In the tribal hills of Myanmar’s (Burma's) far northern Shan State, Catholics celebrated an important double anniversary for two Salesian institutions. Spiritual catechesis and cultural celebrations commemorated the silver jubilees of both the Salesian Parish in the Diocese of Lashio and the Don Bosco Seminary in the town of Hsipaw, located almost 50 miles southwest of Lashio. Both were established in 1990. “We thank the Lord for these twenty five years. It is a remarkable length of time which could be taken as the lifespan of a generation,” said Fr. Leo Mang, S.D.B, head of social communications of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar. Fr. Mang explained that the Salesian missionaries and their friends have stood strong in faith despite the difficult moments of trials, persecutions and the lasting effects of World War II. “The Don Bosco Seminary in Hsipaw had truly sown seeds of vocations which are now flourishing throughout the country wherever the Salesians are serving the Church in various regions in the service of youth,” Fr. Mang further added. The seminary has educated 21 priests, two lay brothers and many other people. Cardinal Charles Bo, who is now the Archbishop of Yangon, has a history in the area. He was the apostolic administrator of the region, then named apostolic prefect. He was then appointed as the first bishop of the Diocese of Lashio in 1990. Bishop Philip Za Hawng of Lashio presided over the thanksgiving Mass with Fr. Charles Saw, SDB, the provincial of the Salesian in Myanmar. Over 25 priests, religious, seminarians, novices attended the celebrations, which included the liturgy, traditional cultural processions, and prayer dances in the events held Oct. 16-17. Bishop Philip’s homily asked the parish to be united in faith. He further encouraged the community to keep the faith alive. He thanked the Salesians missionaries who had cared for the Lashio diocese “from its inception.” He praised the Salesians as benefactors of the region. The celebrations also marked the inauguration and the blessing of a memorial hall. The Salesians of Myanmar have been active in youth formation, skill development and education in one of Asia’s poorest regions, known for its hilly terrain. The people there have suffered under the military junta and have faced religious persecutions. The country will hold elections in November. The Salesian missionaries arrived in what was then called Burma in 1939. They gradually established their mission. They lost their schools in a period of nationalization when the government took control of all Christian-run schools in 1965. All foreign missionaries serving in the country were asked to leave the country. Since then, the local church has grown. It makes a significant contribution to the country through its work in education, healthcare and social welfare. Myanmar is home to about 800,000 Catholics who live in 16 dioceses. Several thousand committed catechists carry on the work of evangelization and help the Church to serve families and the faithful. In recent years the Catholic Church in Myanmar celebrated the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the country.
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