, six new animist villages have asked to become Catholics. The list of the villages follows: the Akha villages of Huay Yuak and Huay Un, the Lahu villages of Ciapa and Nong Pha and the Liso villages of Phadeng and Sirikham. Nowadays the mission of Fang is taking care of 45 villages, with a total population of almost 4,500 people, of whom 2,000 are baptized.

On 1st May more than 9,000 people came to the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Chiang Mai for the consecration of our new Bishop. After more than 22 years, our dear Bishop Joseph retired and the Pope chose a priest from Bangkok, Fr. Francis Xavier Wira Aphonrat (picture on the left with our Shan people), as the new Bishop of Chiang Mai (which includes the whole north of Thailand). All the Catholic people of the diocese got involved in the feast and even people living in the most remote areas wanted to be part of the beautiful celebration.

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