12/10/2019, 14.42
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Fr Kinley Tshering is Bhutan’s first priest following a meeting with Mother Teresa

by Kim Ae-ran*

The priest, who studied under the Jesuits, was baptised in secret. He covertly nurtured his vocation until a chance meeting on a plane with the Saint from Kolkata. He dreams of opening a facility for needy children and serve as an example for the vocation of other priests.

Thimphu (AsiaNews) – A meeting with Mother Teresa of Kolkata kindled a vocation that turned an entrepreneur into Bhutan’s first priest, a desire he had in his heart since he was a child but which he had always had to suppress because of opposition by his family.

Fr Kinley Tshering, former Jesuit provincial superior in Darjeeling, India, is now back home to serve the Church and his native land’s tiny Catholic community of about 100 members. A sister of the Daughters of St. Paul wrote about him for the Korea Times.

Recently by chance, I met Fr. Kinley Tshering, former provincial superior of Darjeeling Jesuit Province in India, the first and only native Bhutan Catholic priest.

Bhutan is a close Buddhist theocracy with a population of less than a million, located in the Eastern Himalayas in South Asia, sandwiched between India and China. Bhutan is the second least populous nation after the Maldives. Bhutan and the Maldives were only two countries without Catholics. But about 10 years ago, the Bhutan government allowed freedom of religion, and at present, there are about 100 Catholics, mostly from Nepal or India.

Peaceful Bhutan with the best gross national happiness is the only carbon-negative country and the least corrupt. A place where smoking and damaging nature are banned. Never having been colonized, Bhutan was able to develop a distinct identity based on Buddhism introduced in the 7th century AD. Basic education and health care are free for all in Bhutan.

Foreign missionaries are not allowed to live in Bhutan; only native Catholics or Christians can work. About 77 percent of the population is Vajrayana Buddhist and about 23 percent is Hindu. Less than 1 percent of the population follow other religions.

Born in the upper class in Bhutan, Fr. Kinley was amazed when he saw the little child in the manger in Christmas cards. When he went abroad at age 5 to a boarding school run by Jesuits in Darjeeling, he saw the crucifix in a convent, and the sisters explained to him the story of the little boy in a manger in relation to the man on the cross.

At age 15, on May 18, 1974, he was baptized in secret. Despite the objection of his family, he aspired to be a priest; but due to the objection of nearby missionaries, he entered university, earned an MBA, and worked in a company for three years. Being the first MBA holder in Bhutan, graduating from the prestigious IIM-Bangalore, he had many opportunities to succeed.

One day, on a business flight to Kolkata in 1985, he sat next to Mother Teresa who awakened in him a calling to the priesthood when he confessed his wish to be a priest. Holding his hands, Mother Teresa said, "Many people don't talk like you. You have a vocation. You should be a priest."

Over his Bhutanese coat (culture), he has put on his Christian coat (faith). Being inclusive, he can understand Catholicism better thanks to his Buddhist background. He became a priest because he was fascinated by Christ's love. Looking at missionaries dedicating themselves to the poor, he also desired to live for the poor. He joined the Society of Jesus on June 21, 1986, was ordained on Oct. 23, 1995, served as a principal at St. Joseph's High School, and also served for the Jesuit Province for six years.

For the last two years, he has worked as a missionary in Bhutan. His dream is to build a social welfare center to help the poor in Bhutan. He is not allowed to build a Church, but building a Catholic center to help and educate boys in need is possible.

Another dream of his is to make a native to be a priest. He hopes to be "a man for the marginalized, a servant of the joy of the Gospel, to smell like the sheep, to go out where others don't want to go to love and serve. My goal is not to convert people. I think practicing mercy and love is more important."

*Member of the Daughters of St Paul

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