La Salette Myanmar Celebrates

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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,

 

“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.

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(from front left) Fr. Thomas Vellappallil, M.S.,
stands next to Fr. Bernie Taylor, M.S., who
welcomes his many friends who came to
Myanmar for his 40th anniversary
of priesthood
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 still I was living in Burma, I was not able to get to any 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.”

He is proud of the fact that the Burmese La Salette mission has grown without limits 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 dance and music followed by presentation of gifts for the celebrant Fr. Bernie. It was a very enjoyable evening with lots of entertainments.

75th Anniversary of La Salette in Myanmar

The next day an even larger crowd gathered under the same pavilion at the shrine compound in Mandalay to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the La Salette mission in Myanmar. In his message, Bp. Alexander Pyone Cho, the Bishop of Pyay said,

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Bp. Alexander Pyone Cho, Bishop
of Pyay (center), leads Mass for the
75th anniversary with Fr. Silvano Marisa,
M.S, Superior General on left and Fr.
Philip Aung, M.S., Myanmar native on right
“we come together to thank the Lord for this great occasion. The first la Salette missionaries went through hardships and pains and even death but they have proclaimed the Word of God with courage and handed down the legacy of faith in this land of Myanmar particularly in the diocese of Pyay.

“We continue to thank the Lord for his guidance, for bringing back the La Salette Missionaries to Myanmar through Fr. Bernie Taylor as the pioneer. Is it not the power of the Holy Spirit that prepared him to recruit some fine Myanmar young men to become missionaries?”

He said proudly, “there are 12 native La Salette missionaries in our midst here in this little village in Chanthagone, where they have their base. We are all God’s missionaries today. At baptism, we are given a lighted candle and the priest said, ‘Receive the light of Christ.’ We are all sent out to proclaim the good news to all people that Jesus Christ is the light of the world.”

The Bishop quoted Pope Benedict XVI, who at his regular public audience on October 17, 2012 said, “Christians today often do not even know the central core of their Catholic faith or the basics of their faith. Ignorance about the fundamentals of faith leaves believers vulnerable to certain forms of syncretism and religious relativism, with no clarity about which truths must be believed and the salvific uniqueness of Christianity”.

“In this year of new evangelization and the Year of Faith,” the bishop concluded, “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.”

First Profession

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Fr. David Kyaw Kyaw, M.S., Director of
Novices (second row, left), with the newly
professed and new novices;
three members of the General
Administration stand in last row

At the conclusion of their Novitiate year, seven Burmese brothers took temporary religious vows during this occasion before their beloved parents, brothers and sisters, and their friends. The rite of profession began right after the Bishop’s homily.

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 possess 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 in return. Their hearts echoed with joy and peace. That radiance of 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.

The La Salette Ministries in Myanmar

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La Salettes gather around the new
La Salette facsimile after its blessing
The only property the La Salettes own in Burma consists of an acre of land with a mid-sized house on it. This served as the Community House until the novices needed accommodations for their formation. So they had to convert this house into a novitiate formation house and 7 novices occupied it with Fr. David Kyaw Kyaw as their Director.

The priests stay in the parishes where they are assigned. We were invited to the Novitiate for a special ceremony, where Fr. Silvano Marissa inaugurated and blessed a mini-facsimile of the La Salette apparition that was recently built in front of the Novitiate House and we 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 too far from the Our Lady of Holy Rosary Shrine in Chanthagon. 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 for the first time to have so many foreign visitors to these interior villages.

The La Salette missionaries are very well loved, appreciated and respected by these simple village people.

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