La Salette Worldwide

 Fr. Thomas Htang
Shan Mong, M.S.
Editor: From the very beginning of our ministry as La Salettes in Burma, we have stood by the people in their quest for freedom and justice. Presently one of our Myanmar La Salettes, Fr. Thomas Mong, is the coordinator of the Justice and Peace Office of the Diocese of Yangon, Myanmar. We share his first newsletter with you in order to inform you about some of the challenges facing the Catholic Church in Myanmar, now that the government has somewhat loosened their grip on their people.

The Justice and Peace
Commission of the Diocese of Yangon

It is a Catholic Peace Network working to support the Church and the people of Myanmar in promoting peace and solidarity among and between various ethnics, faiths, cultures and environments in the country. Justice and Peace commission undertakes initiatives of capacity building skills to enable people in promoting peace and development in respective areas.

Mandate for the Justice and Peace Commission

The Commission assists the bishops, both collectively and individually, in advancing the social mission of the Church on national justice and peace through policy development, advocacy, education, outreach, and acts of solidarity. The Commission makes the recommendation to the bishops on State and Region public policy issues, especially integral human development, human rights, Catholic Social Teaching religious freedom, Justice and peace.

The Weeping Mother statue
in our Shrine in Chanthagone
is decorated for the anniversaries
As the news was spreading about the 75th anniversary celebration of the presence of La Salette in Burma in November of 2012, I was hoping to be part of this historical event as Mission Procurator of our Province – and so I was.

An International Gathering

Very Rev. Fr. Silvano Marisa, the General Superior and two of his councilors, Fr. Joseph Bachand and Fr. Efren Musnji represented the General Administration of the Missionaries of La Salette from Rome to take part in this solemn celebration. Frs. Jack Nuelle, Pete Kohler, Bill Slight and myself travelled to Myanmar from the United States. Frs. Rosanno Sorriano and Sal Pico came from the Philippines. Also there was a group of about 20 Filippino friends of Fr. Bernie Taylor, the first Burmese La Salette, that came to witness be part of this celebration.

Fr. Bernie Taylor’s 40th Anniversary

On November 8th, we gathered with more than 50 priests from the area-dioceses and hundreds of people in an open pavilion adjacent to the Marian Shrine of the Our Lady of the Rosary in Chanthagone, where the Burmese La Salettes started to minister in 2005. We celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Priesthood of Fr. Bernie Taylor (his Burmese name: U Mya Then). In his homily Fr. Bernie said that the essence of priesthood is to be of service to others. He continued,

Untitled-1Our Challenging Beginnings

Acutely insightful and wise, four La Salettes began the groundwork in establishing private Catholic Schools in the southern and western part of Isabela Province as venues for evangelization especially of the young and provision for affordably quality basic and tertiary education.

The first school to be established was La Salette of San Mateo in 1949, followed by University of La Salette High School Department in 1951, the University of La Salette and La Salette of Aurora in 1952, La Salette of Roxas in 1957, La Salette of Quezon in 1960, La Salette of Jones in 1961, La Salette of Cabatuan and La Salette of Ramon in 1967. The educational institutions under the care of the Missionaries of our Lady of La Salette through the Ina ng Pag-asa (Mary, Mother of Hope) Province consist of the following: one University, eight High Schools and eight Elementary Schools.

children in the remote village
of Mandabe, Madagascar
Before Bishop Donald Pelletier, M.S, retired as Bishop of Morondava, Madagascar, he went for one last pastoral visit to the district of Mandabe, where for many years Fr. George Repchick (+1998) ministered lovingly to the people. Bishop Donald writes:

“I just returned from a five-day visit to Mandabe. The road has not gotten any better since the times we traveled it together years ago. How many years is it now – 5 or 6 – since the approaches to the bridge at Dabara were washed away? The bridge still sits in the middle of the river with no way to get on it. Meanwhile we have to plow through about two miles of shallow water and deep, fine sand to get across.

“As always it was a very sentimental trip as I can’t but think of George and pray for him when I am there. An enlarged photo of him adorns the back wall of the church. Fr. Richard – an Italian priest incardinated into the diocese and who is presently director of that missionary district – says that George’s presence is still vividly felt. I am amazed to see the continual growth of this Christian community. I think it is the district that has shown the most progress and growth in the last six years.

Many of our Burmese Missionaries
As the saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I remember those days as a young student in the La Salette Seminary High School in Hartford, CT., in the late 1950’s. I often heard our returning missionaries from Burma share their fascinating stories of their ministry in what seemed to me to be another world. As they gave their testimonies to us 100 teenagers, despite the early hour (7AM), we were transfixed by their stories of faith in that very challenging and remote part of the world.

As years passed, I fortunately got to meet or hear about every La Salette that served in our Burma Missions. Our very active Hartford Mission Circles in our seminary as well as those La Salette Mission Clubs scattered across New England, were tremendously supportive of our “Burma Heroes”, those La Salettes who left family and country to serve in that far away vineyard of the Lord. These were impressive men of faith and I was proud to be connected to and supportive of their efforts to spread the Catholic Faith.

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”