By THA SC
Chumphon, Thailand, 29 January 2024 -- On 27 January 2024, the Church of the Conversion of St. Paul, Chumphon Province, led by Fr. Nopphorn Joseph SDB, the pastor, and the faithful, celebrated the 50 years of the community of faith. The celebration was presided by Bishop Joseph Prathan Sridarunsil of Surat Thani Diocese. On this occasion, the Bishop administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to the youth.
Going back to the time when the Salesians were responsible for the Ratchaburi Mission, which had jurisdiction of the Christians in the central region down to the 14 southern provinces, Father Mario Ruzzeddu, SDB, traveled to Chumphon in 1934 and found out that there were many Christian families in the area. Since then, there has been a priest who came to provide pastoral care and celebrated the Holy Mass for the faithful from time to time, especially on important occasions such as Easter.
In 1973, Bishop Peter Carretto, SDB, the Bishop of Surat Thani Diocese, planned to make Chumphon the center for pastoral work between Baan Saeng Arun and Surat Thani. The Salesian superior appointed Fr. Natale Mane to start the catholic works in the province. He was the first pastor of the place. Fr. Sanong Chornthong was the assistant pastor. Together, they built the rectory, the Chapel of St. Paul, and the youth center on a land that was bought. The solemn blessing of the place was held on 25 September 1974. The Catholic community grew continually until what it is at present.
Aside from the Church of the Conversion of St. Paul in the city of Chumphon, there are still other chapels under the pastoral care of the pastor. Among them are:
1. Chapel of St. Anthony of Padua, Thasae - blessed on 27 August 1972 by Bishop Peter Carretto, SDB
2. Chapel of St. Francis Assisi, Tambon Saluy, Thasae Municipality - blessed on 24 November 1986 by Fr. Egidio Viganò, the Salesian Rector Major, together with Bishop Peter Carretto, SDB
3. Chapel of Blessed Philip Sifong, Tambon Hongcharoen, Thasae Municipality - started as a Catholic group of the Seven Martyrs. Later on, the name was changed to "Sifong House." The chapel was built in 1994 and was blessed on 1 April 1995 by Bishop Michael Praphon Chaicharoen, SDB
Together with the Salesian priests were the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a member of the Salesian Family, and the mobile team of the Diocese. They look after the pastoral care of the faithful in these areas, allowing the faith to grow in spite of them living far away from each other. Most of the faithful are farmers and merchants; others are migrants from the northeast, from the northern tribals, and laborers from the neighboring countries. But the Salesian priests continue to devote themselves selflessly to their care. This pastoral work is, therefore, a challenge for the pastor to perform his duties just like during the time of the missionaries, who look for ways and who live among them as leaven so that the good news of the Kingdom of God may continue to grow and bear fruit.