Jesuit priest yearns to return to Buddhist homeland

.- The first Buddhist convert to Catholicism from the country of Bhutan, Fr. Kinley Tshering, is hoping to return to his Buddhist homeland once his term as rector of St. Joseph’s School in Darjeeling, India is up.

The 49-year-old Jesuit does not know what he would do in his native Bhutan since Buddhism is the state religion and the government, as a policy, does not tolerate other religions. Christians remain social outsiders.

But he told UCA News that he would like to simply be present there and discern God’s will in terms of how to proceed. The priest, who is related to Bhutan's royal family, says he hopes Bhutan will become a democratic nation soon. The new constitution guarantees freedom of conscience, but churches are still not allowed.

However, religious tolerance exists in Thimpu, the capital city, and the priest says the anti-Christian phobia seems to have relented a little in recent years. Furthermore, the royal family “is very tolerant toward Christianity. The present king and all the queens studied in our schools," the priest told UCA News.

Nevertheless, Christ is present in Bhutan. The priest owns a house in Thimpu, where he keeps the Blessed Sacrament. About 60 Catholics, mostly Indians, pray there on Sundays. Besides Fr. Tshering, priests from India visit the country occasionally to attend to these Catholics' pastoral needs. No Catholic priest from outside Bhutan is permitted to stay in Bhutan permanently.

Fr. Tshering said he learned about Christianity at a Jesuit-run school. He wanted to become a Catholic, but the Jesuits had refused.

A Salesian priest, however, baptized him in 1974 when he was in the ninth grade. He recalled that his father was "very upset" about his conversion. While no one in his community persecuted him because of his high caste, no one approved of him either.

After becoming the first Bhutanese to earn an MBA, he worked in some prestigious Indian firms for three years. He wanted to become a Catholic priest, but some missioners dissuaded him. All this changed in 1985 after a chance meeting with Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who convinced him that he had a religious vocation.

He joined the Jesuits when he was 26 and was ordained a priest in 1995. He said his faith has never wavered though he is concerned about the “many dissenting voices in the Catholic Church.”

Jesuit priest yearns to return to Buddhist homeland

DARJEELING, India — The first Buddhist convert to Catholicism from the country of Bhutan, Fr. Kinley Tshering, is hoping to return to his Buddhist homeland once his term as rector of St. Joseph’s School in Darjeeling, India is up.

The 49-year-old Jesuit does not know what he would do in his native Bhutan since Buddhism is the state religion and the government, as a policy, does not tolerate other religions. Christians remain social outsiders.

But he told UCA News that he would like to simply be present there and discern God’s will in terms of how to proceed. The priest, who is related to Bhutan's royal family, says he hopes Bhutan will become a democratic nation soon. The new constitution guarantees freedom of conscience, but churches are still not allowed.

However, religious tolerance exists in Thimpu, the capital city, and the priest says the anti-Christian phobia seems to have relented a little in recent years. Furthermore, the royal family “is very tolerant toward Christianity. The present king and all the queens studied in our schools," the priest told UCA News.

Nevertheless, Christ is present in Bhutan. The priest owns a house in Thimpu, where he keeps the Blessed Sacrament. About 60 Catholics, mostly Indians, pray there on Sundays. Besides Fr. Tshering, priests from India visit the country occasionally to attend to these Catholics' pastoral needs. No Catholic priest from outside Bhutan is permitted to stay in Bhutan permanently.

Fr. Tshering said he learned about Christianity at a Jesuit-run school. He wanted to become a Catholic, but the Jesuits had refused.

A Salesian priest, however, baptized him in 1974 when he was in the ninth grade. He recalled that his father was "very upset" about his conversion. While no one in his community persecuted him because of his high caste, no one approved of him either.

After becoming the first Bhutanese to earn an MBA, he worked in some prestigious Indian firms for three years. He wanted to become a Catholic priest, but some missioners dissuaded him. All this changed in 1985 after a chance meeting with Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who convinced him that he had a religious vocation.

He joined the Jesuits when he was 26 and was ordained a priest in 1995. He said his faith has never wavered though he is concerned about the “many dissenting voices in the Catholic Church.”

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