Fr. Thomas Vellappallil, M.S.,
being welcomed to the
A Burmese Vocation Story
We participated in the celebration of Fr. Bernie Taylor’s anniversary of priesthood and witnessed seven young Burmese men professing their temporary vows in religious life. We were able to visit three major cities; Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan. I would like to share with you some of the highlights of our visit to Myanmar.
For more than a century, Myanmar remained a world apart isolated from other nations due to foreign and military rule. The United Nations has recognized Myanmar as the nation's official name since 1989. Myanmar with a population of 50 million people is a fascinating country. Buddhism is practiced by almost 90% of Myanmar's population. There are other religions in Myanmar, but they are not as widespread as Buddhism. Only 4% of the people are Christians and 4% are Muslims; the remaining are a mix of Hindus and other minor religions. Christianity was brought to Myanmar by European missionaries in the 19th century.
|Picture of Fr. Bernie Taylor, M.S. (left), celebrating
his fortieth anniversary of Priestly Ordination and
visual of Our Lady of La Salette with words in Burmese
celebrating the first vow-taking of seven novices
In his homily Fr. Bernie said that the essence of priesthood is to be of service to others. He continued, "On the day of my ordination I recognized that my priesthood was not for myself but for others and that it was to be a life of service to the people of God" He gave thanks for the people in his life those who shaped him – his friends, most especially his family and the La Salette Community.
He recalled the difficulties and struggles he had to go through in order to become a La Salette missionary. He said, "I joined the La Salette Minor Seminary in Akyab (now Sittwe) in 1962 and was sent to the Philippines the next year. However, since I was still living in Burma I was not able to get into a La Salette Novitiate so I finished my theological studies and was ordained for the Diocese of Prome (now Pyay). The La Salette missionaries in Burma had to leave the country so I worked in the Diocese of Prome. Finally after 20 years I was able to finish my novitiate program and took my vows in 1982. God had a plan for my life."
Great Hopes for La Salette in Burma
Fr. Bernie is proud of the fact that the Burmese La Salette mission has recently grown by leaps and bounds. Now there are 12 Burmese La Salette priests and a few others in formation. Fr. Bernie looks back with pride and gratitude for everything that happened to re-establish a La Salette presence in Myanmar. He thanked everyone who supported him during his priestly journey for the past 40 years and asked them to continue their prayers for him and the continued growth of the La Salette mission in Myanmar.
After the solemn celebration of Mass and a sumptuous meal for everyone who attended there was an evening of gifts for the celebrant, Fr. Bernie. It was a very enjoyable evening of dance and music followed by presentations with lots of fun and entertainment.
La Salette’s Seventy-Five Years of Service
|Bp. Alexander Pyone Cho, the Bishop
of Pyay (previously named Prome),
Myanmar, the Main Celebrant for Mass
|(front row) five La Salette Postulants,
(2nd row from left) Fr. David Kyaw Kyaw
Lwin, Master of Novices, with his first class,
now professed and (back row from left)
Frs. Bernie Taylor, Joe Bachand, Silvano
Marisa, Superior General, and Efren Musnji
Then the bishop concluded, "In this year of new evangelization and the Year of Faith, let us be open to renew our own faith. Let us be ready to follow our Mother at La Salette and be obedient to follow the command of our Lord Through the intercession of Blessed Mother, may God bless you with his peace and joy."
At the conclusion of their Novitiate year, seven Burmese brothers took temporary religious vows during this liturgy before their beloved parents, brothers and sisters, and their friends. Seven fine young men, gifted and blessed, choose to live in chastity, poverty and under obedience in this world of ours. When they made their vows, at the very moment when they offered themselves, body, heart and soul to the Lord, they were transformed into such beautiful beings. They chose to surrender everything they possessed to embrace a humble life style of "poverty, chastity and obedience" with total submission to their God in response to His call of sacrificial love. Through this act of consecration, they were embraced by God. Their hearts echoed with joy and peace. The radiant beauty I witnessed on their faces was indescribable, so much so that I was gazing at them in awe! I could only praise God and thank him for calling them, setting them apart for his divine plan. As we pray for more vocations, let us also pray for ourselves, that we courageously respond to God's call to give ourselves unreservedly in the service of his people.”
Places to Live and Minister
|Shrine (and Parish) Church of Our Lady of
the Holy Rosary in Chanthagone, Myanmar
We were invited to the Novitiate for a special ceremony where Fr. Silvano Marissa, M.S. inaugurated and blessed a mini-facsimile of the La Salette apparition that was recently built in front of the Novitiate House. Then all returned to have dinner.
We also had the opportunity to visit a couple of the rural parishes run by the La Salettes. They are Myauk Kine Parish and Myitnge quasi-Parish, both not far from Our Lady of Holy Rosary Shrine in Chanthagone. As we drove into the parish compounds people gathered around us with great smiles and welcomed us. They were overjoyed by our presence as it was the first time so many foreign visitors came to these interior villages. The La Salette missionaries are very well loved, appreciated and respected by these simple village people.