Father Joseph Soosay is the First Priest of Mawlamyine Diocese in Myanmar to receive the honorary title ‘Monsignor’ from the Vatican.
He is also the first Catholic priest to be ordained in Mon State of Myanmar.
On March 1, Myanmar Mawlamyine Diocese celebrated the golden jubilee of Monsignor Joseph Soosay’s priestly ordination and the ceremony of conveying the title of ‘Monsignor’ to Father Soosay in Mawlamyine Diocesan Center, Myanmar.
The Vatican conveyed the title of ‘Monsignor’ to Father Soosay on December 11, 2022, but the ceremony was held together with his golden jubilee of priestly ordination on March 1.
“Monsignor” is a honorific title bestowed by Pope on a priest who has distinguished himself by exceptional service to the church. It is not the empowerment of the authority to a person but to honor and grace a person worthy of honor.
Coadjutor Bishop Maurice Nyunt Wai of Mawlamyine Diocese and Bishop Justine Saw Min Thide of Hpa An Diocese, together with 42 priests and about 500 faithful, two Buddhist Monks, and some protestant leaders, took part in the celebration.
In his homily, Bishop Maurice Nyunt Wai said that many of the young priests died at an early age. Monsignor Soosay still has to write so many things, and he has to be still alive.
The prelate compared the life of Monsignor Soosay to the offerings of the Magi. He said that he is the current Magi of Myanmar.
"As the Magi offered gold to the newborn Child, so also Msgr. Soosay has offered his 50 years of the priesthood to the Lord. As the Magi offered Frankincense to the newborn Child, so also Msgr. Soosay has translated Mass Text and several Books. As the Magi offered Myrrh to the newborn Child, so Msgr. Soosay has offered his difficulties and hardships to the Lord. We are to imitate our leaders who modelled us for our daily lives," said Bishop Maurice.
Monsignor Soosay made important contributions to Catholic Literature in Myanmar.
In 2007, he completed the Burmese Missal, which was subsequently approved by CBCM. Subsequently, he completed the ritual for the celebration of the Sacraments and various Blessings. He also arranged the Ordo for ten years.
Msgr. Soosay translated into Burmese two documents of Vatican II, Dei Verbum and Sacro Sanctum.
He produced commentaries on the Gospel of Luke and Apocalypse in the Burmese Language.
He also translated some Encyclicals and papal documents; Laudato Si, Amoris Laetitia, Christus Vivit, Fratelli Tutti, Evangelii Gaudium, Gaudate et Exultatae, and Verbum Domini.
Afterward, he continued the work on Catholic Literature because his primary interest is literature and spirituality. He received some criticism and challenges in his career. There were also priests, religious and laity who encouraged him in his works.
Msgr. Soosay was born in 1946 in Bilin, Mon State, Myanmar. He studied at Yangon University and achieved BA Degree specializing in History.
Msgr. Soosay recalled his motivation for his priestly vocation, "When he was young, only five priests served Yangon to Kawthaung, a 1200-mile area. Priests from Mawlamyine Diocese used to visit once in three years due to fighting between Myanmar military and ethnic revolution forces. Children grew up without Catechism. There were youths without receiving the first communion. People died without the last sacraments. After seeing these situations, I desired to become a priest."
He joined Minor Seminary in 1964 and was ordained priest on March 1, 1973, by Cardinal Terence Cook of New York in St Mary's Cathedral, Yangon.
He was appointed professor at the Catholic Major Seminary, Yangon, for 7 years. While teaching at Catholic Major Seminary, he edited the annual magazine for two issues.
He also acted as Secretary to National Ecumenical Commission from 1980 to 1984 in Yangon.
Then he was posted as a Holy Family Church parish priest in 1985 (Now it is Holy Family Cathedral) for 20 years.
During his career in Mawlamyine, Msgr. Soosay started Ecumenical Movement in Mawlamyine Diocese in 1985. He was assigned as Secretary to the National Episcopal Commission for Liturgy from 2005 until his retirement in 2015.
It was during this period, he translated several liturgical texts into local language.
"During the struggle with Covid-19, I tried to nourish the faithful with my homilies online through OSC Mawlamyine and Radio Veritas Asia Karen Service social media," the monsignor stated.
"I am glad to have taken part in the formation of priests. Among my students, there were 10 bishops and over 100 priests. I have attended a few international meetings on liturgy. I have written some books in order to nourish the faith of the people through Catholic Literature," the monsignor described.
Msgr. Soosay lived an exemplary Christian and priestly life.. He is not for Mawlamyine Diocese only but for the entire of Myanmar. - By Hubert Saw
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