Dự định tương lai
Hôm qua thầy Damien nhờ mình viết vài dòng gởi cho nhà mẹ tỉnh dòng ở Úc để chia sẻ về mục vụ mới của mình cũng như những dự định của mình cho tương lai và sẽ cho đăng trong tờ thông tin liên lạc của dòng. Mình nghĩ mới đến nhận xứ hai tuần cũng chưa có nhiều điều đáng kể, nên chủ yếu là hướng về tương lai. Mình chia sẻ với hội dòng những điều như sau:
Reflecting on the present and thinking about the future
As of today, Thursday 24 April, 2008 I have arrived to my new assignment at the SVD built parish of St. Michael Archangel Church in Nong Bua Lamphu province exactly two weeks. I have celebrated two Sunday Masses and 12 weekday Masses. I find that day by day, I am gradually having to spend less time on looking over the various parts of the Mass as I gain more ability to make out Thai words quickly.
A challenging but a very beneficial activity that I am going through at this time is preparing a Sunday homily that lasts at least 10 minutes. The process of preparing a homily in Thai takes me about four days. The first day is to reflect on the reading. The second day is to write a rough draft by hand on paper. The third day is reserved for typing up the rough draft onto the computer. This is by far one of the most tedious things that one has to do as the Thai language has a total of 44 consonants and 32 vowels. The characters are spread all over the keyboard, and it takes great patience to punch the right keys to form the words on the screen. It takes me over three hours to type up a homily that I have already handwritten. Finally, I spend another day revising the homily in the hope that it achieves an acceptable degree of clarity and insightfulness. I was very happy when I have received feedbacks from parishioners that I preached well. When all that is done, I spend the days left over to practice on my delivery.
The reason I spend a great deal of time on the homily is because it is a great exercise in advancing my language skills as in many ways, I am still in a learning stage. The other purpose for why I spend a great deal of time on my homily is because I am trying to shape a series of messages that I think are important for the parishioners in Nong Bua Lamphu to hear at this time. That message is an encouragement for parishioners to take a more pro-active role in participating in church life and taking stewardship of the church that Br. Damien Lunders has spent a tremendous amount of time, energy, and resources to have built up. It is now due time for the local community to take charge of this church, to see it as theirs, and to realize that the future of the parish community depends on their participation and sense of responsibility.
Nong Bua Lamphu is a very small parish. There are estimates that put the number of Catholic in the area at about 100 people. But the actual number of people who go to church regularly is small. My effort at this time is to encourage a sense of “mission” in the regular church going Catholics to be more active in inviting their friends and families to go to church.
My immediate goal is also to make small but tangible changes to aspects of the parish life, for example, introduce altar server, invite more people to participate in reading the Scriptures, encourage the parishioners to take charge of things such as decorating the church, and make clear various aspects of parish finances.
I also make an effort to invite the HIV/AIDS patients and staff from the hospice to attend daily mass, even though all but one are not Catholic. In fact, on some days, even four or five attend. There is one patient who has volunteered to come everyday to read the reading in Thai.
In the near future, Fr. Truc Phan and I hope to start an English program at the church as a way to attract more young people, Catholic and non-Catholic, to the church in order to make the church a more lively place and introduce various activities into the parish environment.
Unless there are change of assignments either from the SVD side or from the diocesan side, if my stay in Nong Bua Lamphu is a significant amount of time, I plan to initiate or participate in some ministerial work that would expose me more to the larger Nong Bua Lamphu community, such as social work or education.
On the side, I have initiated a Vietnamese language Mass once a month at a church in the nearby Udon Thani province for Vietnamese migrant workers who are very grateful that they are able to celebrate Mass in their mother tongue. Ministry with Vietnamese migrant workers in Bangkok and now in the Udon Thani Diocese is something that I have engaged in since I first came to Thailand, and is something I plan on continuing during my time serving in this country.
Recently, I have been asked by the Bishop of Udon Thani diocese to collaborate with a Vincentian priest to direct youth ministry for the diocese. However, as I am in my initial period of adjusting to my new work at Nong Bua Lamphu, I have not been able to dive into this area of ministry. But I am hopeful that this is something that I can engage in more extensively in the future as I am very interested in working with the youth.
It is certainly too early at this time to evaluate the effectiveness or the value of my work in Nong Bua Lamphu and in the Udon Thani Diocese. However, I do hope that as I become more familiar with my working environment, more in tune with the issues and needs of the local church, and more fluent in the Thai culture and language, I will be able to initiate or participate in some meaningful ministries that would contribute to building up the local church as well as the SVD District of Thailand.