Fr Shea’s Birthday Celebrations

Fr Shea’s birthday celebrations began after mass on Saturday morning on 31st July 2010 at Sarnelli House. This birthday celebration was a big one -   his 6th cycle or 72 years old. Thailand traditionally celebrates birthdays and anniversaries every 12 years according to the lunar calendar. It is similar to the Chinese calendar year which is based on the 12 animal signs. The most important birthdays are celebrated once an individual reaches the 5th cycle which is 60 years.

Fr Shea, Stephanie and Tony

Preparation began early Saturday morning at Sarnelli House. A wooden stage was set up and decorated, tables, chairs, tablecloths and cutlery and plates were assembled.  The music system was tested and kids blew up balloons to decorate the area. In the medicine room at Sarnelli House little girls were having their make up applied by girls a bit bigger than them, hair was being hair sprayed in place and costumes put on. Of course preparation for the entertainment had began a long time before this  as kids choreographed their own dance moves and practiced every evening for the last month at the 6 separate houses that make up Sarnelli House.

The kitchen being set up

A beautiful birthday cake with the candle number  72 was presented to Fr Shea by Oum one of the girls from Our Lady of Refuge Home for Girls and a rousing Happy Birthday was sung.

Once everyone was seated at their tables, the kids from the Jan and Oscar House, St Patrick’s and Nazareth House assembled on stage complete with conductor and sang some beautiful Thai songs dedicated to their father. Traditionally these songs would have been sung for the King as the spiritual father of Thailand, but today they were clearly sung for the childrens’ father – Fr Shea.

Fr Shea sat in a chair at the front of the stage and the children and staff came up and knelt before him to wai him (the hands together in a praying gesture held up to the forehead as a sign of deep respect ) and handed him home made birthday cards, beautiful fragrant flower arrangements and birthday wishes. It was a very moving time as he hugged each child and staff member and there were many wet cheeks and red eyes.

Then the entertainment began. Our Lady of Refuge Home for Girls performed three dances – a traditional Isaan dance, a Chinese inspired dance and a modern Thai pop dance, all with different outfits for each dance.

The little boys from St Patrick’s did their regular dance which involved a lot of bobbing on one leg and making a cutting motion with one hand which they did in time to the music and with a sense of  relief when it was over.

The older boys of St Patrick’s with the Jan and Oscar boys lit up the floor with some mean B Boy dancing, with Tanee taking the lead.

The Sarnelli girls danced a Thai pop song as well as a beautiful traditional Thai dance.

Even the House of Hope kids got up on stage and performed. Nin Nate and Miss Hippo developed stage fright and couldn’t move, but they didn’t cry either and they received thunderous applause at the end.  

The girls from Nazareth House performed 2 dance numbers and were cheered on by all the boys.

During the morning visitors called in to give their best wishes to Fr Shea, and stayed to eat and watch the celebrations. People from Nongkhai and further away, people he hasn’t seen for a long time, people who have supported his work with the children and people he has known in Thailand for more than 40 years. It was a great day for everyone, and wonderful to be able to celebrate and give thanks for the love and care Fr Shea has shown and given to so many people in his life’s work in Thailand. We await the celebrations for Fr Shea’s 7th cycle with much anticipation, as the kids start to think about how to out perform this celebration.

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