A deacon from Laos who is currently very ill is set to be an ordained priest in the hospital on June 13.
With permission from his bishop, Deacon Khamsan Khountichak will be an ordained priest at 8.30 in the morning (local time).
Given his medical condition and hospital restrictions, many guests may not be allowed to attend the event.
“I knew Khountichak, who is also known as Mim when he was still a young student of St. Vincent School of Theology in Manila, Philippines, taking up the Introductory Theological Formation (ITF) in 2008 – batch No. 3 of this new program,” Vincentian Father Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, a professor of Theology from the Philippines.
Mim was the former student of Father Pilario at St. Vincent School of Theology in Manila.
He was a youth leader of his diocese in Laos and was under formation with the Fondacio community in the Philippines.
Fondacio is an international movement of Christians, diverse in culture, engaging in youth education and social development projects for poor communities.
“I remember him as a conscientious and enthusiastic student. After a year, he went home to serve in his diocese,” said Father Pilario.
Pilario met Mim for the second time when he started to pursue the training for the priesthood four years ago (2018). He became a full-time student of St. Vincent School of Theology’s curriculum for the Ordained Ministry.
Mim finished all his exams and requirements before going to the hospital. He was given his diploma in bed.
In between those years, he was joyfully ministering to the marginalized communities on the borders of Laos and Vietnam as a lay missionary. It was a hard life among the poor. But he was happy and fulfilled.
He worked with them on their farms, prayed with their families, baptized their babies, and blessed their special occasions. He was happily living with the people at the border true to what Pope Francis calls “having the smell of the sheep”.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, Mim was my partner in our gardening project. And what a farmer he was. He learned farming from the farmers themselves,” Father Pilario said.
But this life at the margins was not easy. Mim's influential presence became questionable to powerful people. For this, he was incarcerated twice. He endured the hard life inside. His theological learning was always colored by this experience.
“As I listen to him, this privileged experience fires him up every time he shares this joy to be with God's people,” Father Pilario said.
Recently, Mim became very sick. But his dream of the priesthood did not dim a bit despite this difficult challenge. His bishop permitted him to be ordained while in the hospital.
According to Pilario, the priestly ordination of Mim is “Rough road to priesthood.”
“Please join us in prayer on his ordination. Let us support him in his desire to be God's minister among the poor communities in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. Congratulations to him. We are proud of you,” Father Pilario said.
Laos is a tiny communist-ruled Southeast Asian country of 7.2 million.
There are about 60,000 Catholics in Laos, mostly ethnic Vietnamese and other ethnic groups like the Hmong, concentrated in surrounding areas along the Mekong River.
Laos has four bishops but no dioceses and Catholics are covered by four apostolic vicariates.
Christianity is a recognized religion in Laos but many Buddhists view Christianity as an alien Western faith. In rural areas, Christians are routinely victimized for their faith and expulsion of Christians by other villagers is common.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.