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Franciscan Sisters complete 100 years of relentless service in Myanmar

On route for Prang Hkudung on horseback in 1928 (Photo supplied)

In 1819, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary set foot on Myanmar soil at the request of Father John Wehinger, MEP, to care for the lepers of Mandalay.

Father Gilhodes, MEP who was in Prang Hkudung, who had a primary school saw the urgent need for a group of sisters who would help in school and in health care, livelihood, etc.

He requested the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and the request was granted. The FMM sisters arrived on February 11, 1923, after a long and tiring journey from Mandalay.

Dispensary of Ave Maria Convent at Prang Hkudung Parish (Photo supplied)

The sisters served as teachers in school and soon opened a dispensary as diseases were rampant in the area with no hospital around. The diseases at that time were malaria, dysentery, black water and others. The sisters worked hard and could save many lives, even though there was no doctor.

Kachin orphan girls at work (Weaving) in 1925 (Photo supplied)

Thereafter,  the sisters opeedn an orphanage for 300 children, a weaving center for young girls, etc. Their works were numerous.

Family Visitation of Mother Berlindis and Sister de Lourdes in 1949 (Photo supplied)

One local Kachin girl, Sister de Lourdes, joined the FMM sisters. Her parents did not agree with her intention to be a nun, but Sister de Lourdes did not give up. And she could join the Franciscan.

The poverty and misery were terrible for the FMM missionary sisters.

FMM Sisters at Prang Hkudung Community in 1962

The sisters visited the surrounding villages on foot or on horseback. The work was tiring indeed, yet they were happy to fulfill their mission.

The first-comer, Sister Perpetual died of disease. With her, there were five sisters who gave their lives there in Prang Hkudung Parish.

During World War II, all the missionaries were arrested and detained at Banmaw and Mandalay prisons in 1942.

After WWII, everything began again. Mother Francisca and four others resumed the work in Hkudung with Father J. Kalleher, Columban priest as parish priest.

Again, they continued the missionary work. Mother Francisca died in less than a year after her arrival. It was a big shock and a great loss for the mission.

Group Photo of FMM Sisters at Centenary Jubilee at Prang Hkudung Parish (Photo by RVA Kachin Jinghpaw)

Slowly, the local FMM sisters took up the job, continuing the same mission after all the foreign missionaries were expelled in 1966.

During the Civil War of 1962-63, the sisters had to leave with hardship and inconvenience.

Again in 2011, the FMM sisters were forced to move with sadness and pain to Nhkawng Pa with the people as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) because they could no longer stay in Prang Hkudung due to the civil war.

During this time of chaos, the FMM sisters tried to visit the houses from time to time despite many difficulties.

The FMM sisters marked their service of 100 years in Prang Hkudung Parish amid the hardships and difficulties of poverty, sickness with poor healthcare and the unsecured situations due to the civil war.

Group Photo of participants at Centenary Jubilee of FMM Sisters (Photo by RVA Kachin Jinghpaw)

Sisters of Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) in Myanmar celebrated the centenary Jubilee of their arrival in Prang Hkudung Parish, Banmaw Diocese, Myanmar, on February 11.

Despite many hardships and hindrances, Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam of Banmaw Diocese, Emeritus Bishop Philip Lasap Za Hawng of Lashio Diocese, Emeritus Bishop Francis Daw Tang of Myitkyina Diocese, 19 priests, around 30 religious and over 1500 faithful celebrated the Thanksgiving Centenary Jubilee Mass at the Immaculate Conception Church in Prang Hkudung Parish, Banmaw Diocese, Myanmar.

Prang Hkudung Parish is located East of Banmaw Diocese, Kachin State, North of Myanmar.


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