Editor: In this excerpt from the 1967 issue of the La Salette Mission Newsletter, we hear about the qualities of the Burmese people whom we serve in what is now called Myanmar. It is certainly true that as La Salette Missionaries, we receive far more than we could ever share.
Our faithful correspondent, Fr. John O'Reilly, M.S., sent the following interesting item.
Wonderful, Quiet Courage
“A few days ago a young man from Rangoon, a Buddhist who is about to enter the Church, came to arrange his marriage with one of the girls from our village. The same night both he and his fiancé left on the night train to visit his parents in Rangoon and then to visit his unit in the Burma Air Force in Hmawbi.
“Shortly after midnight the train was mined by the rebels and machine-gunned. Ten people were killed and it would have been much worse had not the military escort driven off the rebels with accurate gunfire from their armored car on the train. Our young friends escaped unharmed, thank God, and continued on to visit his parents, following which he received permission at his unit to return here on the same train that had been attacked by the rebels on the way down. They were here a few minutes ago, and now all is ready for their wedding.
“As I watched the young couple walk away from our mission center, I could not help thinking of their wonderful, quiet courage, so characteristic of the ordinary Burmese people in these troubled times. They will not be intimidated and keep right on with their daily plans in spite of countless annoyances and threats on the part of the dacoits (robber gangs) and the rebels. You just have to take your hat off to people like that.”
Recently recovered from major surgery in far distant Burma, is Fr. Charles Gendron, M.S., of Cohoes, NY., who nevertheless has plunged once again into his missionary work with a zest and drive that continue to belie his being a 20-year veteran in the jungles of Burma.
"Undoubtedly you at home would raise your eyebrows at the sight of the fashions worn in the jungles," he writes, "but even though these people may dress in unusual fashions they are nevertheless good people and have many ways and manners that are quite civilized. For instance they are very hospitable.
“The visitor is never refused entrance to their villages. Arriving at a hut, you will always be welcome; you will never be turned away; water will be carried for your bath, rice and curry will be put on the fire to be cooked for your meal – and all of this even though you may not have spoken a word!
“The very best of whatever is available will be set out to make you as comfortable as possible, and while the women prepare the meal, the men will sit and converse with you. This is their medium of entertaining. Following the meal, a bamboo mat is provided to lie upon if the visitor wishes to rest. These are experiences no missionary can ever forget.”