A legendary missionary of Ron Phibun - Fr. Renzo
Ron Phibun, Thailand, 10 October 2018 -- Surat Thani diocese has been a Salesian mission terrtory from the early days and now celebrates 50 years since the diocese's foundation. There is a Salesian community of five courageous missionaries - Fr Terry Tapay (Filipino, Rector), Fr Prasert (Thai, former provincial), Fr Mike Adulkasem (Thai, excellent translator), Fr Dominic Amnuai (Thai, former SC delegate, 12 years Salesian Bulletin director) and Fr Lorenzo Rossignolo (Italian, founder and director of Don Bosco Development Center near Ronhpibun). They see each other once a month for the recollection in Surat Thani, at the bishop's residence and then pray for each other. The distance between the 5 parishes is from 40 to 200+ kilometers. Indeed a missionary life!
The late Vicar of the Rector Major, Fr Adrian Bregolin used to ask often: "And how is Father Renzo?" This legendary Veneto missionary who arrived in Thailand in 1983, has spent most of his missionary life in this part of Surat Thani diocese. Most of all Fr Renzo is well known and respected for his life witness of poverty, joyful sacrifice, with many practical technical skills used in the education of former Hansen's disease patients and their family members until today. In spite of his own battle with gradually developing Parkinson's disease, Fr Renzo carries out his ordinary duties as pastor, educator and Centre director as before and without complaint.
At present some 60 or more people are employed in the Don Bosco Development Centre, some of them still affected by the consequences of Hansen's disease (formerly called leprosy). A wide range of production from tailoring, welding, carpentry, mechanics to a variety of agricultural projects is going on. The centre is well connected to local society and also welcomes students from nearby government schools for technical immersion, or offers short crash-courses in the respective fields. Former students who became teachers and one Sister of Charity of St Vincent are his closer collaborators.
Every week Fr Renzo celebrates his daily Mass for the nearby Darunsuksa school of SIHM sisters in his parish of St Dominic Savio (Ronphibun) as well in Phatthalung church. Of course, we are in Southern Thailan, where Catholics are 0.1% (7000 faithful among the 10 million population of Surat Thani diocese) and the Eucharist is always a family gathering of a few dozen of the faithful.
During his long-term missionary presence in Ronphibun Fr Renzo spends a lot of time every day in Centre-related work, then in the St Dominic Savio missionary residence in prayer, reading and reflection. Some young people are also inspired to follow Jesus more closely in the Catholic community or even in religious life.
Yes, Fr Renzo is fine, in spite of his 76 years and inspires many young Salesians to follow a missionary vocation today!