(ANS - Castelnuovo Don Bosco) - He comes from Thailand, is 28 years old, and is destined for South Africa, where, however, he will arrive only in several months, after completing an English course that will adequately prepare him for his new mission land: he is Salesian cleric Boonmee Charusakon, the first Salesian missionary from Thailand and the last to be presented by the ANS as part of the review on the departing missionaries of the 153rd Salesian Missionary Expedition.
What prompted you to write your letter of availability for the missions to the Rector Major?
I have three motivations in becoming a missionary: the first motivation that inspired me to be a missionary is my desire to work for the poor youth. I wanted to be a role model for the youth I would work with. The second motivation is the example I saw of the missionaries working in Thailand. Finally, I want to proclaim the word of God to those who do not know Jesus Christ, or to those who have not been touched by the witness of our Christian life.
How did your family members, friends, and confreres react to your missionary vocation?
My parents and relatives might not fully understand why I chose to be a missionary, but my parents never prevented me from making my own vocational choice. I will explain to them what it means to be a missionary abroad. But I am sure that my parents will understand me.
Some people, even many of my confreres in Thailand ask why I want to become a missionary when in Thailand Catholics are an exceedingly small minority. As the first Thai Salesian missionary, it is difficult to explain but my missionary vocation is a call from God within my Salesian vocation. I have prayed, discerned with my spiritual guide, I have consulted Fr. Provincial and I responded to God’s call for me by presenting my missionary application to the Rector Major. Now I am happy to be sent as a missionary to South Africa.
As a Salesian coadjutor, Blessed and soon-to-be Saint Artemis Zatti had a great missionary spirit in his apostolate - which for him was the hospital. Do you also feel passionate about this aspect?
I would like to share my experience when I was a novice. I had the opportunity to read the story of Zatti that made me fascinated by the holiness of his work for the people in need, especially in the field of pastoral care of the sick. It is one of the motivations I have in becoming a missionary as well. I have the opportunity to follow his example of helping young people to meet God.
Are you happy with the place you are going to? Do you have any fears or concerns about the new place, the culture, and its people? How are you preparing for it?
As a preparation of my becoming a missionary to the Province of South Africa, I had the opportunity to read about the African continent and the cultures there. During this 'Orientation Course for new missionaries,' I have asked my fellow missionaries from Africa to tell me about their continent. I have listened to their stories and shared the food they cooked. I also shared my Thai culture and cooked, together with Asian missionaries, Asian food.
Do you have any role models of great missionaries whose lifestyle you want to follow in mind?
My missionary role model is Father Anthony Restelli. He is a missionary in Thailand. To me, he is a model for his work with youth, especially through his love, kindness, compassionate heart, and deep faith in God. He is close to everyone and very dedicated to the work of the Lord and to the poor youth.
What message do you wish to send to young people about the missionary vocation?
As baptised, we are all called to be witnesses of Jesus wherever we are: in our own families, in school, in our workplace. Let us do our best to serve the Lord with joy! Instead, the missionary vocation is a special call of God to some people to work outside one's own country or cultural group. Even if one comes from a country where Catholics are very few, like Thailand, one can still be called by God to be a missionary. In order to discover if God is calling you to be a missionary, it is important to pray and have a spiritual guide.
Be open! Be generous!