The Opening of St Thomas Aquinas House at Loikaw

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LA APERTURA DE LA CASA “SANTO TOMÁS DE AQUINO” EN LOIKAW
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The days 23rd and 24th of November of this year 2013 will be recorded in the chronicles of the Province of Our Lady of the Rosary as part of its history. In fact they are already part of that history. Three important events for us, for the Dominican Order and for the Church took place on those days in the city of Loikaw, the capital of the Kayah State, in Burma or Myanmar (as today the country is known). They were the following ones:

-   the Solemn Profession of two of our Burmese Dominican brothers (Isaac and Mariano);
-   the Opening of a House of the Order under the patronage of St Thomas Aquinas; and
-   the Ordination of seven of our brothers (five as priests and two as deacons).
 
Three unusual events for that diocese of Loikaw, which, although geographically located in Myanmar’s smallest State (4,500 square miles in extension and around 350,000 inhabitants), however, it has the biggest percentage of  Catholics (a  total number of 89,000). No wonder the diocese of Loikaw is known as the stronghold of the Catholicism in that “Golden Land”, which is what the word “Myanmar” means.

Honored must have felt the Angelic Doctor at being called after his name the first Dominican House in those mountains of the Karen ethnic group, in Myanmar. The name was chosen by our Burmese brothers, perhaps to indicate that this building, home from this day 23 of November of a Dominican community, is called to become a centre of irradiation of faith and culture as well as of social and human promotion.

Colorful   indeed was the opening ceremony: three hostesses dressed up in red costumes embroidered with local designs were waiting at the entrance of the House, holding in their hands a blue ribbon that in a few minutes was going to be jointly cut by the Bishop of the place, Msgr. Sotero Phamo, and by the Prior Provincial, fr. Javier Gonzalez. The ceremony began with the proclamation of a Psalm. Then Father Pedro Luis Gonzalez, the superior and representative of our community in Rome, read the document of erection of the House issued by the Master of the Order, fr. Bruno

Cadoré dated 1st  November 2013. In a matter of seconds, two strategic cuttings on

the ribbon caused the quick rising into the sky, above the rooftop of the house, of a cloud of balloons, carrying with them not only pieces of the blue ribbon itself, but also the gazing looks of children and adults alike. Soon afterwards the eyes turned to the ground to watch how the two bishops, one on the first floor and the other on the second, were assuring divine protection over the house and its inhabitants as they sprinkled holy water on its walls and rooms before giving us all a final blessing.

The awaited ending was the snacks and refreshments spread around on tables. Everyone was welcome and appreciated it. A number of families of the neighboring village remained there to have later on beside the house a heartily dinner which they themselves had prepared.

With the assignation of the first members and the appointment of its firs superior, the first Dominican community in the place was established, and with it, the presence of Our Lady of the Rosary Province in the diocese of Loikaw. A promising beginning!

(04 November 2013)