ORANGEBURG—When Father Marcian Thet Kyaw arrived in South Carolina from Burma in 2002, he never dreamed that he would end up staying for a decade.
He has been recalled by his bishop to work in the Archdiocese of Yangon, and his last day in South Carolina will be Oct. 29.
As he prepares to return to his birthplace, now called Myanmar, Father Kyaw looks back on 10 years of service to very different communities of the faithful in four deaneries.
“My feelings are happiness, sorrow, everything all kind of mixed,” Father Kyaw said. “I learned a lot of things while I was here and that is a big gain for my diocese and for me. I will enjoy getting back to see my family because I’ve only been back twice since I first came to this country.”
His first assignments were at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, Prince of Peace Church in Taylors, and St. Anne Church in Florence. He spent four years as administrator of Church of the Infant Jesus in Marion and St. Louis Church in Dillon.
Since July, he has been parochial vicar at Holy Trinity Church in Orangeburg, also serving St. Andrew in Barnwell, missions in Springfield and Allendale, and a nearby prison.
Father James Dubrouillet, pastor of Holy Trinity, said his dedication and hard work made an impact, noting that Father Kyaw learned to read Spanish so he could celebrate Mass for the growing Hispanic population.
“I marvel about the sacrifice priests like him make when they come here to serve,” he said. “He knows how to pray with the heart of the church.”
Sally Allegria of Marion worked with Father Kyaw to have a rosary garden built for the parish back in 2009. The priest spearheaded a similar project while he was administrator at St. Anne, and had a grotto of Our Lady of Guadalupe built in Dillon.
“He was very devoted to the Blessed Mother and the rosary garden was a special dream of his,” Allegria said. “He felt like it was a charge, really, to build the rosary gardens wherever he went.”
In a farewell letter to the diocese, Father Kyaw wrote that he was inspired to build the gardens and grotto so Mary would guide and protect the parishes.
“I do believe that as long as Mother Mary is standing there and people have the devotion to her, their churches will stay open in spite of hardship,” he wrote. “I am glad to see that annual shrines and feast days have been celebrated since they were built.”
In Dillon, Father Kyaw led a small but remarkably diverse congregation of about 62 households that included long-time residents, retirees, Hispanics, Filipinos, and refugees from Africa. He worked with the parish council to build a new center so the different communities would have a place to meet and socialize.
He is thankful for the opportunity to serve in South Carolina and for the people who welcomed him.
“I want to give the credit to God for these years of serving Him and the people here,” he said. “Without His blessing and the loving care of Mary, mother of priests, it would have been impossible to accomplish what I did.”