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By Fr Eamon Sheridan
From 1936 until 1979 Columban missionaries ministered in the Diocese of Myitkyina, Myanmar. During those years they worked hard to develop and strengthen the local Myanmar church but they were forced to leave in 1979.
Since leaving the country, the Columbans have tried to continue to support the Diocese. The Columbans always placed great emphasis on education and during one period, they opened 47 primary schools, six middle schools and four high schools.
The author, a Columban lay missionary who has served in Korea and as coordinator in the Philippines, is from Talisay City, Cebu, and is now based in the Diocese of Banmaw in the Kachin State, northern Myanmar (Burma).
L to R: Sr. Ashwena, Arlenne, Sr. Mary and Columba
‘Because the Columbans love us . . .’ This was the reply of a Kachin woman to a Columban priest when asked about the elaborate celebrations in honor of the Columbans when there were other missionaries who came before them.
The people in Banmaw have never forgotten what it was like to be loved by them. They have remembered well with gratitude in their hearts
This gratitude is shown in their prayers, in their stories and in the way they celebrate the feast of St Columban every year. During my first experience of this in Banmaw in 2009, when it coincided with the thanksgiving for the harvest, I was struck by the simplicity and generosity of the people expressed in many ways. I could only give a deep sigh of gratitude to God because all words fell short of what I personally experienced that day. What could the Columbans have done? Or was it the people - or something beyond them?
‘Arlenne’, with a prolonged hold on the second syllable, was the way people at home called me when I was a child in order for me to do something. And then it was followed by ‘Marika’ (Come here) if it was my mother who called or ‘Dali diri’ (Come here) if somebody else. I would answer immediately saying, ‘O,’ which meant ‘Yes’, and then went to the person who called me.
Two vibrant women, one aged 85 and the other 84 share stories of how the children of
Daphne Tun Baw (85) tells her story.
I was born in Thaton, Mon Division,
All from the cities evacuated to the hills. We teachers continued to do mission work - Sunday School from nursery to the elders, choir and Bible recitation. Every month we went to different villages to have Christian Endeavor and Women’s Meetings. One headman led 15 villages, twelve Christian and three Buddhist. We had no money but didn’t feel hunger. The people gave us food because we taught their children.
By Sister Ashwena C. Apao SSC
Sister Ashwena or ‘Winnie’ returned to Myanmar in September. You can find out more about her and the Columban Sisters at www.columbansisters.org
On 15 August I made my Final Profession as a Columban Sister in Jimenez, my home town in Misamis Occidental. My mother still lives there, my father having died nearly 14, years ago. I am one of five and from early in my life was active in the parish which was run before by the Columbans. My dad was a lay minister and my mother's faith very deep and strong. Their commitment to God and to others helped to cultivate and deepen my faith. As a young person I was involved in the Basic Ecclesial Communities, which stressed the empowerment of the laity. This helped to enlarge my vision of Church and deepen my missionary zeal.
Mission in Myanmar
My next assignment was to our motherhouse in Ireland where I spent about eight months. Then I was invited to be part of a group of Columban Sisters going to Myanmar (formerly Burma) to reopen a mission from which the Sisters had been expelled in 1966. I left forMyanmar in March 2003 with four other Sisters: two Irish, a Korean and a Filipina.
We live and work in Myitkyina, in northern Myanmar, among the Kachin people. My work is with the young. I teach religion, do creative arts and work in human development activities. The lifestyle here is very simple. I’m still struggling with the language and with insertion into a new culture, but I like it here.
My most unforgettable day
By Sister Tammy Saberon SSC
Most of us spend Christmas at home with our family and friends. But Sister Tammy has spent this special season these last two years far from home in Myanmar. Here she tells us how she celebrated Christmas in this Buddhist country.
By Sr Tammy Saberon SSC
Sr Tammy Saberon, a Columban Sister, was missioned to Hong Kong from 1982-1991. Then she was recalled to the Philippines to do vocation work from 1991-1996. After her renewal in England for one year she received her new mission assignment to Myanmar. Below she shares with us how she is.
By: Fr. Bob O’ Rourke
It was Fr. Bob’s first Christmas in Burma. It was to prove the most memorable of his life.