March 23, 2018

Paul Hnin builds bridges of unity between refugees and their new home

By John Shaughnessy

Paul HninDuring his 10 years as a refugee before coming to the United States, Paul Hnin kept dreaming of a life filled with three hopes:

A safe place to live.

The opportunity to provide a future for his family.

The freedom to live the Catholic faith he loves without fear of being persecuted.

Ever since arriving in St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis in 2016, the 33-year-old married father of two has been striving to provide that trinity of hope. Yet he doesn’t just do it for his family. He’s also the point person of those dreams for the 500 or so Catholics from the Hahka Chin community who fled their native country of Myanmar, and who now make their home on the south side of Indianapolis.

In less than two years, he’s worked with parish leaders to create a wealth of opportunities for his fellow refugees, helping them form a faith community within the parish, assisting their children in enrolling at the parish school, and making the preparations so they can receive the sacraments.

He has also arranged for English classes for the community, provides rides to bring the newcomers to parish and school events, and leads volunteer efforts among the refugee families to help at the school and the parish.

All these efforts have led to Hnin’s selection for the archdiocese’s Spirit of Service Award, which he will receive during the Catholic Charities Indianapolis event in Indianapolis on April 24.

“Paul has worked tirelessly to build bridges of unity and vision of how we can come together as Catholics in prayer and fellowship,” says Msgr. Anthony Volz, St. Barnabas’ pastor. “Paul’s efforts have brought Chin families to our parish and school which have been life-giving to our faith community.

“This new relationship with the Chin community has been given to us by God for our spiritual growth, and an encounter of God’s people from a different culture.”

St. Barnabas’ pastoral associate Patty Cain adds, “Language barriers are broken because Paul lives and speaks the language of Jesus—the language of love. Our lives have truly been blessed by Paul’s example of love and service to others.”

For Hnin, there’s a joy in all he does, stemming from the feeling of finding a home in America where “we don’t worry for our lives.” That feeling connects to a deeper belief.

“I need to help the people,” he says. “I don’t want them to lose the Catholic faith. I really believe in the Catholic faith and the sacraments. In my life, it’s so important.” †

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