Letter from Myanmar – July 2015

Asian Month of Nazareth 2015


Greetings of Peace and Joy!

We are 26 diocesan priests from Pakistan (9), Myanmar (6), India (4), Bangladesh (3), Philippines (3) and Korea (1) belonging to Jesus Caritas Priests’ Fraternity who came together for the 3rd Asian Month of Nazareth from July 1st to 24th of July, 2015. It is to be noted that this Month of Nazareth was held almost after 20 years!

Grounding in the Golden Land of Myanmar

The welcome at Yangon International Airport and the short stay at the Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar Centre (CBCM) impressed on us the warm hospitality of our Myanmar brothers. Then after a 9 hours bus journey up here in the northeast mountains of Mandalay City we found a home at the Don Bosco Retreat House called Nazareth in Anisakhan, Pwin Oo Lwin, where the hills are green, the breeze cool and the rains gentle!

Myanmar is a beautiful country. Burma, as it was called previously, was shaped by a history of kingdom conquests, then by colonial domination and finally became an independent nation in 1948. The role of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in the recent years was mentioned. Buddhism is 89% of the 50 million population. The remaining minority is shared by the Christians, Muslims, Hindus and the animists. The Catholic Church comprised the 1.4 % and just has celebrated 500 years of presence in this country. Western missionaries were banned since their nationalization in the 60’s. The local clergy and the religious now continues the mission works mostly among the indigenous communities where conversions are likely possible.

Gifts and Graces of the Fraternity

Our daily rhythm of fraternity life initiated us to the Spirituality of Nazareth, Life and Faith Journey of Bro. Charles, Spirit and Structures of Jesus Caritas Priests Fraternity and other relevant themes. These deepened and widened our perspectives to appreciate better the gifts of the Fraternity.

Nazareth as experienced by Brother Charles de Foucauld amidst many restlessness of his heart also disturbed us from our comfort zones towards welcoming, respecting, listening, and learning from one another as brothers.

Our source was the Word of God. We learnt to be lovers of the Word before becoming preachers. Praying the Psalms together and reading the Scripture was not only going through the written word but was about communing with the Beloved. This made a difference to our Gospel Sharing. From the tendency to preach, we were humbled to share on the impact of the Word in one’s personal life without having to prove anything or to convince anyone.

Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament in silence allowed us to tame our restlessness.

The difficulty to be serene for a prolonged period could be agonizing when we are too focused on our own self. We allowed Jesus to look at us with his loving Presence. What we celebrated together at the Breaking of the Bread was to be a presence we have to adore so as to emulate Jesus broken for everyone.

The Desert Day in the beginning was an adventure to scout exciting places like the waterfalls, countryside farms and others. Later on, silence and solitude found us to meet God with deeper awareness and gladness.

The write-up entitled: Membership of the Fraternity by our General Reponsible Aurelio Sanz Baeza was read together and was discussed at length. It was termed to be an additional help for soul searching regarding our life and commitment to our Fraternities. However, it was heighted that certain aspects of the Life of the Fraternity and its membership have to be measured and understood in the prevailing Asian situations, realties and sensibilities.

Our 5-day Retreat was another significant time for prolonged silence and personal prayer. It invited us to be in touched with our inner human longings. From there we shall meet God like the Samaritan woman with all her human thirsts meeting Jesus at the well. We need to be engaged with Jesus, the True Vine and be open to painful prunings. Only then can we bear fruit. Such fruitfulness is the creative and humble service like washing the feet of our brothers and sisters and not simply wishing them well.

The Brothers making their first Month of Nazareth very enthusiasticly and passionately made their Commitment whereas others eagerly and fervently renewed it during the concludind celebration of the Holy Eucharist presided by Arthur Charles the Asian Responsible.

Gladness and Gratitude in our Hearts

As we begin to descend from the mountains towards the plains of Yangoon, we carry the beautiful memories of our silence, prayers and sharing, laughers and fun together.

The names and faces of the people of Myanmar, they whom we met in the parishes we visited in Pwin Oo Lwin and Mandalay City, the Buddhist monks and folks on the road and in the monastery, the fraternal service of the Salesian Fathers and Staff, the dedication of our Myanmar Brothers, Cardinal Charles Bo, other Bishops and priests who welcomed us at their rectories for meals may have been captured in our cameras for pictures and videos. But more significantly, it is they who captured us with their gentleness, generosity and simplicity.

Aurelio Sanz Baeza, General Responsible – Spain, Klaus Beurle, our animator & inspiration – Germany and brothers in the International Fraternities who generously support Asian fraternities; Emmanuel Asi, International Council Member – Pakistan, Tony Llanes, Retreat Preacher – Philippnes, Edo C. Coroza, Asian Council Member, Thomaiar Susai, resource person – India and Arthur Charles, Asian Responsible – Pakistan who shared their wisdom and witness; and our people at home whom we left behind and have prayed for us made us mindful of God’s providence beyond telling as we remember them in our liturgy.

All of them were like the trees, plants and flowers so wonderfully placed by God on the lake of the beautiful National Kandawgyi Garden in Pwin Oo Lwin that sought and soothed our souls. Our Myanmar stay became an experience of discovery and discernment to take on deeper roots, to bloomed to bear fruits in the Spirit of Nazareth.

Going Home with Faith Aflamed

Going home to each one’s country turned to be a moment of grief when Thomaiar could no longer go back to India alive. He was rather called Home to our Father in Heaven after he suffered stroke towards the end of our retreat and eventually succumbed to death on eve of the Feast of St. James the Apostle on July 24th. Our hearts may be heavy but we have to keep the faith that the Risen Lord is walking along with us. He keeps the flame of faith burning in our hearts in our renewed mission in our home parishes and varied ministries. We carry the hope to nourish the gifts of welcome, simplicity and solidarity in Jesus Caritas.

The name of the Philippines was proposed by the participants as the venue for the Asian Assembly to be held in July 2016. The representatives from the Philippines whole heartedly accepted the proposal. They will work on the suitable place and the dates.

Kye su tin par der, Pha Ya khaung chi pay pa se!

Thank you and God bless!

Brothers in the 3rd Asian Month of Nazareth in Myanmar 2015

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