five young people from Taungngu enter the PIME Seminary

They belong to the Karen and Kayan ethnic groups. They graduated from Leiktho Minor Seminary two years ago, but were unable to study theology in Rangoon due to the conflict caused by the military coup. Now they will be able to continue their preparation for the priesthood in Monza with the future missionaries of the institute. “We spend our days working in the fields, praying and playing. Now we will have a unique opportunity to grow.”

Milan (AsiaNews) – On Tuesday April 5, five young people from Myanmar arrived in Italy and were welcomed by the community of the PIME missionary seminary in Monza. You are here to begin a long philosophical and theological journey to realize your project of serving the Church as priests. Their first names are Justin and Sebastian (22 years old), Leonardo and Graziano (21 years old) and Pío (20 years old). They come from the diocese of Taungngu, founded by PIME missionaries, present in Myanmar (then Burma) since 1867.

Myanmar plunged into violence due to the bloody coup of February 1, 2021. For this reason and the restrictions on social life imposed by the pandemic, the five young people had to interrupt their studies.

Sébastien says: “Almost two years have passed since we managed to get to the national seminary in Rangoon to begin our philosophical and theological studies. We stayed at the minor seminary in Leiktho, a small town half an hour from Taungngu We spent our days working in the field, praying and playing, but we could not have classes or study. “The situation could not continue like this,” continues Leonardo. Our bishop asked us if we were willing to follow the theological path in Italy.” Justin adds, “We are very happy to have come to Italy. Our families too, because they see that we can achieve something that would have been impossible in Myanmar.”

The young people are very aware of having entered a specifically missionary seminary. Pio, the youngest, seems to have clear ideas: “It’s a unique opportunity to grow and mature. And one day, if I become a priest, I want to share the missionary spirit with the whole world. Graziano is “happy that the bishop has offered us to come to Italy: in Rome is the foundation of our Catholic faith”. In the diocese of Taungngu, there are two other theology students (who did not come to Italy) who have only two years left to complete their studies. At the minor seminary, there are about ten students.

The young people, three from the Karen ethnic group and two from the Kayan ethnic group (two of the peoples of Myanmar) come from Catholic families who live from agriculture. In its small towns, Catholics, Buddhists and Baptists live side by side without any problem. The conflict is provoked by the army which, with last year’s coup, destroyed the difficult road to democracy and freedom. The army, under the orders of the criminal military junta, attacks towns, communities and targets of the Catholic community: the soldiers kill, injure and arrest many believers. Homes and churches were destroyed and many families and religious communities were forced to flee their homes and villages to seek refuge in the forests or in remote places. Violence is also rife in the regions of origin of our young people. Thank God their families did not suffer the worst consequences.

Bishop Isaac Danu, faced with the impossibility of providing spiritual and academic formation to the five promising young people in a given period, asked the superior of PIME to welcome at least two of them. As was to be expected, he let the young people make their choice of vocation freely. The Monza seminary discovered that there were in fact five young people interested and immediately agreed to receive them all. In this way, the seminary, which has organized several prayer meetings for the people of Myanmar, concretely accompanies the beloved Burmese Church in such a tragic moment.

For the PIME seminar, this is a fairly heavy commitment. Young people must spend eight years in Monza to study the language: they follow two years of philosophy, one year of spirituality and four years of theology. 60 students attend the seminar, so the logistical availability is exhausted, a wonder in these times.

We were expecting Justin, Sebastian, Leonardo, Graziano and Pio and now we are delighted to have them with us. They will be free to decide their own path. We will support them by offering them the best we have: a large, lively and friendly international community (a dozen nations are represented there); a good training program; a theological school attentive to international, intercultural, dialogue and missionary themes; friends ready to make you feel at home. A promising new chapter begins in the history of friendship between Myanmar and PIME.

Thank you to everyone who supports our work. Thank you to those who helped these young people to obtain their visas to Myanmar for this new start on the path of life. In particular, we would like to thank the Italian Ambassador Alessandra Schiavo, -friend of the Burmese people and the PIME missionaries- for her active support.

* Missionary of PIME, Dean of the International Theological Seminary of PIME


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