An Experience: Visiting Seminarian Families in Maehongson Province

A Report from Br. Arvind Kerketta OFM

Parishes visited:
Maelanoi: St. Peter Church, Catholic villages: 56
Maetho: St. John Baptist church, Catholic villages: 15
Khunyuam: Our Lady of the Rosary Beet Church, Catholic villages: 16
Nonghaeng: Mother Mary of Nonghaeng Church, Catholic villages: 11

Every year I thought of visiting the houses of our Aspirants; but due to some work or the other I was not able to make it up. But this time my plan was actualized. The Aspirants and I left for Maehongson province on 15th of October 2012 in the morning. Due to heavy rain in Bangkok, we were not able to catch up a good speed; but once the weather was quite bright we were able to make up for the lost time. We reached to Lampun at about 11.30 pm; and slept in a rest house there.

Next day morning we continued our journey and reached to Maelanoi district in the afternoon, the parish of the aspirant, Vithaya. We all of us slept overnight in Vithaya’s house; and the following day we went for harvesting. The villagers and his family members were so much impressed by that. After the harvest, all of us went to Maelanoi to visit the parish priest there. He gave us a big welcome; and asked me to stay overnight there. From Maelanoi all the aspirants went back to their houses.

It was well organized like a relay system: one aspirant would reach me by a motorcycle to another aspirant’s village; and from there that aspirant would reach me to another aspirant’s village. So it went on. I manage to visit all the houses of the aspirants except one because the motor cycle was broken down. So I travelled by motorcycle for two weeks.

When it rains, it becomes very difficult to travel on the mountain because it is very, very slippery. As a result I felt down from the bike two times on the mountain and shed a little blood for they would be Future Mission in Maehongson Province.

When I fell down from the bike in the rain, I remembered the sharing of Br. Jesus had a real and rich experience there for two years. Now I fully understand the joys and sufferings of Br. Jesus there.
To say the truth, Maehongson province is a wonderful place as the catholic population is very big and active, where we could do our ministry so wonderfully.

Some impressions and views

Families of the Aspirants
Our Aspirants come from decent and good families. Their parents are very, very devoted Catholics, very active in the church. I was really surprised to see that. But when I see the life of our Aspirants, it is just the contrary. Our Aspirants are a bit lazy and not so much task oriented. I do understand the life of young boys but as seminarians I expect a little more from them. After I visited their houses, I see lots of changes in their lives. They are joyous and show more commitment in their responsibilities. I am happy about the development. Hope they will keep up the same spirit for the future. The occupation of the Aspirants ‘parents are farmers except one: Chatchai from Buriram. His parents are teachers.

Catholic population
The Harvest is rich but the laborers are few (Mt. 9: 37). So to say that the catholic population in Maehongson Province is very big there; and to meet the spiritual needs of all the people by one or two priests is impossible. Some of the villagers never even had a chance to participate in the Holy Eucharist for a long time; so they pray in the morning and in the evening together in the chapel. All of them are hill tribes and committed Catholics.

Just to make a little pictures: In Maelanoi parish from 56 catholic villages there are around 2.600 catholic people; in Maetho from 15 catholic villages there are around 3.000 catholic villages; in Khunyuam from around 16 villages there are around 1.500 catholic people and in Nonghaeng from 11 villages there are around 1.000 catholic people. So, we can imagine how many catholic people in the Maehongson province.

Receptive
All these hill tribes are very, very receptive to anyone. Whoever goes there will feel at home with them. By nature they are simple and kind. And majority of them speak Pakayon language. They have strong feeling of sense of belonging to the community; even they still ring the bell for their community prayer.

Vocation
Practically speaking, majority of our vocations come from Maehongson province. Due to a far distance, coming towards the South of Thailand, makes our aspirants feel homesick and they go back home after they stay with us for a week or two. So distance causes a hindrance to the vocation of our aspirants. Coming from far north of Thailand to the South of Thailand really big different but also at the same time they can learn other reality of Thai society even to force themselves to speak Thai.

Feelings of the local people
By visiting them we can know also the feeling and the expectation from the people to the missionaries or those who work for the mission. Some time we think mission is about a project and funds. It may be true. But more important the mission is a presence to share our life, Christian life and Franciscan life with the people.
It is a challenge for us how to be with the people, how to listen to their anxious and expectation, how to make them proud with their Christian life and to find their dignity. It is a challenge for us Franciscan to live and share our life with them as a brother, as a gift from God for our vocation. It is a challenge for us how to learn from them to be a true friar minor.

Deep Appreciation for Franciscans and Betharam congregation
The local priests, Sisters and lay people have a deep appreciation for the Franciscans and Betharam congregation because they said that we Franciscans and Betharam Fathers can work at the grassroots level, that is to say we can mingle with them, we can live with them without looking them down upon. Their advice is that we Franciscans should open a house in the North, advisably in Khunyuam. The presence of Br. Jesu two years in the Northern part of Thailand gave good impression of our Franciscan life and brotherhood.

My opinion and advice
After I visited a quite many places, priests and lay people, their advice is that we should open a house in Khunyuam because it is like in the center from where we could reach out to different places so easily. My opinion is the same as the local people have said. So I would say, looking at the places and the number of Catholic population there in Maehongson Province, that Khunyuam could be the right place to start the Franciscan presence there. You are most welcome to give your opinion.

Peace and joy in St. Francis and Clare.

1 Comment

  1. DESMOND

    Sat 09th May 2015 at 12:38 PM

    I wish Tailand will be accept Christ Jesus as divine Savior Plse spread Divine Mercy Novena among Tai peoples

    Reply

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