November 4, 2022

2022 Vocations Awareness Supplement

Hardships and blessings of Burmese seminarians prepare them for ministry

Archdiocesan seminarians Timothy Khuishing, left, and Khaing Thu pose on April 12 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archdiocesan seminarians Timothy Khuishing, left, and Khaing Thu pose on April 12 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

In the beginning years of the Church in central and southern Indiana, priests from France and later Germany came here to minister to immigrants from those two countries who settled in this section of the U.S. frontier.

Two archdiocesan seminarians are continuing that tradition today in a new way.

Thousands of Burmese Catholics from Myanmar in southeast Asia, many of them refugees from persecution there, began settling in Indianapolis about 15 years ago.

Among the first of those refugees were the families of seminarians Timothy Khuishing and Khaing Thu. Khuishing came with his family to Indianapolis when he was 11 in 2010. Thu was 11 when he arrived a year later.

The challenges of two young boys adjusting to life in a different culture dominated by a language different from their own was eased by the faith of their fellow Burmese Catholics in Indianapolis and at St. Mark the Evangelist Parish on the city’s southside.

“The Catholic Burmese community at St. Mark would meet at a family’s house every Saturday to pray the rosary,” Thu recalled. “I had a sense of community there. But at the bigger community at St. Mark, I felt at home, too.”

Both soon became students at the parish’s school and later at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis.

“I don’t know how our family would have been if the parish hadn’t been there,” said Khuishing. “It also helped me in my discernment, too. If I wasn’t in a Catholic school, I don’t know if I would have thought as much as I did about becoming a priest.”

Thu and his family were also helped in getting settled in Indianapolis through assistance from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Gratitude for the aid they received led them to become St. Vincent de Paul volunteers themselves. Such interactions in turn helped Thu in his discernment.

“Seeing the help that my family got and starting to volunteer, I knew what it was like to receive and to give,” he said. “The priesthood is all about giving.”

Thu also saw sacrificial self-giving in his father. As the Burmese Catholic community on the southside of Indianapolis began to grow, he made sure that they could get to Mass. He often was driving a carload to St. Mark, dropping them off and leaving to ultimately bring several more to the parish.

“My father taught me the importance of community, relationships and how we humans need to cling to each other and support each other in order to thrive and live fully as we are created to be,” Thu said. “He taught me through his actions by stepping up to be a leader of the Burmese community and serving them in many ways.”

Khuishing and Thu became archdiocesan seminarians after graduating from Roncalli. Both have now graduated from Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary and Marian University, both in Indianapolis, and are now receiving priestly formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

Although they now see the archdiocese as their home, the plight of their relatives and of all Burmese people have weighed heavily on their hearts and minds since the Myanmar military took over the country’s government in a February 2021 coup. The hometowns of both seminarians have been attacked by the military.

The air strikes against Khuishing’s hometown of Mindat in eastern Myanmar have been particularly fierce.

“Everyone had to flee,” he said. “They’ve been constantly on the move from village to village to get away from the military.”

Being so far away from the place of his birth and knowing how little he can do to help ease the suffering of the people there has led Khuishing at times to wonder why God would allow such terrible things to happen.

“I do have a lot of those thoughts,” he said. “What can I do? Is there something that I can do? I wish I had a superpower to go back there and help the people there. At the end of the day, though, there’s not much I can do other than pray. God is the only one I can rely on at this point.”

So, before or after every Mass he attends, Khuishing prays for the people of Myanmar.

Thu has taken a similar approach and also sought contributions for the people of Myanmar through Facebook. He recalled the early days after the coup when there was so much uncertainty.

“For me, it was very stressful not knowing where my aunts and uncles were,” he said. “Connections through phones and Facebook was the only way that we were updated on the situation.

“I was constantly texting my friends and family. So were my parents. I tried to do as much as I could to help through prayer and fundraising.”

Praying psalms several times a day in the Liturgy of the Hours has helped Thu. Many of the psalms speak of the suffering of the Israelites some 3,000 years ago. Thu sees in them a prayerful reflection of his own suffering and that of his people.

“I’ll read a particular stanza and wonder if it is talking about me,” he said. “I am able to relate to a lot of the psalms. I know God is talking to me a lot through that. I know that God is with me through my worries and sufferings.”

The challenges that Khuishing and Thu experienced in first moving to Indianapolis as children and more recently in their concerns about the suffering in Myanmar are preparing them to minister as priests to people caught in their own misery.

“There’s definitely a connection between my experience and the way that I’ll do ministry to people,” Thu said. “Most ministry is done from your own personal experience. That’s the best way to do ministry, because you know it yourself. You can understand what other people are going through. You can use your experiences in a way to help them.”

“God put me through that experience for a reason,” Khuishing said. “I’m almost certain that the priesthood is the vocation in which God wants me to give back to others. I’ll use my experiences to help others in [various] situations. I’m grateful. If it’s through the priesthood that God wants me to serve, then I’m grateful for that.”

(For information about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit

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