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Myanmar Diaspora community holds conference in the USA to mark cultural roots

Karen American Catholic Community holds annual meeting place at the Catholic Center in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, USA, from August 5 to 8, 2022. (Photo supplied)

The Karen American Catholics, a diaspora community from Myanmar, held a conference to celebrate their roots, identity, and culture in Milwaukee, USA.

The Karen American Catholic Community (KACC) took place in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee at the Catholic Center, USA, from August 5 to 8.

The theme for this year was "We are all called to be saints, yes, even you".

Over 200 people from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas, Georgia, and New York attended the conference.

The Karen people live in Myanmar's hilly eastern border region, primarily in Karen State, Kayah State (Karenni State), and Myanmar's southern Shan State. They are a diverse ethnic group in Southeast Asia. They can be traced back to the Gobi Desert, Mongolia, or Tibet. They have a wide range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

The Karen people, along with Chin and Burmese Muslim refugees, are among the Burmese refugees who have settled in Phoenix, Arizona, and other parts of the USA. Burmese refugees have been the largest group resettled in Iowa since 2008, with Karen constituting the majority.

The KACC conference was planned for over six months ahead. The focus was on the youth, but there were some talks for parents as well. The Milwaukee Karen community provided food and lodging for participants.

"The conference was a success in my view. We had many opportunities for confessions, Mass, Eucharistic adoration, praise, and worship. We had talks on the Eucharist, confession, sexuality, and church history," said Father Seraphim, a Franciscan from St. Paul, Minnesota.

There were four nuns from the Congregation of St. Francis Xavier’s Sisters (SFX) community that helped out with the children's program. The Congregation was founded by Bishop Alexander Cardot, a French missionary (MEP) in 1897 in Myanmar, a country formerly known as Burma.  

On the last day of the conference, the participants took a trip to Green Bay, Wisconsin, and visited the only approved Marian apparition site in the USA.

Father Seraphim celebrated Mass, and the participants had time to pray the rosary. 

Karen American Catholic Youths listen to the talk on catechism (Photo supplied)

There is a plan for another conference next year, but the location has not yet been selected.

The first gathering was in 2016. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the KACC event was canceled in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

The KACC was created in 2016 to give spiritual and cultural support to Karen Catholic people living in the USA who do not speak Burmese. It is based in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the first KACC Conference took place.

Father Seraphim ministers to the Karen people in Minnesota and other states. He is also the spiritual director of KACC and one of the founders. The KACC Committee was founded in 2018.

"KACC's vision is for young people to grow in their love of God and knowledge, particularly in regard to faith, and to be true to their faith," says the priest.

It intends to use the prayerful Karen community as models, who value the lives of saints. It aims to have a community that is strengthened by loving each other.

KACC plans to have a yearly conference which will be the means of gathering the scattered Karen Catholic Church members all over the USA so that they may grow according to the call of Jesus.

It aims to maintain and safeguard the Karen culture and tradition among the Karen diaspora.

KACC strives to help and support the Karen refugees, especially those who are along the Thai-Myanmar border and in Myanmar itself, explains Emelda Thein, vice president of the KACC Conference. - Saw Hubert/ RVA Sgaw Karen Service


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