MYANMAR: Verbum Domini Seminar Workshop
By Estrella (Star) del Mar
My heartfelt thanks to Fr. Bosco Saw Lar Htoo, National Coordinator for the Biblical Apostolate in Myanmar, for inviting me to observe their national biblical workshop with the theme “Biblical Ministry in the light of Verbum Domini” on July 7-12, 2014.
The seminar had 76 participants: 14 were priests, 1 Bishop (Bp. Athai), 24 Sisters, the rest are lay people, mostly laywomen from 14 of the 16 dioceses of Myanmar. The venue was The Church of Holy Rosary in Chanthagone, Mandalay popularly known as Our Lady of Lourdes Pilgrimage Center.
The seminar was all done in Burmese language that I do not understand. Nevertheless, I listened and observed. The place was quite hot and humid. Light was minimal and the electric fans were not enough but the people did not mind all the limitations. They were all very attentive. There are better venues but the price here is very low to allow more people to participate in seminars.
They had Lectio Divina at 5:30 am in small groups, Mass at 6:00am, breakfast then talks in the morning. In the afternoon, the groups discussed the answers to guide questions. After dinner, they had sharing of their biblical ministry experiences from where they were coming from.
Bishop Basilio Athai, the Chairman of the Episcopal Commission for the Biblical Apostolate for CBCM, gave 2 talks in the morning. “The God who speaks” and “Christology”. He must be a good speaker with a sense of humor since the participants were laughing every now and then. Bp. Basilio is a good person, good speaker, good writer and poet.
The second speaker was Fr. Mariano Soe Naing, SDB. His talk was “Interpretation of Sacred Scripture in the Church”. The third speaker on the 3rd day was Fr. Peter Newman Raj on “The Word of God and Liturgy”.
The 4th speaker on the 4th day was Fr. Maurice Nyunt Wai on “The Word of God and Commitment in the World”. He is also the Exec. Sec. of Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar. The 5th speakers on the 5th day were Sr. Sylvia Lahpai, SFX and Fr. Bosco Saw on “The Word in the Life of the Church”.
The seminar-workshop of 5 days was 100% free for the participants paid for by the Episcopal Commission for the Biblical Apostolate in Myanmar. They have this activity twice a year: in July and in December. They only had to pay for their transportation to come to the venue. Some would have to pay more for transportation depending on their distance from Mandalay since the seminar-workshop is for all the dioceses of Myanmar. The farther dioceses had difficulty in sending delegates since transportation would be costly with the long hours of travel.
I do not understand their language but I sit there at the hot seminar hall, perspiring all the time because of the heat and humidity. What I understood were their hunger to learn more about the Word of God, their attentiveness to the Speakers, their joy of being together, their eagerness to share their experiences and to learn from each other.
I appreciate their friendship, their loving hospitality, their generous service and thoughtfulness, their acceptance of a stranger for a companion. I feel the love of God in their hearts. I understand more and more why God has a preferential option for the poor. Isn’t the Catholic Church ought to be so? Are we not taking pride to be called the Church of the Poor? Or are we? And truly, these people here need our help!
The people here are mostly very poor but they are rich in their hearts, their faith and in their hopes. I am inspired by their enthusiasm and joy to spread the Word. I am encouraged by their industry and generosity to offer voluntary services to spread the Good News. I am awed by their zeal and commitment. I am strengthened by their faith and witnessing. I am hopeful for the growth of their Christian communities.
I think I am having my personal retreat here … I appreciate my time of aloneness when they are busy with their group work since I cannot join them. Truly there is a big difference between reading the events and being part of the event! There is much to say but I need time to relish them all.
By Estrella (Star) del Mar
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