“Seven Fountains”: the seven springs of the Spirit to discover meaning in life

Many years ago, in the northern Thai kingdom its rulers established their “summer residence” in Chiang Mai. They called it “Seven Fountains”. This name took account of the springs and waterfalls which abound north of the city. And the number seven symbolized perfection. This, historically, was the reasons why the first Jesuits who arrived in the area chose the name ‘Seven Fountains’ for their base. For them, it referred to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The name took hold: it is now the name of a Jesuit retreat house known throughout Southeast Asia.

The superior of Seven Fountains is Beda Yassao, a member of the Indonesian Province. Saichon Khanyulai from Thailand is the director of the ministry. From the first, the area has always been regarded as a “spiritual centre.” The Jesuits realized that the best service that they could provide here was that of a retreat house. More specifically, they saw Seven Fountains as a centre which offers the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius in the form of individual, personally-accompanied retreats. Small groups also use the facility: but in this case, too, the day starts with prayer and suggestions for meditation to the group members. Each person of the group has a guide whom he or she can meet some time during the day. However, there are few such group activities because Saichon insists that silence on the campus is a high priority.


Fr. Saichon, providing spiritual accompaniment.

Father Beda stresses that Seven Fountains is a source of spiritual experience. Mainly religious women and men and priests come to Seven Fountains. They come not only from Thailand, but also from a number of other countries in the region, especially Singapore and Malaysia. Non-Catholic Christians, both from Singapore and the Protestant University in Chiang Mai, also number among the retreatants. Father Saichon notes that number of Thais who use the center is relatively small. The reasons for this are, firstly, because the vast majority of the population is Buddhist, and, secondly, because Catholics are found mainly among the indigenous groups of the mountainous north: they have their own dialects, and do not have the freedom or financial resources to leave their jobs and spend a week in the city.

Saichon acknowledges that the links between this retreat house and the Society of Jesus are somewhat tenuous. One reason for this is the isolation of the area. But currently, the Indonesian Provincial, is strengthening this relationship: the Region of Thailand is attached to the Indonesian Province. The Jesuit Conference of Asia-Pacific also organises meetings and sessions at Seven Fountains. Recently, the Major Superiors of the JCAP Conference held its assembly at the facility.


There is no doubt, however, that the ministry at Seven Fountains is very much aligned to implementing the Society’s Universal Apostolic Preferences. It does so, first of all through its mission to “reveal the way to God” in its accompaniment of the three thousand or so people who come here for retreat every year. It also serves many “expatriates” in its English liturgies: on Sundays, Seven Fountains becomes an English-speaking parish. The focus on the excluded stands revealed in the varied ministries to tribal students: these are economically poor, but very much in need of human and spiritual support. This is clearly in tune with the third UAP, which invites the Society to walk with young people. Finally, the campus is a place where nature is nurtured - the trees are magnificent - and where the principles of ecology are lived out on a daily basis.

At the end of his interview with us, Father Saichon enthused: “I feel very happy here. We are really responding to the deep needs of those who come to us. These people are looking for meaning in their lives. At times, they feel empty, and are looking for God. This is where we can help them. Here they find a place to meet God, both in the beauty of nature, but also in the many chapels scattered around our campus. This is one of the attractions of Seven Fountains: everyone can find a chapel where he or she can feel at peace!”

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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