“Because the Columbans love us…” This was the reply of one (1) Kachin lady to a Columban priest when asked about the elaborate celebrations they gave to the Columbans when in fact there were other missionaries who came before them.
The people in Banmaw have never forgotten what it was like to be loved by them. They have remembered and remembered well with gratitude in their hearts.
|L to R: Sr. Ashwena, Arlenne (this article's author), Sr. Mary, and Columba|
Now, in the year 2011, the diocese of Banmaw has celebrated the 75th Jubilee of the arrival of the Columban Missionaries to Kachin land and the 50th Jubilee of the dedication of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on
March 24-25, 2011.
It was a great celebration indeed for the local church and especially for the parishioners whose lives have been touched, in different ways, by the Columban Missionaries. Great was their joy when they knew that some of the Columban Missionaries were coming and one of them was formerly assigned to Banmaw. Colm Murphy represented the former Columbans assigned to Kachin land; Eamon Sheridan came as a representative of the General Council; the Columban Sisters were represented by Mary Dillon and Ashwena Apao; Columba Chang and myself for the Columban Lay Missionaries. People from different parts of the diocese came as representatives of their respective parishes or on their own capacity. Some had to travel for two (2) or more days to reach Banmaw parish where the celebration was held. Most of them were housed at the Banmaw parish halls and boarding houses. Food was provided for the people.
|Leaders of the Manau Dance|
An exhibit showing some old pictures of the former Columban priests assigned to Banmaw and some of their works and activities, like the group who built St. Patrick’s Cathedral, were put on display – all with Burmese, Kachin and English captions. Many of the pictures were of David Wall’s brought to Banmaw by Colm Murphy. Some of the pictures belonged to the diocese.
Brochures in three (3) languages – English, Burmese & Kachin – about of the Columban Missionaries in Banmaw were given away. While working on these two assignments – the exhibit and the English leaflet, I gained more insights about the Columbans in Banmaw, especially their mission, work and the relationship they established with the people. This experience has deepened my sense of being a Columban lay missionary here in Banmaw and has gained for me deeper insights on the mission in Kachin land. As I sat down and reflected on the events unfolding before me, this insight crossed my mind: An open and generous heart begets openness and generosity.
|The Manau Post|
A short program followed the mass with all the people still sitting inside the church. The Columban Missionaries were honored during the program. Much was said and done in appreciation for all the love and concern that the Columbans have given to the people in Banmaw. Great was their joy when Colm Murphy tried his best to deliver his message both in Burmese and Kachin languages. Eamon gave a short speech thanking the people for the love they have shown. Ashwena gave the message on behalf of the Columban sisters and the people were delighted to hear her spoke in her good Kachin language. And deep down, as I was listening to what was happening, I also felt like honoring them for their simplicity in living out their faith, in expressing their gratitude and in sharing their love. In their simplicity I saw the sincerity in their generosity. Their simplicity made everything beautifully great.
|Arlenne (2nd from left) with the Kachin Group|
We witnessed in the afternoon a big number of people joining the 2nd Manau Dance. Three of the Kachin bishops, some priests including Eamon, some sisters including Ashwena (Columban Sister), myself, plus the youth, men, women and children from the different Kachin tribal groups were dancing to the tune of the traditional Kachin musical instruments – drums and flute, with the “oldies” singing the more classical traditional songs and to the tune of the modern keyboard instrument with the youth singing a more modern upbeat Kachin song. It was a unity dance for the whole community.
A solemn procession followed the Manau dance which was then followed by a community dinner. Then a show was staged until late hours in the evening.
On March 26, Saturday, a thanksgiving mass was held early in the morning at at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for all the people who prepared for and participated in the combined jubilee celebrations. Then following immediately the thanksgiving mass another mass in honor of the Columban Missionaries and all the other missionaries, especially the French Missionarie who died in Banmaw while on mission was celebrated by Eamon Sheridan at the graveyard where they were buried. The mass was concelebrated by Colm Murphy, the four (4) Kachin bishops and a good number of diocesan priests. The people still flocked to the cemetery despite the fact that they had already attended the thanksgiving mass. It was also drizzling at that time. It was a good time for many, especially for those who came from far away places, to pay visit to the Columban Missionaries whom they have loved and missed.
The joint Jubilee celebrations watered the fruits of the seeds that have been planted by the brave encouraging Columban Missionaries 75 years ago. It is hoped that by it the fruits will shed-off more seeds that will grow and continue to multiply and bear much more fruits… then Banmaw Diocese will not only be a vineyard of good and inspiring memories but of a faith that is alive and growing.
It is only with the love and grace of God that all things came to be, has come to be and will be.
Arlenne B. Villahermosa
Columban Lay Missionary