Bishop Michael Smith visits Burma

09 Nov 2009

9 November 2009

Bishop Michael Smith visits Burma

Bishop Michael Smith, Bishop of Meath, departed yesterday for a visit to Burma in South East Asia.  Bishop Smith’s schedule involves visits to a number of projects supported by the Diocese of Meath.

Over recent years the Diocese of Meath has supported several projects in Burma.  Last month Bishop Smith received a letter from Archbishop Paul Grawng, President of the Bishops’ Conference in Burma, outlining the challenges facing the work of the Church in the country – see below.  Archbishop Grawng succeeded the Irish-born Bishop John Howe in his diocese.  The projects supported by the diocese include the building of Saint Patrick’s Church in Momauk and providing emergency relief after Cyclone Nargis last year, when a Meath diocesan collection raised over €130,000.  Assistance is also given to five schools for Burmese migrant children from St Colmcille’s NS (Gainstown), St Michael’s BNS (Trim), Scoil Mhuire (Navan), O’Growney NS (Athboy) and Donacarney GNS (Mornington).

The major project supported by the Diocese of Meath, in conjunction with the Columban Fathers, provides 18 boarding houses for 350 students in Northern Burma.  All of the Diocese’s funds for this work came from the donations received from parishes and individuals for Bishop Smith’s silver jubilee celebration earlier this year.

Bishop Smith said “this project gives the Church an opportunity to offer some formation to the students who attend the local schools.  Hopefully it will play a small role in preparing young people to play an active role in the Church and society, now and into the future.”  Every effort is being made to ensure that these boarding houses are suitably equipped and maintained, with proper standards of child-friendly care and supervision.

This link continues the work already done by the Irish Church – principally the Society of Saint Columban and Trócaire – in the region.  In the 1930s, the Society of Saint Columban was asked by the Pope to open a mission in Burma.  Its first Bishop was Bishop John Howe and, when he retired he came back to live in Dalgan Park, Navan.  Other residents now living at Dalgan Park who have also served in Burma include Fr Michael Healy, Fr Owen O’Leary and Fr David Wall.  Bishop Smith will visit Dalgan Park upon his return to celebrate the feast of their patron, St Columbanus, on 23 November next.

Notes to Editors

  • Bishop Smith’s visit takes place from 8 – 19 November.

  • Two photos are available to accompany this press release.  They relate to the new Saint Patrick’s Church, Momauk and a school rebuilt following Cyclone Nargis.  For these images or any further information, please contact Irene at 044 9348841 or [email protected]

  • From next weekend, the bishops’ office in Mullingar will be able to provide some photos from the current visit and excerpts from homilies and speeches delivered by Bishop Smith in Burma.

  • Extract from letter of Archbishop Paul Grawng, President of the Bishops’ Conference in Burma, to Bishop Michael Smith.  Mgr Grawng succeeded the Irish-born Bishop John Howe in his diocese:

“I am writing to thank you for your most generous donation when Cyclone Nargis hit our country.  Your donation was much appreciated and it was forwarded immediately to the Myanmar Disaster Relief Committee, which was an umbrella organization set up by the Catholic Church to bring the various organizations and groups together to respond more effectively to the crisis situation in which we found ourselves.

As you can imagine in the aftermath of the cyclone people were in dire need of just basic necessities such as clean water, food, tarpaulin for temporary shelter, blankets, mosquito nets and basic medicine. The Relief group got into action very quickly and truckloads of volunteers carrying supplies went to the people most in need. It was time of great struggle and pain for our people but also time of grace and solidarity when people worked side by side to help the needy people.

Your generous donation helped to finance all of this as well as the rehabilitation work which continues on to the present as villages are being reconstructed and the people receive counselling and other support to cope with the traumatic effects of the cyclone.

For us in the Catholic Church we appreciated very much the sense of solidarity with the universal church and your care and concern as well as your financial help that touched our people and us.

Gratefully yours in Christ,

Archbishop Paul Grawng, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Burma”

Further information:
Martin Long, Director of Communications 086 172 7678