Seminarian Martin Ma Na Ling bows his head in prayer during his March 20, 2021 Mass of Ordination to the Diaconate at Holy Spirit Parish in Bowling Green. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC
‘God brings good’
Diocese celebrates diaconate ordination of Martin Ma Na Ling
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
On March 20, 2021, Martin Ma Na Ling, a seminarian of the Diocese of Owensboro, was ordained to the transitional diaconate by Bishop William F. Medley at Holy Spirit Parish in Bowling Green.
The Mass was by invitation-only due to COVID-19 pandemic guidelines – resulting in a small and socially-distanced congregation – but it was livestreamed on Holy Spirit’s Facebook page for others to celebrate in spirit.
To the diocese’s knowledge, Deacon Ma Na Ling is only the second Myanmar-born seminarian to be ordained in the United States.
In 2017, Deacon Ma Na Ling had arrived to study for the priesthood in the Diocese of Owensboro with Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than, who was ordained a priest in 2020. They had been sent by Bishop Lucius Hre Kung of the Diocese of Hakha, Myanmar (also known as Burma), in order to serve the growing Burmese population in western Kentucky.
The celebration was bittersweet, as Deacon Ma Na Ling’s family in Myanmar could not travel for his ordination due to pandemic travel restrictions. Myanmar itself has been in political and social upheaval following a Feb. 1, 2021 military coup, resulting in protests and civil disobedience from citizens and violent retaliation by the military. Deacon Ma Na Ling’s family was unable to watch the livestream in real-time, due to the country’s mobile network being shut down by security forces.
During his homily, Bishop William F. Medley collaborated with Fr. Van Lal Than, who translated the bishop’s English homily into Burmese.
The bishop said that this was a great day for both the Diocese of Owensboro and for the small Catholic community in Myanmar – but amid the joy, “our hearts are burdened that the nation of Myanmar is suffering again.”
“Some of you may have family in harm’s way,” said Bishop Medley. “This present crisis is not the first… The very fact that in Kentucky, we have had Myanmar people come because suffering and persecution in the land are not new to its people.”
But Bishop Medley explained that just like Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, which would be celebrated during the Triduum in just a few weeks, “God brings good things even out of bad things.”
“Were it not for the tragic upheaval in Myanmar, many of you would never have come here, and if you had not come, then Martin Ma Na Ling, and Fr. Stephen, would never have come here either,” said the bishop.
The bishop specifically addressed Deacon Ma Na Ling’s family in Myanmar – though acknowledging that he did not know when they would be able to watch the video recording – saying, “Thank you for the gift of this good man. He came to the United States with courage and trust in God; thank you his family for allowing him to answer God’s radical call.”
The Mass itself looked different from ordination liturgies pre-pandemic: singing was limited to the cantors and masks were required to be worn by all attendees.
And yet, as Deacon Ma Na Ling wrote in a later email to his fellow seminarians, the vocations office team and others of the diocese, “it was amazing and wonderful.”
“I would like to thank God and praise him for all his blessings upon me and for our Mother Diocese of Owensboro,” he added, affirming the hard work and sacrifices of those who planned his pandemic-era ordination. “But I would like to say again that I thank all of you for your participation from the bottom of my heart and I really thank the cantors, the musical instrumental players and the servers of the Mass.”
“I thank Bishop William Medley and the Diocese of Owensboro for all he did for me,” said Deacon Ma Na Ling.
Watch the livestream
Watch the recorded livestream of Deacon Martin Ma Na Ling’s ordination at https://bit.ly/3u0ePFp.
Originally printed in the April 2021 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.