Fr. Timothy Mulroy

From the Director

By Fr. Tim Mulroy

When the last group of Columban missionaries left Myanmar in 1979, they did so with heavy hearts.

Having spent a major part of their lives ministering to the Kachin tribe there, they had grown old, while some of them had developed health issues. Their sadness in saying goodbye was deepened by the fact that no one was coming to replace them; the military-socialist government had long decreed that no new missionaries were welcome. Therefore, both Columban missionaries as well as the Kachin tribe mourned the end of an era.

However, during the succeeding decades the Kachin people treasured the Gospel message, as well as the memory of those Columban missionaries who had lived among them.

Then, in 2015, in response to an invitation by Bishop Francis Daw Tang, Columban missionaries returned to Myanmar and prepared to resume their ministry among the Kachin people. However, while the political situation had begun to improve, they still had to deal with various restrictions on their ministries. Nevertheless, they were delighted to see that the seeds of the Gospel sown by their Columban colleagues several decades previously were still bearing fruit. Consequently, they decided to invite Kachin youth to consider a Columban missionary vocation. To their surprise, within a short time five young men entered the Columban seminary.

However, God was already planning this Easter surprise for our centennial year!

Among these five Kachin seminarians, two have the baptismal name Columban. From different villages, both Columban Hkun Myat Aung and Columban Aung Li were born more than a decade after the earlier group of Columban missionaries had said goodbye to Myanmar. However, their parents and families wished to keep their memories alive by naming their sons Columban. When they did so, could they possibly have imagined that one day they would become Columban missionaries?

While growing up, those two boys listened over and over again to stories told by their parents and relatives about Columban priests who had drawn them closer to God. Time and time again they had heard from their neighbors and local diocesan priests about the sacrifices that Columban missionaries had made to strengthen the faith of their Kachin tribe. Consequently, without ever meeting Columban missionaries, they came to know and admire them … and would later decide to follow in their footsteps.

Leaving Myanmar in 1979 seemed like a Good Friday chapter in Columban history. However, God was already planning this Easter surprise for our centennial year!