Editor: This is a happy incident in the life of a Burma Missionary, Fr. Edward O’Sullivan, M.S. His story was originally published on February, 1947, in our publication, Our Lady’s Missionary, pages 58-59. Unfortunately four years later, he was seriously injured in an automobile accident and died on Nov. 22, 1951. His absolute dedication to his people is typical of our La Salette Missionaries.
The simple history of Nga Fu is one of the most consoling incidents of my stay in Chaungtha, or Pleasant Creek, a village in the Arakan region of southwestern Burma. One of our standbys, a veritable pillar of the Church in that little Chin village, was U Shway U (Old Golden Egg). He was especially good at caring for the sick and preparing the dying for a happy death. Besides, he was father to all our orphans and to the children from the jungle who were boarded in Pleasant Creek at the expense of the mission in order that they might get their schooling and catechism.
God had blessed him with three brothers, U Shway Tu, U Shway Bu, and Nga Fu; or, to give the English equivalents, Old Golden Shovel, Old Golden Pot, and Mr. Hot. The last mentioned was a Baptist whose conversion had long been prayed for.
A Brother in Need
One day the venerable Old Golden Egg came to tell me that his brother, Mr. Hot, was very ill at Tiger Creek Village, far up in the hills. He was off to see what he could do for him if I would give him leave. I asked if he thought that I could be of any help. He said he would send word to me in that event. So I sent him off with a reminder to pray harder than ever now for his brother's eternal happiness.
The same evening he was back to call me to the deathbed. Mr. Hot was dying and he was calling for the priest. The catechist in that section, Dominic, had already been summoned. Old Golden Egg, though hearing this good news just after a long trek, would trust no one to go and call the priest. This was too important.
A Deathbed Conversion
|(l to r) La Salettes: Fr. Philip Gardner,
sgr. Thomas Newman, and Fr. Edward
O’Sullivan (author of this story) in
For years now he had hoped and prayed for Mr. Hot's conversion, and when his prayers seemed about to be answered at the last moment, he was taking no chances. So the old man dragged his rheumatic old legs back over the jungle trail and arrived exhausted to bring me the word. It meant he couldn't return and be at his brother's deathbed and witness his reception into the Church. He was too used up for that. But at least he could be sure that before he died, Mr. Hot would have the priest and his chance for heaven.
Early the next morning I set off on the ten-mile journey afoot to Tiger Cheek Village. Dominic was already there and had been preparing the patient for baptism. Dominic, too, is a good lad. For years now he has been laboring in a stubborn field, as our catechist, on wages so low that only a coolie would ordinarily accept.
Yet with this mere pittance, which was all we could afford to give him, not half what he deserved, he was managing to help financially the poorest people in his district, all unbeknown to the priest. It was only later on when we wanted to change him to another field of action that the people told us of the good he was doing and how much his going would be regretted.
A Journey Not Without Difficulties
|Our catechist’s wife, wearing a type of rainhat,
is surrounded by Chin and Burmese children
But to get back to Mr. Hot. Our way to his village took us up a creek bed into the hills. You have to wade across it about twenty-five times within an hour. As this was the rainy season, heavy showers might cut us off at any time and make the way impassable. And in Arakan heavy rains may last two weeks at a stretch and frequently do without letting up at all.
At such times the people of Tiger Creek are cut off in their village during all that time and, as their food supply runs out, have to go hungry till the rains let up a bit. But it had not been raining too heavily just then, so we found the creek passable enough. Mr. Hot was found in great pain, suffering from what was probably cancer. His side was swollen, and from repeated applications of heat was browned and hardened till it resembled the hide of a crocodile.
It didn't seem as if he could last out much longer. But the state of Mr. Hot's mind and soul was an unending source of wonder and marveling to me. God's grace works in many ways its wonders to perform. Mr. Hot had but one concern. His disease and pain worried him not at all. One thing alone did he want. When he died, and it would be soon, he wanted to go to God. Could I help him and assure him that he would get to God. He would do anything for that.
Over and over again while I Was with him he repeated that thought. The only thing that could distract him from it for a moment was concern for his children, a daughter and two sons, all youngsters. He was a very poor man and their mother was dead. Would I see that they were provided for? Assured of that, he returned to the thought of God and heaven.
I never had a more eager listener or found more good will anywhere. God's grace was falling on fertile soil in the soul of this simple Chin there in the heart of the jungle. In spite of his pain he followed carefully the necessary instructions. God's word, God's will – yes, that was all he wanted, to go to God.
May He Rest In Peace
|Chaungtha school building made of bamboo|
I stayed the night with him and would have liked to remain with him till he breathed his last. But there was other work to do at Pleasant Creek and at any time the rains might close us in for a fortnight or more. So the next morning Mr. Hot, to his great joy, was received into the Catholic Church. Conditional baptism, conditional absolution, first communion, confirmation and extreme unction were all conferred in turn there in that lowly bamboo hut.
Well fortified with the grace of God and the Rites of the Church, Mr. Hot was at rest and peace, content at last to die in the arms of the God he longed to see.
I left him thus and retraced the jungle trail with a glad heart, leaving Dominic to stay by him till the end, together with a Catholic youth of Tiger Creek who for weeks now had left his work aside to tend the sick man.
The end came quietly two mornings later. Poor Old Golden Egg couldn't get there for the funeral, but he was content. His prayers were answered and Nga Fu was with God.
(l to r) Our Father in Burmese, Pagoda and La Salette Cross, Hail Mary in Burmese.