Loikaw Diocese, located in Kayah State, is the smallest of all 14 States and Divisions in Myanmar. It covers an area of 4,500 square mile, mostly hills and mountains. It is bordered with Thailand in the East, Shan State in the North, and Karen State in the West and South. The Population of Kayah State is about 355,656 resulting in an average population density of 17 persons per sq. km. About three quarters of the population are ethnic minority groups; Kayah, Kayaw, Kayan, etc… While the remaining quarter are Burmese, Shan and Karen.
Christianity and Buddhism are the two dominant religions in Kayah State. This place is regarded as the stronghold of Catholic in Myanmar. Efforts have been made to reach out or have dialogue with people of other religions.
The 25 years of brief history of Loikaw Diocese actually began with the arrival of zealous, self-sacrificing and lifelong dedicated PIME Missionaries in 1868. All present areas of the dioceses of Taungngu, Taunggyi, Kengtong, Lashio and Loikaw have been almost exclusively evangelized by these great PIME apostles out of whom at least four priests died a martyr’s death, many preferred and actually laid down their lives in the missionary lands.
It is recorded that Rev. Fr. Antonio Cazzuloni, PIME, was the first missionary to have visited and resided in Solyaku, 20 miles from Loikaw in 1893. From there, missionary activities were extended to Yado, Hoya, Dorokhu, Moso, Ghekaw, Dolasaw, Mawchi, Shadaw, Taunggyi and Kengtong as part of Taungngu Diocese.
In 1960, the diocese of Taunggyi inclusive of the whole Kayah State was established with territories taken from Taungngu Diocese. The tireless efforts of the first Bishop, Msgr. J. B. Gobatto, produced abundance of Catholics, priests and religious and it was felt that Kayah State with Loikaw as capital was ready to be a diocese on her own.
The prophetic vision of Rev. Fr. Paolo Manna (a candidate to sainthood) in 1907 that Loikaw should be established as a center from which to expand the evangelization works in the whole of Kayah State came true on April 22, 1989, when His Holiness John Paul II erected the diocese of Loikaw and created its first Bishop Msgr. Sotero Phamo from Kayah soil.
Loikaw Diocese was officially established on April 22, 1989 with territory taken from the Archdiocese of Taunggyi, consisting of 7 Townships, with the Kayah State, Eastern part of Myanmar.
Soon after its erection as the new diocese in 1989, Loikaw Diocese continued with the Little Evangelizers program which was instituted a year before in 1988. After four years of Evangelization activities in Shadaw area, there was a conversion of about 3,500 people. Since then 1,083 young people joined Zetamans and committed at least three years services happily. Their zeal and dedication proved that lay people can contribute immensely in the missionary work. Even five of them lost their lives while working in the field of evangelization.
The institution of the Diocesan Pastoral Council on February 5, 1993 has been a big step in the building up and growth of the diocese. Every parish formed its own Pastoral Council to coordinate the apostolate activities of every pious association in the diocese such as Catholic Action, St. Anne’s Association, Legion of Mary, Youth, Daughter of Mary, Catechists, Zetaman, Kyaungdagas, Religious and Priests.
The evangelization of the Church is not limited only to the spiritual aspects but it covers the integral human being based on the teaching of the Church. To promote human and social development in the diocese, Loikaw Karuna was founded on August 23, 1993 and it began the works for all in basic health, education, rural water supply, agriculture and community development animation courses.
The Diocesan Pastoral Center constructed in 1990 for clergy and administration office was completed and blessed in 1995. The First Diocesan Pastoral Congress was held on April 17-18, 1996 participated by the then 24 parishes. After presentations and proposals were made by parishes, institutes and other associations, decisions and plans were laid down for future pastoral activities for the diocese.
The diocese celebrated its Tenth Year Anniversary on April 22, 1999. The anniversary celebrated was marked by the Second Diocesan Pastoral Congress held on April 17-21, 1999. The primary objective of the Congress for the diocese was to become a self-governing and self-evangelizing Church.
On the occasion of the Millennium Jubilee celebrated on November 25, 2000, the new Christ the King’s Cathedral was consecrated. The occasion was solemnized with the ordination of seven new priests attended by over 30,000 faithfuls, 4 bishops, 200 priests, and 300 religious.
The diocese held its Third Diocesan Pastoral Congress on May 21-23, 2003. With its aim towards a participatory Church, the Congress urged every faithful to actively get involved in all the liturgical leading roles of the Church and to begin the self-supporting projects by Sunday donation, regular contribution of tithe and giving Mass offering by every family.
Loikaw Karuna celebrated its Tenth Anniversary on December 10-12, 2003 reevaluating the role it has played in sectors of social development, education and rural health-care. It is the goal of Loikaw Karuna to become witness of God’s love and for the evangelization work of the local Church.
In communion with the Universal Church, the diocese is celebrating the Eucharistic Year from October 2004 to October 2005 at diocesan level. Diocesan Eucharistic Day was celebrated on November 21, 2004 with ordination of five new priests attended by over 10,000 faithfuls. The program also consisted of the Holy Eucharist adoration by groups and concluded with the Eucharistic procession in the evening.
The Fourth Diocesan Pastoral Congress was held on November 22-15, 2006. The congress reviewed the past achievements of the Third Congress and laid down further plans to carry on with the decisions of the Third Congress for making the diocese a fully participatory Church. It also stressed on the participation of lay people in the activities of the Church in the diocese and supporting the local Church as well through donations which are to be collected in a more organized way by the persons concerned. The Congress was followed by the ordination of three new priests on November 26, 2006.
Invited by Bishop Sotero Phamo of Loikaw Diocese, the Apostolic Delegate to Myanmar, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, visited Loikaw Diocese on November 22-25, 2007. As Bishop Sotero Phamo was striken by stroke and being unable to speak and move well, the Apostolic Delegate ordained eight new priests for the diocese on November 25, 2007.
As the number of priests has increased and demanded by the need of people, three more parishes, Sondu, Tananukwe and Yusomoso were erected in the early year 2008 and Nwalovo was erected as a parish in 2014 making a total of 35 parishes in the diocese. Considering the increase in the number of priests and need of various charisms as well, the bishop of the diocese has opened the option of his diocesan seminarians to other religious congregations such as Order of Dominicans, Missionary of Faith, Jesuits, Salesian, Augustinians, PIME and La Sallete. The bishop also introduced young girls to new religious congregations such as Blessed Sacrament, Daughters of Charity, and Dominican Sisters.
As pastoral contribution to the universal Church some priests were sent as part time missionaries to other parts of the world such as, Papua New Guinea, United State of America, Italy, Africa, South America, Japan, and Thailand.
The Fifth Diocesan Pastoral Congress was held on September 25-26, 2009 discussing the new ways of evangelizing activities and revising the realized and unrealized decisions made in the previous congress with the vision that people may have life and have it abundantly. (cf. Jn 10:10).
Due to his deteriorating health and premature aging, Bishop Sotero Phamo asked for an auxiliary Bishop and Rev. Fr. Stephen Tjephe was nominated as auxiliary bishop of Loikaw on June 19, 2009. Despite his failing health, Bishop Sotero Phamo worked for months on extending the diocesan center composed of a meeting hall, refectory, chapel and compartments for the new bishop. The newly nominated bishop was then ordained on November 21, 2009 by Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, the Apostolic Delegate to Myanmar at his second visit to the diocese. On the following day, November 22, 2009, two new young priests were ordained for the diocese.
The Sixth Diocesan Pastoral Congress was held on November 21-24, 2012 with the theme, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth” (1Cor 3:6). Bishop reminded the members that the Silver Jubilee of the diocese is to be celebrated in 2014 and he stressed the importance of lay participation in the administrative works in Church. He concluded by saying that although we do not see much visible growth in the diocese all have to do their parts and God will do the rest and give the growth.
On December 9, 2013, the Holy Father, Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of the Servants of God Mario Vergara, Priest of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions, PIME and Isidoro Ngei Ko Lat, lay and catechist, killed in hatred of faith “odium fidei”, in Shadaw, Loikaw Diocese, Myanmar on May 24, 1950. On May 24, 2014, they were beatified in the Cathedral of Aversa in Italy.
On April 26, 2014 the Holy Father, Pope Francis, accepted the resignation of His Excellency Bishop Sotero Phamo from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Loikaw and appointed His Excellency Bishop Stephen Tjephe, Auxiliary Bishop of Loikaw, Apostolic Administrator of the same diocese.
On April 26-27, Loikaw Diocese celebrated the Silver Jubilee of the establishment of the diocese and the Silver Jubilee of His Excellency Bishop Sotero Phamo, the first bishop of the diocese.
On November 12, 2014, His Excellency Bishop Stephen Tjephe, Auxiliary Bishop of Loikaw, was appointed as the bishop of Loikaw diocese. The installation of Bishop Stephen Tjephe as the second bishop of Loikaw Diocese was held on January 11, 2015 at Christ the King Cathedral. The installation Mass was presided by His Grace Archbishop Paul Tschang In-nam, Apostolic Delegate to the Republic of Myanmar. In brief, the following is the data of the present Church of Loikaw Diocese:
Percentage 29.37 %
Associate Parishes 4
Priests – Diocesan 96
– Religious 40
Religious Sisters 195
Little Evangelizers (Zetaman) 122
Major Seminarians 24
Intermediate Seminarians 11
St. Joseph Brothers 2
Little Brothers of St. Francis Xavier 5
Lay Apostolate Associations 14
“Proclaiming, Worshiping and Witnessing Community of God”
The Catholic Church of Loikaw is a community that is one in spirit, nourished by the Word of God, proclaiming, witnessing, and working for evangelization and human development that is rooted on charity and peace so that all may have life in abundance.
To see our vision we commit to:
– Build a church that is participative, inculturated, self-reliant and missionary in outlook
– Engage in dialogue with other religions by mutual understanding and cooperation
– Touch the hearts of the people, especially the poor through charitable assistance, socio-economic projects, educational understanding and the use of modern media communication.
Reconciliation and Peace
Relief and Welfare
Our Strategic Goal
People in Loikaw live in peace and harmony with dignity, hope and
piritual motivation for service founded on the social teaching of the Church for a deeper sense of responsibility to Church, family and for one another in education, health and economic improvement.
OUR STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK
Our framework for development is founded on the Catholic social teachings. Realizing the need for reconciliation and peace among tribes and people of different religions and serving everyone regardless of religious belief, peace shall be the end goal of our activities. The means to achieve this is relief and welfare for the displaced, catechetical formation, health services, basic education and poverty alleviation. Families, youth and children participating in the programs shall be given religious instruction and understanding of faith for harmonious relationship with others.