The memory of Fr. Noe, the last patriarch of the PIME mission in Myanmar
A teacher traces the life story of the priest, who died in March 2007, ten years after his death. He fulfilled his vocation "until the last day". He shared everything, the food and movements and lives of the faithful. His dedication to the people and to the emerging mission "began with these simple gestures."
Yangon (AsiaNews) - A missionary who has fulfilled his vocation until "the last day." Who refused to use the car to move into inaccessible areas, “ I will not let my parishioners walk while I travel in the car." A witness of Christ, who shared in every aspect of the lives of the faithful their food, language and customs. “His simplicity, his dedication to the people and to his mission, were visible in these simple gestures”, according to a Catholic Burmese, remembering Fr. Paolo Noe, priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), on the tenth anniversary of his death.
A protagonist of evangelization in Myanmar, he was considered "the last patriarch" of Myanmar. He was also the last remaining missionary in the country after the government closed its borders to foreign missionaries in 1966, expelling all those who had arrived before independence in Myanmar. The commitment Fr. Noah and PIME missionaries has generated many Christian communities and a new dynamic for development.
Fr. Paul was an epic heroic witness of many missionaries of the first evangelization which, in utter poverty, faced immense distances traveled on horseback or on foot for decades to meet villages, catechumens and Christians. Since 1867 PIME founded six dioceses in Myanmar. The commitment of PIME towards Myanmar continues with development aid and support in the education and training of local priests.
Here, below, the testimony of a teacher who has lived with the missionary in a hostel and has worked extensively in schools – of which she is now dean – given to AsiaNews:
The last missionary to have remained in Myanmar from the PIME missionaries among the few who remained from returns home from their mission under the dictatorship era, begin in 1962.
A father who brought his mission faithful till to the end of the life. Just one time, I met him alive at the ordination in 1997 at Le Htun village in Pekhon Diocese at that time under Taunggyi Arch diocese. His health was not very good anymore. Yet he came on foot for 3 hours from the hilly region where he lived, parish of Hwarikhu though Bishop of Taunggyi sent car to pick up him, he refused saying that "I can't leave my parishioners walking while I go with a car". He always refused to leave his parish and parishioners behind and cared for them like a father always.
He refused to eat special meals prepared for him and took the traditional porridge soup saying that's our food. His simplicity, dedication to the people and mission were visible from these very simple gestures.
He wrote to a young teacher, in Myanmar language, to come back to the village, while the teacher went to Taunggyi for her university studies. His words are so humble and touchy, saying "teacher, we miss you. The children are at the gate every evening waiting for your return. Without you how can they learn things etc".
Personally, for me, living there under fighting, travelling where there was no roads and no lights in the most remote area. It was unimaginable yet the only courage and testimony was the life of Fr. Noe's dedication. When I was travelling there, it was not my region, I didn't know the place and I couldn't speak the language, I had fear, yet I tried to ask Fr. Noe to pray for me, I told "if there were some danger happened to me, I would never return to his mission and the children, he asked to continue to support through our work.
All the years I were working in South Shan, I have heard of fighting against government and ethnic rebels, shots in the middle of town I went just an hour before I arrived, the shooting over town I were for rice and distributions for children support at all night. It was always happened a night before or after I left. I have never had a single problem all my travels and visit to the children in Pekhon, Loikaw and Taunggyi Diocese. I am sure that I have been accompanied and protected by his prayers. His mission still alive in us, by his life testimony.