Following the two weeks’ psychospiritual renewal programme (February 6-16, 2017) I was facilitating at Sisters Centre, Sampran, Thailad, I had a weekend free. Through courtesy of the Director of the Centre, Sr. Bangon LCT, I was able to visit the North East of Thailand along with a visiting priest from India, Fr. Mathew Chandrankunnel CMI, currently the director of the Ecumenical Centre at Whitfield, Bangalore.
Our first stop on the 17th February evening was at Sakon Nakhon, an hour’s flight away from Bangkok, where the Sisters of the Cross of Tharae have their head-quarters. At the airport we met Archbishop Louis of Sakon Nakhon archdiocese who was travelling on the same flight as us. He hosted us a nice dinner at the Airport restaurant.
At the Lovers of the Cross headquarters we were warmly welcomed by the Superior General, Mother Virginia, and the entire community of some forty sisters. We said Mass for the community on 18th morning and enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast.
We then set out for the Shrine of the Seven Blessed Martyrs of Thailand at SongKhon, on the bank of the river Mekong, running between Thailand and Laos, very close to the site where they were martyred.
During the Indo-Chinese war the officially Buddhist Thailand, with a view of achieving unity at the home front, had expelled Christian missionaries and pressured Christians to apostasy. The persecution was especially strong at SongKhon, about 650 km northeast of Bangkok. Priests were exiled. The mission parish at SongKhon was entrusted to one Philip Siphong, a school teacher and married man with five children. Authorities sought to suppress the parishioners into submission by executing him. He was shot dead on December 16 1940.
On December 26, 1940 the local policeman went to the convent of the Lovers of the Cross at SongKhon, and commanded the sisters and the lay Christians present there (six in all) to renounce their faith. They refused. They were led out to the local cemetery and shot dead. The youngest was only 14 years old.
We visited the Shrine where the remains of the bodies of the Blessed are entombed and the cemetery where they were originally buried.
We had time to wander around the banks of the river Mekong and enjoy a lavish lunch.
In the afternoon we drove along the banks of the Mekong toward Tat Phanom, visited some Buddhist shrines, a school run by the Sisters of the Lovers of the Cross and the Church of St. Anne, both on the banks of the Mekong.
Dinner by the Mekong River concluded our pilgrimage and we returned to Sakhon Nakon for the night.
The next day, Sunday, we joined the community Mass and after breakfast drove to Udhon Thani, to another school run by the Sisters Lovers of the Cross. The sisters hosted us a wonderful Sushi buffet lunch at the Oishi Japanese Restaurant and took us to the airport. I returned to Bangkok and Fr. Mathew proceeded to Chiangmai.
It was a delightful weekend pilgrimage that refreshed body and soul.