.- Foreign missionaries in Thailand once dedicated their lives to encountering Christ, spreading the gospel and helping the growth of the Church.
Now this evangelical responsibility has been taken over by the Thai community. Local priests, religious and the laity help serve the mission of the local church, where Bible studies have become an important part of parish life.
At the parish of St. Nikolaus Church in the city of Pattaya, about 80 miles southeast of Bangkok, Catholics in small church communities dedicate themselves to Bible study.
Priests, vowed religious, and laity gather together after Sunday Mass to share both the Word of God and their life experiences to help strengthen Christian faith and life. Together, they explore the depth of the Bible passages.
Father Francis Xavier Kritsada Sukkaphat, parish priest of St. Nikolaus Church told CNA that the Bible study aims to help people enter into a “dialogue” between the Word of God and daily life.
At times the readings of the Gospel are confusing or misunderstood. The Bible study helps provide “right context and perspective,” he said.
“The sharing of faith experience thus deepens one’s daily living and becomes objective,” said Fr. Francis Xavier. “It’s a mystagogical experience, an ongoing formation.”
Bishop Silvio Siriphong Chartsri of Chantaburi, president of Thailand’s Catholic National Family Life Commission, cited the theme “families to help families” as one motivation for building lay communities.
The apostolate of the family is very important. Its growth has been encouraging and the apostolate has been “resuscitating” the Catholic community in Thailand, he said.
Other groups are vibrant in life of the St. Nikolaus Church in promoting faith journeys, Fr. Francis Xavier said. He noted groups like Couples for Christ, the Legion of Mary and base Christian communities.
The parish serves a small Catholic community. Many tourists and expats attend in large numbers for Mass and pious devotions.
Catholics in Thailand are a minority, but the Church contributes to education, social life, health care, and promotion of human rights and dignity in the country.