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Thailand

Catholics Spend ´A Day With Mary´ In Bangkok To Commemorate Fatima

Updated: May 20, 2007 05:00 PM GMT
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Catholics gathered for a day of prayer and devotions prior to celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Fatima at a Bangkok church named in her honor.

More than 300 devotees took part in "A Day with Mary" on May 12 at Our Lady of Fatima Church in the Din Daeng area. The Saturday program began with a morning procession of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, followed by a group rosary and Mass.

That afternoon, people again prayed the rosary together, after which some priests shared on their relationship with Mary.

Father Suthichai Phunphout, the parish priest, told the group that he "became a priest through the help of Mother Mary" and believes the rosary can help everybody.

Father Somkiat Trinikorn, director of Bangkok archdiocese´s pastoral training center in Samphran, outside the city, said praying to the Blessed Mother had helped him through difficult times when he was young. "Whenever I am in trouble, I pray to Mother Mary and everything is better," he said.

After the sharing and a snack at the front of the church, participants made the Way of the Cross then joined another procession, this time with the Blessed Sacrament. More prayers followed and an offering of flowers to Mary. The program finished at dusk with a prayer to prepare parishioners for the Fatima feast celebrations the next day.

The Sunday celebrations began at 10 a.m. with Mass led by Father Joseph Chamnian Kitcharoen, vicar general of Bangkok archdiocese. Cardinal Michael Michai Kitbunchu of Bangkok led another Mass that evening. Together, the Masses drew about 3,000 people from around the country.

Despite heavy rain, people flooded into the church for the second Mass, filling it to capacity before preparations for the liturgy were completed. During the Mass, the cardinal spoke of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, calling on worshippers to pray for her consolation and her help.

Our Lady of Fatima parishioner Thaweeluk Wannasrirat, 42, was "so happy to spend the time, a whole day," with the Blessed Mother. "I have a lot of work, but I took leave from it," he told UCA News,

"Mother Mary has given us many things," he continued. "It is time to give thanks and spend time with our mother."

The Fatima devotion dates back to 1917 in Portugal. Between May 13 and Oct. 13 that year, the Blessed Mother appeared six times to three poor shepherd children near the village of Fatima, about 110 kilometers north of Lisbon. Today Fatima is one of the most visited Marian shrines in the world.

In Thailand, as elsewhere, Catholics hold special Marian devotions in May and October. More than half the county´s 470 Catholic churches are named after the Blessed Mother or one of her titles.

Work on Bangkok´s Our Lady of Fatima Church formally began on June 20, 1955, with the blessings of French Paris Foreign Missions Bishop Louis-August Chorin, who then headed Bangkok apostolic vicariate.

French Father John Baptist Amastoi oversaw the construction, on a 15-acre lot, which was completed in 1956.

The first Mass featuring the carved wooden statue of Our Lady of Fatima that Father Amastoi brought to Thailand from Portugal was celebrated on April 15, 1956. A procession with the statue was held after Mass on May 13, and on the 13th of each month thereafter until October, mirroring the Fatima visions. The tradition continues annually to this day.

In 1957, the late Sanan Silakorn, a famous sculptor, carved a teak statue of Jesus on the cross, which stands alongside the Marian statue in the church.

Anawach Malawan, a parish official, told UCA News the church has held 17 marriage and 16 baptismal ceremonies so far in 2007, the latter a parish record. The 3,277 parishioners include many ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese Thais. Of the parish school´s almost 2,800 students, however, only 156 are Catholics.

END

(Accompanying photos available at here)

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