Fr. Philip Aung, MS, was born in the northern part of Burma (now Myanmar) in 1973. La Salette was well known in the country because of the work of the La Salette Missionaries which began in 1937. After finishing high school in 1991, Philip wanted to become a priest and learned about La Salette from a lay catechist. A nearby parish priest helped him discern his La Salette vocation.
Once in contact with Fr. Bernie U Mya Thein, MS – the only Myanmar La Salette at that time – he left home. Accompanied by the parish priest who had helped him in his vocational discernment, he traveled about half way across the country to Prome where there was still a very strong La Salette atmosphere. Here he waited two years to get his passport and visa.
In 1993 he journeyed to the Philippines for studies. Years of academic study followed. In May, 2004, Fr. Philip was ordained a priest. He tells us of how the present-day La Salettes came to be established at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Chantagone, Mandalay.
Efforts to Reestablish La Salette in Myanmar
Fr. Philip writes:
In the summer of 2004, I was traveling to the north of Burma to say my First Mass of Thanksgiving in my hometown. I passed through Mandalay City and a friend of mine unexpectedly brought me to visit a Marian Shrine which is about 15 miles outside the city. I never thought it would become a place where we would begin our mission.
With four young Myanmar priests and one older one, the leadership of the Province of Mother of Hope (Philippine) and General Administration in Rome were trying to figure out how to reopen the mission in Burma. A few exploratory trips had been undertaken and discussions with a few bishops had ensued. There were various possibilities but no decisions had yet been taken. As the time was ticking away, many things seemed to fall in place at the right time.
Bishop Paul Zinghtung Grawng, who had been Bishop of my native diocese and who was very supportive of La Salette from the beginning, was made Archbishop of Mandalay. The pastor at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary was transferred to work elsewhere. The Archbishop of Mandalay offered the La Salette Missionaries the ministry of the Shrine as well as two other parishes to the La Salette Missionaries. The community took time for discernment and finally accepted the Shrine of the Holy Rosary and the parishes.
This was a divine blessing for the Missionaries of La Salette. The Shrine we would administer in the archdiocese of Mandalay was right at the center of the country and would connect us to the whole country.
Thus the La Salette mission in Burma was reopened on October 19, 2005 after about 30 years of absence from the country. The place I visited by chance several years ago has now become home for me and all La Salette Missionaries. Our Mother Mary has brought us to where she is, giving us comfort and assuring us of her love and care so we can make her reconciling message known to all her people.
(Reprinted from Vision and Mission, June, 2007)