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Parish Youth Embrace Hope and Light in Myanmar

Participants of World Youth Day
Participants of World Youth Day



Dear Columban Friends,

Columban Fr. Kurt Zion Pala works in youth ministry in Myanmar (formerly Burma). He recently sent me this update how the parish youth are embracing hope and light even though the situation in Myanmar is dire.

It has been a while since the parish youth ministry prepared for a big event. After returning from my home vacation, the youth ministry team decided to hold its own celebration of the World Youth Day last August. Young people these days yearn for hope and light at a time when many of them do not know what to do, where to go. The youth ministry team got so excited in holding the event.

Youth attending Mass
Youth attending Mass

With only a few weeks to prepare, the young people started fundraising. On one Saturday, they went house to house to collect garbage for a fee. They also prepared and sold chicken soup, a popular dish during these rainy days. The night before the event, the venue started to fill up with young people decorating and preparing the venue for the big gathering.

It had been pouring rain day after day every morning. But by God’s grace, the sun came out on that day. The day began with the opening Mass led by our parish priest, Fr. Bernard. In his homily, he echoed the words of Pope Francis for the young people gathered in Lisbon. Pope Francis reminded the young people about the three most important actions. He said, “to shine, to listen, and to be unafraid.”

These words resonate so much to young people in Myanmar. Their world, our world has been destroyed by a military regime which does not see any value in life or in young people. Illegal drugs are allowed to spread intoxicating a young population already lost and hopeless. There is very little invested in young peoples’ education, a common tactic of authoritarian regimes to keep the population ignorant and blindly following them without question.

Pope Francis said, “Dear young friends, today we too need something of this burst of light, so that it can fill us with hope as we face the many failures of each day and the darkness that assails us in life, and respond to them with the light of the resurrection of Jesus. For he is the light that never sets, the light that shines even in the dead of night.” Events like this one are a burst of light for young people in Myanmar, a reminder that they are not alone. Then the Pope also reminded the young people to listen to Jesus. That is the secret to life. But lastly Pope Francis reminded the young people that they will encounter difficulties in life but always believe in the words of Jesus, “Do not be afraid.”

The Manau dance in the liturgy.
The Manau dance in the liturgy.

The Kachins love to dance. The Manau (dance) has been incorporated into the liturgy. The young people carrying their offerings dance their way to the altar. After the Mass, the opening program commenced. A mental health awareness session followed where young people learned to practice meditation and self-awareness exercises. After the very simple lunch of rice, Indian pea soup and a spicy side dish, I echoed to the young people Pope Francis’ message. The day ended with a very meaningful worship service. Young people processed carrying first the Bible, then the Cross, then the image of Mother Mary. Then the young people prayed a decade of the rosary as one young person carried a rose and presented it to Mother Mary. After saying the Rosary, three young persons led the group to worshipping God through songs in Kachin and Burmese.

We hope that this celebration of the World Youth Day brought to young people a “burst of light.” Pope Francis left the young people in Lisbon these words: “Dear young people, I would like to look into the eyes of each of you and say: Do not be afraid. I will tell you something else, also very beautiful: it is no longer I, but Jesus himself who is now looking at you. He knows each of your hearts, each of your lives; he knows your joys, your sorrows, your successes and failures. He knows your heart. Today, he says to you, here in Lisbon, at this World Youth Day: 'Have no fear, take heart, do not be afraid!’”

It is only with your generous and sacrificial support that Columban missionaries are able to work in Myanmar. There is no help from the government, and children, youth, the elderly, and the disabled are forced to fend for themselves. Your care for your brothers and sisters in Christ makes all of the difference. Thank you for allowing us to bring your love to those most in need.


Gratefully yours in Christ,

Fr. Chris Saenz, Director

Fr. Chris Saenz | Director, U.S. Region


The Missionary Society of St. Columban is entrusted by the Holy Father with part of the Church’s mission to spread the Faith and saving work of Christ.” (Vat.II) The Society works under the guidance of the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and under the leadership of the bishops. We are listed in the U.S. Official Catholic Directory published annually by P.J. Kennedy and Sons. As such, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service recognizes us as a religious not-for-profit corporation, therefore contributions to our work are tax deductible. We employ no outside professional fund-raisers and pay no commissions.