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Asian Missionaries Gather for Mercy Congress
By Belle Suemitsu Fajardo
More than 1,400 devotees of Divine Mercy from 12 Asian countries flocked to Bangkok, Thailand, to attend the 2nd Asian Apostolic Congress on Mercy (AACOM). The three-day Congress commenced on Oct. 27. Participants included not only religious groups (200 priests and nuns) but also faithful laity, both young and old.
The Congress theme was "Mercy: Compassion, A Way of Life Among the People of Asia."
The Congress is an initiative of Asian countries to strengthen and promote devotion to Divine Mercy all over Asia as inspired by the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM).
Most Reverend Silvio Siripong Charatsri, DD (chairman of the Catholic Commission for the Laity, Catholic Bishops Conference of Thailand) and Rev. Fr. John Tamayo, SDB (spiritual director for International Affairs) warmly welcomed the delegates from Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam during the opening program preceded by a Eucharistic celebration. Thailand-based missionaries from Germany and United States also participated in the Congress. An essence of oneness as a family in Christ was evident among delegates, paving the way for an extensive exchange of ideas and reflections on how to manifest Jesus in their daily mission of evangelization all over the world.
Attendees were further inspired by the opening message of Fr. Patrice Chocholski, the general secretary of WACOM.
"Divine Mercy is a mysterious spark that enlightens and burns within our hearts and radiates Jesus' beautiful face, that we may become missionaries in our daily life," Fr. Chocholski told the Congress, held at the Assumption University-Suvarnabhumi Campus.
Distinguished speakers from around the world addressed topics such as "Compassion, A Way of Dialogue for Asian Culture"; "Mercy and Compassion in Asian Spirituality"; "Education for Compassion"; "Compassion in Pastoral Work"; and "Mary's Compassionate Heart as a Mother."
Testimonials on the power of Divine Mercy were also shared and generated thundering applause for Jesus and how He works in people's lives. Heartbreaking, yet soulfully encouraging, stories were shared by the Missionaries of Charity of Calcutta; survivors from the tsunami in Japan; and the author of book Mountains Can Move. While these speakers had different experiences, they affirmed in their stories Jesus' faithfulness, mercy, and unfathomable love.
Representatives from each country also shared their respective accomplishments and current evangelization efforts, which served to inspire delgates.
"I am very happy to be here because I learned many things that are very useful for my personal life and for our Divine Mercy groups in Vietnam," said Fr. Paul Quach Qucc Binh, SDB.
For most participants, the Congress not only provided an opportunity for a solemn encounter with Jesus but also enlightened them on practical ways to live out mercy and compassion as contemporary missionaries confronted with challenging social realities.
Nurwati Suhaimi of Palembang , South Sumatra, Indonesia, said, "We are faced with difficult social realities, and this Congress [inspired] me [as to] what I must do in my city now that I understand the reality of compassion with very specific expressions. I am very grateful to the Lord."
A pilgrimage cruise at the River of Kings (Chao Phraya River) was the highlight on the second day of the Congress. Fifteen boats sailed, tracing the movement of Christianity to the Royal Thai Kingdom. The journey of the pioneer missionaries was recalled, and historical churches were visited. The delegates expressed gratitude for those who labored for the religious freedom currently enjoyed in the region. In addition, they say that contemplating the work of the early missionaries served to challenge how to maximize religious freedom for the sake of God's greater glory.
"My horizon widened, faith deepened, and I realized I have a part to do," said Gil Tobias from the Philippines. "Everything I do is part of the mission I am commissioned to do. Even my task today as a group guide, I have something to share and to contribute."
Evening socials were also celebrated to allow delegates to deepen camaraderie, solidarity in Jesus, and to nurture a culture of prayer support. Cultural dances and songs from different countries were presented in honor and thanksgiving to Jesus.
"It's not by accident that we are here. God has prepared a blessing for each of us. None of us will go empty handed," said Gessica Okafor from Nigeria. Indeed, not a single participant ended each day without a smile.
The Congress concluded with a resounding success. Organizers and hosts were quite exhausted but certainly spiritually recharged
"It seemed a gigantic task at the beginning, but with God nothing is impossible. He is our ultimate Source of strength in our daily journey. And now we celebrate His glory," said Fr. John Tamayo, SDB.