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Journey of a school teacher to bring back relapsed Catholics

84-year-old Magdalena Paing Khu, a former school teacher, is remembered as one who rekindled the Catholic faith on an island village of Aima in Myanmar.
Magdalena Paing Khu who selflessly worked for people and the Catholic Church in Aima village, Pinle parish in the diocese of Pathein in Ayeyarwady Region of Myanmar. (Photo: Raymond Kyaw Aung)

An 84-year-old Magdalena Paing Khu, a former school teacher, is remembered as one who rekindled the Catholic faith on an island village of Aima in Myanmar.

In 1974, Magdalena got transferred to an island village of Aima, in Latbuta district, of Ayeyarwady Region of Myanmar.

Magdalena had to cross the Pyinsalu River with a small rowing boat to reach the island. On the day Magdalena decided to go across the river, a strong wind broke, and big waves disrupted her journey. She was discouraged but continued to pray.  The boatman could not cross over to the other side and return to the shore.

Magdalena was enthusiastic about going to Aima village, as she heard that there were Catholics on the island. In her previous assignment as a teacher, she was on another island called, Behtook. Magdalena longed for a Catholic community on the island but found no one.

The next day, Magdalena prayed and used the same boat to cross the river. To her surprise, there was neither strong wind nor huge waves. She was glad to come to Aima, a place she would call home for the rest of her life.

She was enthusiastic about the transfer, as she would get a Catholic community to live her faith. As a 9-year-old, Magdalena had converted from Buddhism to Catholicism. Later, she joined the convent, serving the Catholic Church as a nun for eight years. After discontinuing religious life, Magdalena became a government teacher.

When she arrived at Aima, Magdalena saw a few houses as the village with deep forest. She made the place her home. Magdalena got married to Mahn Sate Sate in Aima.

A few students from Aima and neighboring Amatgyi villages attended a one-teacher primary school made of bamboos during those days. The villages had a majority Catholic population. The number of students gradually increase, thanks to the dedication of Magdalena.

Imagine Magdalena handling over hundred students in the school.  After some years, the school was upgraded to middle school and now it is High School.

Daw Mary, a former student, says that Magdalena was generous and zealous in teaching students. But she was also strict with her students.

“Although alone, she (Magdalena) could bring all the students to pin-drop silence. It is unforgettable.”

Daw Mary is grateful for her teacher’s generous service and strict discipline. “Due to her good instructions, we could not forget what she taught to us since childhood.”

Teacher Magdalena Paing Khu also worked for Catholic Church by serving the faithful on the island even before catechists and nuns arrived. Currently, there are religious sisters on the island.

Magdalena continued to be zealous in motivating Catholics who neglected Church activities to join the community gathering. She was a powerful motivator for relapsed Catholics to attend prayer services and observe Catholic religious practices.

Father Patrick Zaw Lin Thant, the parish priest, appreciates her selfless service.

“She is an amazing woman who never considers for herself. Although she is getting advanced in age, she is still working for the parish until today.”

According to the Aima villagers, there will be a big ceremony paying homage to teacher Magdalena Paing Khu for her unselfish service to local people and the Church in the coming weeks.

Father Raymond Kyaw Aung, who was an assistant priest to Father Zaw Lin Thant said, “Teacher Magdalena is very helpful for the priests. She accompanied priests during the  anointing of the sick visits.”

 

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.

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