Bishop John Saw Gawdy with a Buddhist monk, nuns and laypeople after his episcopal ordination at Sacred Heart Church in Leiktho in Taunngu Diocese on Nov. 29. (Photo: Taungngu Diocese's social communication office)
Church leaders highlighted the role of missionaries at the episcopal ordination of the new bishop of Taungngu Diocese in Myanmar.
Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon hailed missionaries from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) who sacrificed their lives after facing war and imprisonment.
“We must be grateful to the missionaries whom God sent. Their blood and sacrifice water the gardens of Taungngu Diocese,” Cardinal Bo said in a homily during the episcopal ordination.
“As a good shepherd, bishops need to focus not only on the spiritual needs of people but the integral development of the people.”
The 73-year-old cardinal said the new bishop will face challenges including poverty as local ethnic people are poor.
“We need to empower local people to be educated and the new generation will be more in touch with the outside world than in the present situation,” he said.
Bishop Isaac Danu of Taungngu hailed Father Alfredo Cremonesi as a great missionary for the diocese and a tireless evangelist.
“The missionaries served many years before handing over to the local clergy and we have a deep gratitude for their evangelization effort,” Bishop Danu said.
Father Cremonesi was shot dead on Feb. 7, 1953, after serving in Myanmar for 28 years.
On March 19, Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to publish a decree recognizing Fatheer Cremonesi’s martyrdom.
PIME missionaries began evangelization in the village of Leiktho in Taungngu Diocese in 1868.
The diocese covers a vast mountainous and forested area and is home to various ethnic groups including the Gheba Kayin, Ghekho Kayah, Sgaw Kayin, Bwe Kayin, Sokhu Kayin and Burmese.
Some 66 priests serve the Catholic community, which numbers 41,600 of the 4.3 million population in the diocese, according to the 2020 Catholic directory.
Cardinal Bo concelebrated the Mass for the episcopal ordination of Msgr. John Saw Gawdy with four bishops at Sacred Heart Church in Leitho township in Taungngu Diocese on Nov. 29.
The ordination was a simple ceremony with not more than 30 people in compliance with orders from the health ministry following the surge in Covid-19 cases in Myanmar.
The faithful were urged to attend the episcopal ordination via livestreaming and to pray for the new bishop.
Pope Francis appointed Msgr. Saw Gawdy coadjutor bishop of the diocese on June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
As coadjutor, Bishop Saw Gawdy has the right of succession following Bishop Danu, the current bishop.
Bishop Saw Gawdy was born in the village of Domapholi in Leiktho Parish of Taungngu on Oct. 21, 1955. He belongs to the Gheba tribe and was born into a Catholic family.
He studied philosophy and theology at St. Joseph’s Major Seminary in Yangon. He then obtained a master’s degree in biblical theology at the Pontifical Josephinum College in Ohio, US. He was ordained a priest on April 9, 1983.
After his ordination, he served as a professor of philosophy at St. Joseph’s Major Seminary in Pyin-Oo-Lwin, rector of St. Paul’s Minor Seminary in Leiktho, professor at St. Jean Marie Vianney Interdiocesan Seminary in Loikaw, director of the Catechetical Center in Leiktho and parish priest of the church of Leiktho.