The Church in Asia: a training ground for communion

 
Inspired by the spirituality of unity, a three-week course in Bangkok for Seminary Educators from several countries of Asia.

 An opportunity for experiencing in order to then live and teach in seminaries, a Gospel lifestyle that is centred on communion: this was at the basis of the course for educators, which was held in the capital of Thailand on April 15-May 5.

The small handful of European priests who travelled from Rome found themselves before a young and living Church that is open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Seminaries are still full as they had once been on the old continent, even though the society and the economy are experiencing evolutions.

The 60 priests who attended the course were from several Asian regions: Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, East Timor and Thailand. They brought with them their own cultural diversity, but the challenge of seeing these not as an obstacle but as an opportunity for getting to one another was joyfully accepted by everyone.

Work was preceded by the celebration of the Eucharist, presided over by Francesco Kovithavanij, Archbishop of Bangkok and in charge of seminaries and the formation of the clergy at the local Bishops Conference.

As the days went on and the lessons continued, many noted the testimony of unity by the people who were the animators of the course and were personally committed to living what they were teaching.

Fr Silvestre Marques, the course director, noted: “the growing communion among all, communion of experiences, difficulties and many questions in a very open atmosphere.” For Brendan Purcell, from the diocese of Sydney, Australia, one fruit of this atmosphere was the deep sharing: “Especially by priests from Myanmar and Vietnam, who told of how their human and priestly life had been marked by tragic experiences – executions and the violent deaths of parents – that occurred when the priests were very young.”

The second part of the course focused on how to practice the spirituality of unity in the various areas of formation, through a dynamic workshop of experiences that identified the most urgent challenges, and concluded with a commitment to put it into practice in each one’s seminary. “This is a living course” one priest said, “in the sense that we are learning during these days to put into practice the life of communion, for the benefit of each one of us but also for the benefit of the local Church that we represent.”

After three weeks of living together in such a concrete experience of communion, each and every one of them testified to the “family” that they had become and the desire of continuing to carry on with the challenge and the adventure. Formation means preparing new priests whether in Asia or in any other part of the world.

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