Q & A with Sr. Cecilia Suwannee Phetpanomporn, working with Karen refugees in Thai camps
Q: GSR: Cecilia, how did you get involved in refugee work?
A: Phetpanomporn: My journey …… took many paths. I entered the congregation in Perth at age 27. [A priest, Fr. Peter Likitham, had introduced her to a Sister of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Australia working in Thailand.]
While in formation, I attended university, but found the language too difficult, so I dropped out. I had only learned English when I entered the convent.
My first ministry was at one of our boarding schools at Iona [Presentation College in Mosman Park, Western Australia]. From there, I was sent to Geraldton, where I taught home economics and worked with boarding students. After a few years, I was sent to the Philippines to study counseling, and when I returned to Perth, I did pastoral work with Philippine immigrants.
My longtime dream to return to Thailand finally came to pass. My companion, Sr. Petra Likittam, and I were missioned to our home country together. We lived with one of our Australian sisters, Sr. Monica Maddox, who had been teaching English to seminarians. I taught and after school did pastoral care for the young students. Later, I got involved in pastoral work in a detention center in Bangkok. I worked with people from all over the world who had overstayed their visas. My facility with Thai, Chinese and English helped me very much.