Bishop Silvio Siripong Charatsri celebrates Mass at Sacred Heart Seminary, Si Racha in Chanthaburi Diocese in Thailand on June 13 (Credit: Antonio Anup Gonsalves/CNA)
The Sacred Heart of Jesus Minor Seminary in Thailand’s Chanthaburi diocese has spent 80 years forming young men to be priests.
“The seminary is the heart of a diocese,” Bishop emeritus Lawrence Thienchai of Chanthaburi said in a June 13 interview.
He was one of the thousands of Catholics who marked the seminary anniversary with a Mass that witnessed the ordination of a new priest.
The bishop compared the minor seminary to a plant nursery. The seminary educates young boys in “holistic formation to become a holy priest”.
He said the seminarians are “formed with an academic discipline and helped to arrive a human maturity and maturity of faith” so that they can witness to Christ.
Even for boys who do not have a calling to the priesthood, the seminary formation imprints a distinct personality. The bishop said that these boys grow up to be laymen who radiate Christian teachings and accept responsibility for the mission of the Church. They also help their own children to discern a vocation to priesthood or religious life.
Bishop Silvio Siripong Charatsri, the current head of the Diocese of Chanthaburi, presided at the seminary’s June 13 thanksgiving Mass with Cardinal Michael Michai Kitbunchu, the Archbishop emeritus of Bangkok.
Two other bishops and over 100 priests concelebrated the Mass at a packed indoor stadium at the diocese’s Darasamutr School in the town of Si Racha. The Mass drew over 3,000 faithful including 150 nuns and 300 seminarians and novices from various religious congregations.
Bishop Silvio reminded the faithful of Pope Francis’ message for World Mission Day 2014: “Wherever there is joy, enthusiasm and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations arise.”
During the Mass, Bishop Silvio ordained a new priest for the Chanthaburi diocese. “It is a great occasion of joy for us to celebrate and reflect over this walk of 80 years and we are raising our prayers to God in thanks for this gift of priestly ministry,” said Fr Francis Xavier Kritsada Sukkaphat, rector of Sacred Heart Minor Seminary.
Since the permanent establishment of the seminary at Si Racha in 1935, the seminary has educated over 1,159 students. Its alumni include 164 priests, seven bishops and a cardinal. Many of the students who left the seminary continue to help in teaching and in various other ministries. The seminary now houses 85 seminarians.
“I am grateful to all the bishops, priests, formators, the seminarians, parents, parishes and the benefactors who have stood with us in the past and in the present and continue their prayerful support even in the future,” Fr Sukkaphat said.
Although the seminary has been at its current location for only about 80 years, it was founded in Bang Chang, the eastern region of Thailand, in 1872. It was permanently relocated to Si Racha, Thailand in 1934.
Bishop Silvio concluded the celebrations by thanking everyone for their respective roles in the pastoral mission of the Church and the seminary. He encouraged the faithful to pray for vocations and to be active in the mission of new evangelization.
After Mass, congregants sought a blessing from the newly ordained priest. The diocese also served lunch with traditional cuisines to all the faithful who had joined in the liturgy, helping to build friendship among the parishioners from various dioceses.
Thailand has 10 Catholic dioceses, many of which have their own minor seminaries. Older seminarians attend the country’s major seminary Lux Mundi in Sam Phran, north of Bangkok.
Less than one percent of Thailand’s population is Catholic. However, the Church plays a leading role in education and palliative health care.
The Church also plays a role in promoting human dignity and self-empowerment, especially in the tribal and hilly terrains of the country’s peripheries.
Original story: In Thailand, Catholic seminary marks eight vibrant decades
Source: Catholic News Agency