La Salette Sisters
Sister Mary Yun Ja, SNDS, a La Salette vocation from Myanmar (formerly Burma), who serves now in her native land. The recent tragic events happening in Myanmar have highlighted what is happening in her native land: peaceful demonstrations by Buddhist monks opposing their repressive government; and, more recently, the destructive effects of the cyclone, Nargis. However, there are also notable positive developments with native religious communities and the new foundation of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, sisters as well as fathers and brothers.

Where did you come from?

I was born in Myitkyina, in the northeast of Myanmar, near the Chinese border. I am the youngest of a family of ten children – eight girls and two boys. Our parents cultivate rice at the foot of a nearby mountain. The members of my family were members of a traditional animist religion. Whenever someone was sick in the family, my mother would be called to sacrifice a buffalo, a pig or some similar animal. My mother converted to Christianity in the 1980’s and we all were baptized.

How did you come to know about La Salette?

I began primary school at the age of five. Then I went into secondary school. That’s where I began my relationship with the La Salette Missionaries in my homeland of Burmese. There I met Fr. Bernard Taylor, M.S. (his Burmese name is Fr. U Mya Thein, M.S.), a warm and wonderful La Salette. In my younger years, I had two close friends, Teresa and Margaret, who were also from my hometown. Together, we felt the call and decided to leave for the Philippines to become Sisters of Our Lady of La Salette.
We entered the novitiate in 1996 and two years later made our first vows. During the next four years, we studied in the university, becoming professional Religious Educators. We made our perpetual profession on November 21, 2005. On that same day, Sr. Marie-Victoire, SNDS, our Superior General, from Malagascar, went with us to open the La Salette Sister’s mission in our hometown of Myitkyina. We opened our mission with a big party for our perpetual profession. We were joined by Frs. Isidro Perin, M.S., Superior General of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, and Fr. Roland Nadeau, M.S., then Vicar of the Congregation.

Where are your friends, Sisters Teresa and Margaret serving?

Sr. Teresa is presently Superior and Mistress of Novices. She works mainly in the formation of younger sisters in collaboration with other congregations. Sr. Margaret is responsible for our postulants. She also works with Caritas (Catholic helpers) of Myanmar. She handles finances and the running of Caritas. She certainly furthers the La Salette charism of reconciliation in her work with poor families, because she sees to the urgent needs of reconciliation between husbands and wives, between parents and their children.

What is your ministry?

I also work mainly with families, mostly Christians, but sometimes with Buddhist families. I work with their marital problems of couples, and with their children. There are many problems with drugs and with poverty. Many women are widows because their husbands died of an overdose. Men suffer from lack of work, meager wages and a lack of respect from their employers for their dignity as persons. While women work in gardens, do laundry, or go into the rice fields. They also work transporting sacks of cement on their head. For their salary, men receive 2,000 khiats, equal to about two euros a day, certainly insufficient for their family to survive!

In these difficult situations, how are the children?

Children are often born premature and suffer from malnutrition. Good health practices are rare and children are only given the most basic of care. Often government schools are closed due to lack of money. Among men, unemployment and alcoholism are rampant and many die between the ages of fifteen and forty years of age. Life for everyone can be so difficult! They need the hope of the Gospel, the warmth and welcome of the message of Our Lady of La Salette.

How do your people respond to the message of La Salette?

I am in contact with many broken families, and they identify with Mary, as she cries for her children. I often remind them of her comforting words: “My children, do not be afraid. I am here to tell you a great news.” Her words give them strength and hope.

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”