On 5th February 2015, Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Myanmar kicked off a one year preparation for the 150th Jubilee celebration of the Good Shepherd presence in Myanmar. A special thanksgiving Mass held at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon on the 16th of January, 2016 marked the end of the Jubilee celebration. His Eminence, Archbishop of Yangon, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, presided over Mass.
“The journey of 150 years reminds us to honor the past, celebrating the present and to nurture a legacy of our mission for the future with hope," Sister Elizabeth Joseph, R.G.S., told CNA Jan. 19.
“It’s a joyful moment for our communities to be grateful to God and pay tribute to our founding members and missionaries who bravely dedicated their lives serving Christ through their service despite tough moments," Sr. Elizabeth said.
The Good Shepherd Sisters reflected on the following Jubilee themes:
“Rooted in God and in Reality”…”Remembering the past with gratitude”…”Embracing challenges with hope”…”Taking risk together for mission.”
As part of the spiritual preparation, the Good Shepherd Sisters had Jubilee reflections and monthly community sharing which started from February 2015 and ended in January 2016. One of the Rev.Sr’s said that the reflection helped deepen the sisters’ spirituality and strengthened their vision and mission “in the footsteps of our founding members." The preparations produced “deep joy and gratitude."
In his homily, Cardinal Bo, praised the contributions and service of the Good Shepherd sisters in the country.
He commended the sisters’ and thanked them for their role in the society; serving the disadvantaged, marginalized and oppressed. Comparing the sisters’ history to Myanmar’s most prominent river, the Irrawaddy he said:
“It flows to give life to the whole of Myanmar."
“The Good Shepherd sisters carry a mission of reconciliation, searching for the lost, healing the wounded, sharing merciful love…. which will continue to flow," Cardinal Bo added.
Provincial superior for Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, Sr. Regina Htoo, R.S.G., delivered a vote of thanks at the end of the celebrations. She thanked God and everyone who accompanied the journey of the congregation. She summarized the words of the sisters’ foundress, St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier: “gratitude is the memory of the heart."
The Myanmar congregation was founded by St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier, in 1866. In 1966, with the nationalization of the schools and the expulsion of missionaries, all the Good Shepherd missionaries were forced out of the mission and the country. Christian institutions were mistrusted and considered foreign.
Nine local Sisters returned to Myanmar in 1973 and re – founded the congregation. The Good Shepherd mission has grown remarkably in pastoral activities. Today there are 51 Good Shepherd Sisters, 2 novices and 9 candidates in Myanmar serving in over 6 communities in Myanmar.
In an attempt to empower women,the Sisters are committed to providing basic education and intensive vocational training for young women in social crisis. They offer skills training to young girls to help them to earn their living with dignity,they care for prostitutes, women at risk of human trafficking, and street children. The sisters are also active in healthcare, prison ministry social outreach and other related issues.They are very active in counselling services to individuals and families, also, with pastoral work in the parish
They also provide hostel care for students who come from rural areas to the city to study and day-care centers for HIV-positive children and the children of parents living with HIV or drug addiction.