Seminarian’s diaconate ordination celebrates ‘Church’s diversity and unity’

His transitional diaconate ordination on April 13 was “one of the biggest moments of my life,” but Deacon Stephen Van Lal Than also emphasized that this is “not the end, just the beginning” of his vocation to the priesthood.

“I’m just so happy,” Deacon Than told The Western Kentucky Catholic after his ordination Mass at Holy Spirit Parish in Bowling Green.

Deacon Than is originally from the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar, also known as Burma. Holy Spirit became his “home parish” after he came to the United States in 2017 to study for the priesthood in the Diocese of Owensboro.

Deacon Than, as well as fellow Burmese seminarian Martin Ma Na Ling, came to the diocese in order to assist with the needs of the growing Burmese population in western Kentucky.

Bishop William F. Medley ordains seminarian Stephen Van Lal Than to the transitional diaconate through the laying on of hands on April 13, 2019 at Holy Spirit Parish in Bowling Green. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC
Deacon Than is the first Burmese seminarian to be ordained a deacon in the Diocese of Owensboro, which is the next step on a seminarian’s journey toward the priesthood.

Sr. Suzanne Sims, OSU, the director of religious education at St. Pius X Parish in Owensboro, helps coordinate her parish’s Burmese ministry. Sr. Sims had brought a number of her fellow Burmese parishioners to attend the ordination.

“This is a celebration of the Church’s diversity and unity,” she told the WKC. “(Deacon Stephen’s) witness as a leader in the Church will enrich all of us – our Church, our diocese and our world.”

Fr. Brandon Williams, pastor of St. Leo Parish in Murray and co-coordinator of the diocese’s worship office, called Deacon Than “a humble servant of the Lord.”

“He is a great man; he will be a wonderful asset and a gift for our diocese,” said Fr. Williams, who served as Bishop William F. Medley’s master of ceremonies during the ordination.

Deacon Than said he “is so blessed and so grateful” for his friends and family who traveled from far away to attend the ordination Mass, including people from Michigan, Texas and Myanmar.