Rome 28 September 2022 -- Cl. BOONMEE CHARUSAKON is the first Thai Salesian missionary. Last Sept 25 he received his missionary cross at the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, Valdocco. He will now study English for 1 year and then proceed to his destination to the Vice Province of South Africa. He shares his reflections below.
I come from Chiang Mai, Thailand. I have already done two years of practical training in the aspirantate in Banpong. Now that I have received the missionary cross, I will go for my English language course. Only after a year will I reach South Africa.
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 want to be a role model for the poor youth I would work with. As a novice I had the opportunity to read the story of Blessed 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. His example also influenced me to develop my desire to become a missionary as well. I have the opportunity to follow his example of helping poor young people to meet God. The second motivation is the example I saw of the missionaries working in Thailand. Finally, I want to proclaim the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ, or to those who have not been touched by the witness of our Christian life.
I am happy that I chose to be a missionary, which was my personal decision to devote myself to be a disciple of Christ. Although I am happy, I still have my own fears, especially about going to the Province of South Africa where the Rector Major sends me to work and bear witness to the Gospel. I have my fears in learning a new language and living in a culture that is totally different from my own, but I firmly believe that God will help and guide me.
I know that 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 over it, I have carefully discerned with my spiritual guide, I have consulted Fr. Provincial and finally 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 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 the ‘Orientation Course for new missionaries’ I had asked my fellow missionaries from Africa to tell me about their continent. I listened to their stories and shared the food they cooked. I also shared my Thai culture and cooked Asian food together with Asian missionaries. A beautiful experience of interculturality.
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.
I would like to share my message to young people today: 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 be 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! Be courageous in responding to God's call.