The church in Mongping town where Father Clement Visnara is buried
A group of 19 Myanmar delegates are in Italy to witness the beatification of Father Clement Visnara – ‘the Patriarch of Myanmar’ – in Milan’s famous Duomo cathedral on Sunday.
A native of Milan, Father Clement Vismara (1897-1988) served for 64 years as a missionary for PIME, Italy’s Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. He lived and worked among the untamed forests and remote, towering mountains of the Kengtung district, to the far east of the country.
There he cared for orphans, lepers, opium addicts and widows, introduced new crops and agricultural techniques and made great strides in building the Church among non-Christians.
A man of deep faith and a great writer, it was said that "he saw the extraordinary in the ordinary."
The Myanmar group comprises two bishops, nine priests and seven laypeople from Kengtung diocese, along with a priest from Taungngu diocese. Father Stephen Ano, director of Karuna Kengtung Social Service, is one of them.
“His unconditional love for the humblest of our society, especially the poor and abandoned children, was what inspired me most,” says Father Ano. “Father Vismara was a model missionary who found the perfect balance between work and prayer.”
Another of the group is Father Clement Angelo, spiritual director of St. Joseph’s Catholic Major Seminary in Yangon (Rangoon), who remembers Father Vismara well.
“I was baptized by him and I’ve been inspired by him for 18 years,” he says. “He worked so earnestly, setting up chapels and little schools and helping catechumens towards baptism.”
“By participating in this beatification, I can show my gratitude for what he has done for me over these 18 years and thank him for his good example and support.”
One person who talks of Father Vismara with especial reverence is Joseph Ta Ya Soe, a 21-year-old parishioner from Kengtung, who says he was miraculously healed through Father Vismara’s intercession.
“When I was 10, I fell out of a tree and was in a coma for days," he says. "The doctor told the Religious superior I had only a 50:50 chance of recovery and I would never be a normal person.”
"So the superior started to appeal to God for me. A picture of Father Vismara was placed on my chest and ceaseless prayers were offered. After three days, I recovered.”
The life of Father Vismara
Born in 1897 in Agrate Brianza, Clement Vismara took part in the First World War as a trench soldier, emerging from battle with the rank of sergeant and three medals for valour.
He became a priest and missionary of PIME in 1923 and left for Burma.
After six months learning English in Taungngu, the last city with a British governor, he set off for Kengtung, an almost unexplored land still ruled by a local king.
He remained there for the rest of his life and died on June 15, 1988. His resting place is in the town of Mongping, near the church and the grotto of Lourdes, which he built.
Myanmar missionary to be proclaimed blessed