Martin Ma Na Ling at his home parish, Holy Spirit Parish in Bowling Green, on Jan. 1, 2021. COURTESY OF MARTIN MA NA LING
Hoping in the Lord in ‘good times and bad,’ seminarian anticipates diaconate ordination
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Seminarian Martin Ma Na Ling will be ordained a transitional deacon for the Diocese of Owensboro on March 20, 2021 – and while he does not feel “worthy to receive such a blessing from God,” he knows “it is Jesus Christ who chose me.”
In a Jan. 28, 2021 email interview with The Western Kentucky Catholic, Ling quoted John 15:16-17, in which Jesus says “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”
“I believe that God will guide me and help me to serve him faithfully,” said Ling, explaining that it has been his “dream and hope” to become a priest since he was a child growing up in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
The second son of Christopher Ling Mana and Elizabeth Khai Thang’s eight children, Ling grew up seeing priests visit to celebrate Mass and eat meals with the people of his village in Myanmar. He was also inspired by the example of his father, who is a catechist.
The call to the priesthood was strong on his heart, so Ling entered the seminary out of high school. And in January 2017, he was sent by Bishop Lucius Hre Kung of the Diocese of Hakha in Myanmar, to study and become a priest in the Diocese of Owensboro.
He arrived with now-Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than (ordained in 2020) in order to minister to the diocese’s quickly-growing community of Burmese Catholics. But Ling looks forward to serving all people of the diocese, not just the Burmese.
“As a transitional deacon, I will be ready to serve my bishop and the Diocese of Owensboro,” said Ling.
Ling said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges, as social distancing rules became the norm in the seminary (he is studying at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in southern Indiana), and he was unable to do pastoral ministry among the people.
But he has never felt alone: “I hope in the Lord in both bad and good times,” said Ling.
“One thing I learned because of COVID-19 is that we human beings are just guests in this world,” he said, reflecting that it is better to live one’s life for God by helping others. “Our life absolutely depends on God.”
Especially in these difficult times, Ling emphasized that “it is very important to help and love each other and to pray for one another,” and that he has observed how much parishioners need their church ministers for spiritual support and encouragement right now.
Looking back at the support he’s personally received, Ling expressed his gratitude to Bishop William F. Medley, vocations director Fr. Jason McClure, and Fr. John Thomas, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Bowling Green – Ling’s home parish in the United States.
He is also thankful to “my parents, my family members and my friends who have always encouraged and prayed for me in my vocation.”
“Finally, I thank my former Bishop Lucius Hre Kung for sending me to the United States and his prayers and encouragement,” said Ling.
The Diocese of Owensboro is pleased to announce that seminarian Martin Ma Na Ling will be ordained to the transitional diaconate by Bishop William F. Medley on Saturday, March 20 at 10 a.m. at Holy Spirit Parish in Bowling Green. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this will be an invitation-only event. Prayers for Martin are encouraged!
Originally printed in the March 2021 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.