Bishop's soccer skills score goals of evangelization

Sharing a love for sport fosters an encounter in which youth meet a good company of friends and they remain committed to social concerns in the pastoral apostolate of the Church.

Thailand
Feb 28 2014, 3:35 PM
Bishop's soccer skills score goals of evangelization
The Nakhon Ratchasima diocese's clergy futsal team, with Bishop Sirisut standing fifth from left.

The patronal feasts of parishes in a north-eastern Thai diocese unite communities for Mass, prayer, processions and friendly soccer matches.

At the conclusion of the solemn Mass of parish patron, each community in the Diocese of Nakhon Ratchasima partakes of a festive agape-lunch that ends in the joyous whistles of groups playing a game of futsal -- a variant of soccer played on a relatively small indoor court with five players on each team.

The parish matches involves separate teams of clergy and seminarians playing lay faithful as well as locals from other religious communities.

Cheerful supporters await their favourite clergy team, with Bishop Joseph Sirisut of Nakhon Ratchasima as its key player.

“Sport, or any exercise, is important for our health for having a sound and active mind, body, and soul,” Bishop Sirisut said at a recent futsal match.

Bishop Sirisut “is a fantastic, keen, and smart player. In the beginning we underestimated him,” said a seminarian.

“We have to reach out to our parishes; people love to see their priests and bishop, despite our age, trying our best to win, to shoot goals, and to entertain our people,” said Father Alessandro Klahan, rector of St. Paul Minor Seminary in Nakhon Ratchasima.

“Sport has no religion, but can be a simple evangelizing tool for promoting Gospel values and morals,” the rector emphasized sports’ role in constructing “bridges of friendship” between the ecclesiastical community and the laity, while fostering interreligious dialogue with other communities.

“Many spectators and school children are watching these matches, and the pitch echoes gestures of love, understanding, and clean encouraging words, with no place for the aggressiveness of hatred and anger.”

Sharing a love for sport fosters an encounter in which youth meet a good company of friends and they remain committed to social concerns in the pastoral apostolate of the Church, Father Klahan said.

“We also have to be heralds of Gospel values, so that our non-verbal communication can be a non-verbal homily,” reflected Father Klahan.

The “futsal apostolate” is an effective way for Catholics in Thailand to engage with their countrymen.

The Catholic population of Thailand is less than 1% and in the Nakhon Ratchasima diocese, they constitute 0.1% of the population. 95% of Thais are Buddhist, and many of the remainder are Muslim, making interreligious relations an important facet of life for Catholics in the south-east Asian nation.

Source: Catholic News Agency

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