Thailand will shortly have a new provincial – the announcement of the decision of the Rector Major with his Council was formally made today from the Provincial House in Bangkok. The new Provincial will be Fr Paul Somngam Prasert.
Fr Prasert was born 25-04-1962 at Udon Thani, Thailand, one of Thailand’s north-eastern provinces close to the border with Laos. The Salesians have a large school complex in Udon Thani, and mission station.
Since 2007, Fr Prasert has been the Rector and Principal of Ban Pong-Sarasit, to the north-east of Bangkok, towards the border with Myanmar. He is also the current Vice Provincial, a role he has held since 2002.
The Thai Salesian Province has approximately 90 members. It has retained a stable numerical configuration over the past ten years, though vocations are hard to come by in a country so predominantly Buddhist. In a nation of some 65 million people, less than 1% are Christian and the Catholic population is around .5%. Yet the Salesian impact over the 70 plus years of presence in the country has been significant. Salesian schools are large and very much esteemed by the population and by civil authorities; the bishops (amongst whom is Bishop Joseph Prathan sdb) are delighted with the evangelisation that is achieved through the schools; there are many other significant works for poor young people, both in the north of the country, amongst hill tribes, and to the south, especially in response to the 2004 Tsunami disaster. Significant too is the work of the Skills Development Centre for the Blind, managed for years by the much decorated (civilly and ecclesiastically) Fr Charles Velardo, at Pakkred, north of Bangkok. The recent visit of Don Bosco’s Casket to Thailand was viewed as a triumph in terms of its spiritual impact on all people who came into contact with this event, of any religion or none. They were in the tens of thousands, as regularly reported in this e-letter, thanks to the untiring efforts of the outgoing Provincial, Fr John Baptist Depharat.
The Thai province also has an important mission presence on the indo-chinese peninsula, chiefly in Cambodia (Poipet, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville), but with another developing presence, thanks to past pupils from Thailand, in Vientianne, Laos.
The installation of the new provincial will take place on Saturday 5 February 2011