The Rector Major with his Council and the outgoing Superior for Myanmar (MYM) Vice Province, Fr Joachim Ye Maung, have announced that Fr Maurice Vallence will be the new Superior for the coming six year period. The precise date of the changeover is not known at the time of writing.
Fr Maurice is not new to a responsibility of this kind, since he was in a similar position, though as Delegate, when the then Burma circumscription was under Calcutta Province. Born 1944 at Maymyo in the Diocese of Mandalay, Fr Maurice has long been associated with the struggles of a small but stalwart, and now growing Salesian presence that has won the admiration of many, especially the people and the poor to whom they minister, local clergy and hierarchy. There were difficult moments in the Salesian story in the country when it even looked as if our presence there would not survive. Fr Maurice, Fr Joachim and others were amongst those who kept the flame alive.
Fr Maurice also spent some time in Rome at the General Administration, and brings that experience, too, as he prepares to assume the role of the second Superior for MYM, set up as a Vice Province under the patronage of Mary Help of Christians, in 2004. The 26th General Chapter in 2008 saw MYM become part of the East Asia-Oceania Region.
While the world has been able to follow political developments in the country over recent years, as it also followed the disastrous effects of Cyclone Nargis, the Salesian presence is less well-known outside the country. Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is the largest nation in Indochina, a little larger than Afghanistan, to gain an idea of its size. It is bounded by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, Thailand, which also helps understand its centrality and some of its challenges. In terms of religious adherence, the country is predominantly Buddhist, Christianity being just 4% or thereabouts of the population. Nevertheless there are 16 dioceses, and Salesians are present and active in four of these. Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon is also a Salesian. While some aspects of traditional Salesian work have to wait until Government policy allows them to develop, the outstanding feature of Salesian presence, its work for poor youth, is broadly acknowledged and supported. Marian devotion is strongly promoted by the Salesians also. The vice province has a strong missionary outlook amongst its own people, and a number of Burmese confreres are playing important roles in other parts of the Region.