Born in Pakse, the new priest was a lay missionary for years among the last and was jailed twice. As he completed his theological studies to become a priest in Manila, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The ordination took place this morning in the Philippines. For one of Fr Mim’s friends, his calling is a “rare vocation” but with it “God wants to bear fruit in another way”.
Manila (AsiaNews) – Khamsan Mim Khounthichak, a young Laotian from the Apostolic Vicariate of Pakse, was ordained priest this morning in his hospital bed in Manila. Suffering from a very serious illness, he was granted a special dispensation on health grounds.
He is a precious gift for the tiny Catholic Church of Laos, which has just 60,000 members, mostly ethnic Vietnamese and Hmong, in a country of 7.2 million inhabitants.
A young leader in his diocese in Laos, he travelled to Manila in 2008 to study theology with the Fondacio community, an international Christian movement whose members come from different cultural backgrounds to provide youth education and undertake social development projects for poor communities. Radio Veritas dedicated an article to his story.
“I remember him as a conscientious and enthusiastic student. After a year, he went home to serve in his diocese,” said Fr Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, a professor of theology.
As a lay missionary he visited marginalised communities living on the border between Laos and Vietnam, working with them on farms, praying with their families, baptising their children, and blessing their special occasions.
He was happy being with people on the margins, like a shepherd “having the smell of the sheep,” to quote Pope Francis.
Such a life on the margins was not at all easy, also because his activity was viewed with suspicion by the country’s communist authorities who jailed twice. He endured a hard life behind bars.
“As I listen to him, this privileged experience fires him up every time he shares this joy to be with God's people,” Father Pilario said.
As his vocation matured, he returned to Manila in 2018 to attend the Saint Vincent School of Theology to prepare for the priesthood.
Finally, last month, when he was about to graduate, he began to suffer from severe back pain and to experience difficulty in walking.
Hospitalised, he was diagnosed with spinal cord cancer in its terminal stage. For this reason, his bishop agreed to move forward his ordination.
"The vocation of this new priest is special,” said on Facebook Fr Trieu Pham Minh, a Vietnamese friend, who was a fellow student in Manila. It is a “rare vocation for his diocese and the Church of Laos. But with such a calling, God wants to bear fruit in another way, according to his holy will.”