by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Three flags led the way as parishioners processed from Holy Family Church here to Msgr. Mejak Hall, and those flags had a story to tell.
The American, papal and Myanmar flags symbolized how Catholic refugee families from Myanmar carried their faith and heritage halfway around the world to become new Americans and establish a community in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
The Myanmar Catholic Community of Holy Family Parish celebrated its 10th anniversary on May 19 with a Mass, followed by a program of song and dance, and a dinner featuring a variety of Myanmar foods.
The main celebrant was Father Michael Van Lian, who celebrates the sacraments for the Myanmar communities at Holy Family and St. Patrick parishes in Kansas City, Kansas.
The homily was given by Father Chrysostom Ah Maung, a retired priest from the Diocese of Wichita, who is from Myanmar. Father John Htun Htun Naing, visiting from the Archdiocese of Mandalay, Myanmar, also concelebrated.
Before the final prayers and dismissal, Father Van Lian recognized the founding families of Holy Family’s Myanmar community. A special blessing was given to high school and college graduates. The first serving member of the U.S. military from the parish was also recognized.
During the reception following the Mass, Father Anthony Ouelette and Father Van Lian cut a ceremonial cake. Father Ouelette, who formerly served as pastor of All Saints, was given new Mass vestments as a gift of thanks.
Dance and song groups from Holy Family and St. Patrick parishes performed, and Rockhurst High School sophomore Le Tin presented a brief history of the community.
Myanmar has many different language and ethnic groups. The Myanmar people at St. Patrick Parish are Chin from Chin State. This group was established in 2013.
The Myanmar community at Holy Family Parish is comprised of seven groups: Karenni, Padong, Sagaw Karen, Poe Karen, ZoTung, Mindat and Kachin. They came from the states of Kaya, Karen, Kachin and Southern Chin in Myanmar.
The community initially established itself at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Parish (later part of All Saints) on April 12, 2009. Father Paul Lwin, a Myanmar priest from California, would occasionally visit to celebrate the sacraments for them in the Burmese language.
Later, Father Theodore Khing from the Diocese of Wichita would visit once a month. Father Michael Van Lian, from the Diocese of Hakha in Chin State, arrived at St. Patrick Parish in 2015, and began to celebrate weekly Mass for both groups.
When Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church was closed due to parish consolidations, the Myanmar community transferred to Holy Family, a historic Slovenian parish, in November 2017.
“In the 18 months since their arrival, we have been very favorably pleased with their support and participation at Holy Family Parish,” said Father Peter Jaramillo, SSA, pastor.
Although unable to attend the 10th anniversary celebration, he spoke with The Leaven before the event.
“We have 80 [Myanmar] families registered, which is almost double the number of parishioners,” he said. “There are currently 53 children at Resurrection Catholic School, four at Bishop Ward High School, one at Rockhurst High School [in Kansas City, Missouri] and nine at local colleges and universities.”
Since their arrival, members of the Myanmar community have also enlivened the sacramental life of the parish with 12 baptisms, 30 first Communions, three confirmations and seven weddings.
“We’ve also experienced an increase in our Sunday collections of almost $1,000 a month,” said Father Peter. “We’ve noticed that the [Myanmar people] are very faithful supporters . . . and love this parish, feel connected and are proud to call Holy Family their own.
“We’ve also observed how the [Myanmar people] are willing to take personal responsibility and be involved in parish activities, [including] our annual Slovenefest.”
Father Peter expressed gratitude for the vital pastoral ministry of Father Michael Van Lian and assistance of layman James Khung Min Than, who serves as representative and liaison for both Holy Family and the larger Myanmar Catholic Community.