About Holy Redeemer Bangkok
In 1948, the Bishop of Bangkok asked the Redemptorists of the then St. Louis Province to establish a foundation and parish in Bangkok to serve the large English-speaking population of that international city. The Redemptorists accepted the invitation. In May 1948, four Redemptorists arrived in Bangkok to meet the bishop’s request. There were Father Clarence Duhart, superior of the mission, Father Roger Godbout, Father Robert LaRiviere and Father Edward Kane.
The task of finding a suitable place in the city of Bangkok first where they might take up residence and later establish a permanent foundation took time and patience, especially for American foreigners.
The task was given to Father Roger Godbout and Father Charles Cotant. Father Cotant had joined the pioneer community shortly after their arrival. Father Godbout and Father Cotant began by renting what might serve as a house not far from where the present Holy Redeemer Parish church now stands.
They dubbed the chapel “Our Lady of the Garage Chapel,” and immediately began holding services in it. Eventually, however, they found a suitable piece of land for a church and a large rectory. The land was purchased and blessed in 1954.
The idea of building the present Holy Redeemer church in the style of a Thai Buddhist temple was suggested by the late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, while visiting the Redemptorist community in Bangkok.
He suggested to Father Roger Godbout, then the rector of the little band of Redemptorists, “Father, when you get around to building a permanent church, why not build it in the style of Thai architecture.” Father Godbout did just that a few years later.
After the Redemptorists had purchased the suitable piece of land for the church, they built a small school with two classrooms on the parish grounds. Today, that school has grown into two very large schools. One of these schools is on the parish property for Thai students. The other school is the International School now on a property outside the city. Each of these schools has an enrollment of approximately 2,000 students.
What Makes Holy Redeemer Unique
What is unique about this Redemptorist parish in Bangkok aside from its remarkable history and appearance? Well, for openers, there is a very large congregation of worshipers made up of a melange of people. Some live and work in Bangkok. Others are visitors from all five continents of the globe speaking a variety of languages. It is the Universal Catholic Church in reality coming together to worship and be nourished spiritually by word and sacrament. Among worshipers, are the very wealthy and beggarly poor. Ambassadors kneel beside shopkeepers, and beggars sit next to American tourists.
To see the entire sweep of society like this has the beauty of contrasts like the patriarch Joseph’s coat of many colors. It also, however, poses difficulties of its own, as each group brings to church its own spirituality, its own devotional practices, its own prayer forms and its own cherished customs.
The Redemptorists at Holy Redeemer minister to thousands of God’s people every weekend with overflowing crowds of worshipers. Liturgical services on Sunday include seven Masses in English and seven in Thai. On Wednesdays, there are six novena services in honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in both Thai and English. Hundreds attend these services. After each novena service, people of all races and nations gather outside the church to greet each other and chat. The church itself is not air-conditioned, but generally there is a breeze moving through the church since the sides and rear of the church are open. Of course, this openness often allows a stray dog to join the congregation. It is not uncommon to see a few birds flying around the beams of the ceiling (signs of the Holy Spirit, I’m sure).
The church is well known for its many and colorful weddings, especially between a bride and groom of different cultures. All the Thai parishes in Bangkok send their couples who are preparing for marriage to the Pre-Cana instructions given at Holy Redeemer. It might be remarked that the church is also a favorite place for wake services and funerals. Wakes, incidentally, may last as long as five evenings