Thailand, Seven Martyrs of, Bb.

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Also known as Philip Siphong and Six Companions;d. December 1940 at Ban Songkhon on the banks of the Mekong River about 400 miles from Bangkok; beatified at Rome by John Paul II, Oct. 22, 1989.

A small village of rice farmers about 15 miles upstream from Mukdahan on the Mekong River was the home the first Thais to be raised to the altars of the Catholic Church. They were caught up in a persecution of Christians, particularly Catholics, that resulted in foreign missionaries being expelled from the country and religious pluralism actively suppressed by police who went from door to door. Two religious sisters and five catechists (one man and four women) were killed nearby for refusing to renounce their faith. Today a new church, displaying the glass-topped caskets of the martyrs, and a memorial site serve the 2,000 Catholics of the parish and a steady stream of pilgrims. The martyrs include:

Agatha Phutta, wife and mother; b. 1881; d. Dec. 26, 1940. She served the missionaries as cook prior to their banishment.

Agnes Phila, religious of the Servants of the Cross;b. 1909, Ban; d. Dec. 26, 1940. Sister Agnes, a teacher, was appointed superior of the Songkhon Catholic school in 1932. She encouraged the other women to remain steadfast and wrote a defense of the faith before her execution.

Cecilia Butsi, catechist; b. 1924; d. Dec. 26, 1940. She was martyred for publicly defending the faith in defiance of the police.

Lucy Khambang, religious of the Servants of the Cross; b. 1917, Viengkuk, Thailand; d. Dec. 26, 1940. She entered the congregation in 1931 and was sent to Songkhon in 1917.

Mary Phon, mission helper, catechist; b. 1926; d. Dec. 26, 1940 in the Songkhon cemetery.

Philip Siphong Onphitak, lay catechist, known as "the man of oak"; b. Sept. 30, 1907, Nonseng, Thailand;d. Dec. 16, 1940, shot in the woods near the village (age 33). Blessed Philip and his wife Maria Thong had five children. While the priests were banished, he led the community, taught in the school, and served as the catechist. Despite the known danger of his actions, he followed behind the police to encourage the threatened faithful.

Viviane (Bibiana) Khampai, catechist; b. 1925; d. Dec. 26, 1940 in Songkhon cemetery.

Feast: Dec. 16.

Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis (Rome 1989) 1079.

[k. i. rabenstein]