The Ordination of Seven Burmese Dominican Brothers


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.

This was the most important event that we had gone to witness: the ordination of seven of our Burmese Dominican brothers (5 as priests and 2 as deacons). The ceremony was held at the Cathedral compound in the morning of November 24, the solemnity of Christ the King, the Patron of the Cathedral of that city of Loikaw.

It was an amazing thing. Neither the old nor the new Cathedral could accommodate the thousands of pilgrims who had come to the place for their patronal feast. People from the city and from the distant mountains, many of them in their traditional costumes, filled the cathedral compound. There was a festive atmosphere in the air. It was seven o’clock in the morning of that Sunday when more than 200 children (boys and girls) dressed up in their first communion attires waited already impatiently in two lanes for the beginning of the procession of the 104 concelebrating priests towards the altar placed under a tent near the new cathedral. Three musical bands took their turns to accompany until the altar the long queue of acolytes, children, those to be ordained with their relatives, concelebrating priests, and the two bishops.

Upon arrival to the altar, the bishop of the place, Msgr. Sotero Phamo, addressed a few welcome words to me and to the friars of the Province present there. I felt obliged to answer him from the ambo with some words, which translated into vernacular language through the loudspeakers, set the tone of the celebration that was about to start: “It is a joy for me and for my brother Dominicans being here today celebrating the feast of Christ the King with you. We are a group of Dominicans who have come from different places (Hong Kong, Macau, Manila, Rome…) not as tourists but as pilgrims to accompany the group of seven brothers of ours from this diocese of Loikaw who today are about to be ordained priests and deacons. This is the first time that such thing happens and hence it is a historical event for us, for the Dominican

Order and for the Church. The whole thing has been possible thanks to your Bishop Sotero, to whom we are deeply grateful, and to his Auxiliary Bishop Stephen who kindly accepted to ordain our brothers. We are impressed by the colors and the beauty of the settings, by your religiosity and by your living faith. In very few places of the world can today be contemplated the view that our eyes are contemplating. Thank you very much for your hospitality and for the love you show to our Dominican brothers who today are being ordained and who will remain here with you to serve to your needs. May the Lord bless you and keep your faith strong. When we return to our places we will keep you in our memories and prayer. A blessed day to all!”

A choir of 300 members, backed up by the crowd, sang the Mass in Gregorian chant: Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei. The solemn celebration went on for nearly three hours under a scorching sun with the characteristic ceremonies of an ordination (Litany of the Saints, Lying of hands, welcome embraces, etc.), at times quite touching because of its uniqueness.  It is true that in order to avoid falling pray of emotions one has sometimes to imagine that nothing is going on when in reality something and very significant is indeed going on. Some people sowed yesterday so that today we may harvest the fruits of their labor. My heartfelt gratitude to those who initiated the mission of the Province in Myanmar and to those who through the past years have worked in the formation of our young brothers.

The ordination of the first batch of Burmese Dominicans, the opening of a house of the Order in Loikaw and the solemn profession of two native brothers in the Province are very significant events in the history of our mission. It is my pleasure to share them with you all. How I wish that this kind of events awake in us a deep sense of gratitude to God, help us to rise over our miseries, make us overcome the crises and petty troubles existing in our communities and, in a word, enable us to look up to the future with hope. This is what I ask God for.

(04 December 2013)