US diocese ordains first Burmese priest in America

The Diocese of Owensboro in the United States has ordained on May 23 not only its first Burmese priest but the first in the United States.

Stephen Van Lal Than, a Chin, was ordained priest of Owensboro by Bishop William F. Medley at the diocese’s St. Stephen cathedral.

It was the first ordination in the diocese since 2006 and the first for a Burmese to be ordained priest in America.

“The newly ordained Father Stephen is already well-prepared for his ministry,” said Sister Suzanne Sims, formation director.

“His willingness to serve in the place far away from his native land is remarkable,” added the nun.

“I am unworthy to be chosen as a priest but the Lord has granted special graces upon me to be one of His priests. I rely on His blessing to do things for Him and with Him,” said the new priest.

In 2017, Than was studying in a seminary in Myanmar when he was given the opportunity to serve refugees from his country in the United States.

After three years of seminary studies at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Owensboro, Than completed his studies.

“I never would imagine that I would come here to become ordained,” he said. “I’m happy and excited I get to do what I am trying to do, to serve the people here in any ways I can.”

“He’s a remarkable individual and extraordinarily generous,” said Bishop Medley.

Father Than will serve as assistant pastor at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Bowling Green, where there is a significant population from Myanmar.