Holy Redeemer Church and Its Members
To celebrate a church, any church, is to celebrate its members as well as the building where they worship. Most will agree, I think, that Holy Redeemer church as it stands is a pretty good building, some even say wonderful or beautiful. What I want to bring out is that the church does not stand on its own. If it is to be called pretty good, or even wonderful to beautiful, it has to be seen together with its members. And who are to be considered its members?
Strictly speaking, the members of Holy Redeemer church would be all those Catholics who live within the boundaries of Holy Redeemer church, which is the space between Chitlom Road and Soi Anut in one direction, and Klong Saen Saeb Behind New Phetburi Rd. to Rama IV Road in another direction. As life is really lived in this present age, however, I would venture to say that such physical boundaries are not so much the criterion for church membership, or at least for church attendance, as the convenience or practicality that the church has for those attending. So, who is considered a member? I think anyone who regularly attends Mass here and looks to Holy Redeemer as the church where he receives the sacraments and comes to pray.
To go beyond the definition of membership, it might be helpful to keep in mind that Holy Redeemer church (or Holy Redeemer parish, if you wish) is somewhat unique in regard to Sunday attendance at Mass, meaning only that there is a necessity here for supplying the opportunity for these people to hear the liturgy in the English language. The condition of the bishop in allowing us to establish a church in Bangkok was that we were to provide pastoral care for the large English speaking community in the city. This we have tried to do and still do. Over the years the number of parishioners who are Thai speaking have more than equaled the English speaking, and of course the number of Masses for them have increased accordingly. Still, to be remembered is the fact that on Sun after Sunday the English-speaking tourists are with us in large members, and they are welcome.
All this having been said, let me return to the central point of what we are trying to make clear here: the importance of keeping in mind in our celebration that we are celebrating not only the church as such but the church and its members. Holy Redeemer church has grown and progressed not only in what has been done in preserving and adding to the structure itself, of which there has been more than a little: the rebuilding of a sagging roof; the restoring of the sanctuary floor, which had begun to sink; the complete redecoration of the interior of the church; a new lighting system and sound system; the recent re-tiling of the Thai-styled roof; the beautiful granite protection of the outside pillars. Over and beyond this physical restructuring, however, are to be remembered the many spiritual benefits brought about by the efforts and the zeal of the church and its members. And when we speak of members, let’s think for a moment of St. Paul’s well-known comparison of the human body to the Body of Christ, which is the Church. The members of the human body include the head with all the other parts that make up the body. So too the members of the Church include the Pope as head and all those who are part of the Catholic community. Following the same comparison, we see our local church as the pastor with his fellow priests and the rest of the congregation as parishioners, all together as Holy Redeemer church.
Summing this up, let’s come to the full meaning of the celebration that is taking place here at Holy Redeemer. Gladly acknowledging the role we have as members of Holy Redeemer church, we accept also the duty, and privilege, of carrying out the work that Christ has entrusted to the Church throughout the world : bring the good news to all. Go where the Spirit leads you. Do what the Spirit requires.
The present celebration is not by any means for the purpose of urging you to carry out this duty, but to reflect joyfully on the truly grand manner in which, by the grace of God, you and all the members before you have carried it out. It is not only the work of the pastors and their fellow priests in providing the service that has been given in the offering of Masses and the administration of the sacraments, but also the response that has been shown from the pews and the readiness to cooperate and to share. A parish is not run by the efforts of the pastor alone or with his fellow priests. Interest shown by those served, encouragement and willingness to give, and to give generously, have been the means of extending the pastoral work of the parish into areas that may otherwise have never been reached.
Over the years, all 50 of them, we can think of activities that have been carried out and that have produced much good, even though eventually giving away to time, such as the early Youth Club; the CFM (Christian Family Movement); as well as those that have been able to continue and carry on their works of mercy, such as the Ladies Mission Aid group; the St. Vincent de Paul Society; the Legion of Mary; the more recent AIC; the Charismatic groups; the Welcome Group; the CCD program that provides religious instruction to those who are not able to attend a Catholic school. Most recently of all is the group established by our present pastor, Fr. Paul Pone Nottham: the Pastoral Council of Holy Redeemer Church, a group of men and women in the parish who, together with the pastor, will have the responsibility of organizing the many facets of the pastoral work carried on in the parish.
Not forgetting at all that the work of the parish must always continue and that our own efforts to bring the gospel to all nations must even grow in zeal, there is a time to recall and to give thanks to God for whatever Holy Redeemer parish has been able to accomplish through the years, not only here for our own community, but even for many beyond our boundaries. Father Travis, for example, as one of our pastors initiated the practice of Missionary of the Month, to remind our parish that we too our missionaries and have great opportunities to be such by supporting the Redemptorist missionaries in their faraway mission stations. On the first Sunday of every month we carry out this effort by the special contribution we make to their work.
We have been able to reach out also to others, and example being our late Father Griffith, who saw the need of a group of Catholics outside the city and volunteered to give them pastoral care, eventually being able to have a church built and providing them with regular Mass and the sacraments, a work that continued and prospered and has become a thriving church on Soi 101 under the care of a diocesan priest. Another example of outreach is the Human Development Center including the Mercy Center at the Slums in Klong Toei, under the care of Father Joe Maier. Father Joe Maier is certainly a person who needs no introduction, but it’s worth your while to stop and see his multiple-layered work of caring for the Poorest of the poor, including Street kids in great number, HIV AIDS patients and their children, 33 Slum kindergartens, and more yet. His physical and financial help comes from many sources, but I like to think that his work and his efforts capture our interest and our admiration as well as our gook will and good wishes.
We could probably carry on further in our account and our pride in what many can accomplish when the many become one in joining with others in their faith and their efforts. But better to stop at thanking God for what he has done and hoping that he is pleased to use us in whatever he does in the future.