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Faith & Hospitality: The Stupendous Thailand Convention

Sep 17, 2023

The exceptional warmth and hospitality of the Thai people took center stage at the Serra’s 80th International Convention, held in Chiang Mai, the country’s second-largest city. This gathering marked the largest assembly of Serrans since the Rome Convention six years ago and the largest gathering of Asian Serrans since the Bangkok Convention in 2005.

Leading the event was convention chair Dr. Chainarong Monthienvichienchai, who spearheaded a meticulous planning process spanning several years. Thanks to his efforts, every aspect of the event ran flawlessly, leaving nothing to chance. The liturgies, media presentations, entertainment, and, above all, the delectable food were the results of a tremendous team effort.

Attendees were accommodated at the magnificent Empress Hotel, perfectly situated between a modern convention center and the Sacred Heart Cathedral & School. The bishop’s residence was also conveniently located within walking distance.

The convention kicked off on Thursday with an awe-inspiring opening Mass that filled the Sacred Heart Cathedral to capacity. The congregation comprised not only Serrans but also local parishioners and schoolchildren. Following the Mass, guests were treated to a spectacular showcase of student performances and an unlimited buffet of traditional Thai cuisine.

The festivities continued for nearly three hours, captivating attendees with music, dance, and extravagant costumes, including a mesmerizing faux battle between larger-than-life silk dragons.

The first full day of the convention featured three keynote speakers, with Cardinal Tagle as the headliner. Despite addressing the audience via Zoom from Rome, Cardinal Tagle managed to establish a strong connection with his passionate presentation. In line with the convention’s theme, he invited delegates to “Come and See” but also urged them to “Go,” emphasizing that every vocation is intrinsically connected to mission.

Cardinal Oulette delivered an insightful talk on the “Communion of Vocations,” sharing key takeaways from the recent symposium on vocations held in Rome. Acknowledging the significance of lay Serrans who collaborate closely with clergy worldwide, the Cardinal diplomatically acknowledged that too much of the Church’s history has centered around ordained ministers. He encouraged attendees to “unblock the charism of the laity without compromising the primacy of the hierarchy,” a message that resonated with lay Serrans.

On the second day of the convention, Cardinal Bo of Myanmar captivated the audience with an often-humorous presentation on the challenges of promoting vocations in Asia. Many of the obstacles he highlighted are encountered worldwide, transcending geographical boundaries. For example, addressing the problems of the digital revolution, Cardinal Bo remarked, “Making a sincere gift of self makes no sense to people absorbed by digital obsessions. … If you want to dismantle a monastery, be it Buddhist or Christian, just introduce the Internet into every room.”

Friday night witnessed yet another lavish feast at a nearby Catholic school, complete with fresh rounds of music, dance, and theater. The attendees were treated to a sumptuous nine-course family-style dinner, providing an unrivaled culinary experience.

Of course, one of the most valuable aspects of Serra Conventions is the organic connections that Serrans make with each other, exchanging ideas, sharing cultural experiences, and praying with one another.

The 450 delegates mixed easily, whether from Hong Kong, Canada, Philippines, and Nigeria—not to mention the huge contingent from Thailand, whose pride in hosting such a remarkable event was evident. From all of us who travelled to your wonderful country, we express our gratitude with a sincere khob khun khrup!