Stephen Van Lal Than

  • Diocese/Religious Community Diocese of Owensboro

Degrees Pursuing at Saint Meinrad

  • Master of Divinity

What attracted you to the priesthood?

My love of God in the spirit of service is the driving force in my vocation to the priesthood. This desire to serve God and his people really attracted me to the priesthood. After so many years of formation and discernment, I am now convinced that priesthood is the best way for me to love God and the people.


Who or what influenced you to begin study for the priesthood?

During my childhood, I was really inspired by the lives of the missionaries (priests and nuns) who came to my native village. That is why priesthood is one of my childhood dreams. However, my thoughts about priesthood got more serious in my last high school year. I entered the “minor” seminary right after my high school.


What were you doing before you came to the seminary?

I did not have any experience in professional jobs. In my native village, most people are farmers, and people do not have a monthly salary; they just live from hand to mouth. I grew up helping my parents in our farmlands. From sixth grade until high school, I rented an apartment in a nearby town and lived there on my own for my education. That was when I started to manage everything with my parents.


Why did you decide to come to the United States?

On January 20, 2017, I came to the U.S. with Martin Ma Na Ling (a seminarian at Saint Meinrad as well). Our Bishop Lucius Hre Kung, in response to the invitation of Bishop William F. Medley, bishop of Owensboro, asked us to come here and study for the Diocese of Owensboro so that we could minister to the growing Burmese population in the diocese.


Many of the Burmese in the Owensboro Diocese do not speak English; so they need a priest who can minister to them in Burmese. Some do not even understand Burmese, but only their own dialects. 


God willing, when Martin and I become priests, (with the permission of Bishop Medley), our ministry might also be to all the Burmese in the whole country. Right now, our main focus is on the Burmese in Owensboro Diocese. 


Favorite saint and why?

St. Paul is my favorite saint for so many reasons. I was really moved and motivated by his undying zeal for the Gospel and his missionary spirit. He was focused on what he was called for – to bring the Good News to all the nations. I loved him better, especially when I realized that I was coming to this country all the way from Myanmar.


Favorite Scripture verse and why?

My favorite Scripture verse comes from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It is a constant reminder for me to always rely on God and his power working in me. It teaches me that all the things I accomplish, I do so by his strength and grace, and not mine.



My hobbies include music, sports and literature. I play different musical instruments, but my favorites are piano (especially electronic keyboard) and guitar. I also love singing, composing songs and listening to music. I also enjoy playing soccer, volleyball, cane ball (sepak takraw or kick volleyball), Ping-Pong and basketball.


What aspect of seminary life has been most rewarding?

The most rewarding aspect of seminary life has been the fraternity among us. I experience immense joy and peace in seminary life. It is also great to have incredible support from the faculty and staff.


What aspect of seminary life has been most challenging?

For me, the most challenging aspect of seminary life has been the workload, which can be quite heavy at times. It is also a challenge to find a balanced way of life – a balance between social life and one’s personal life, a balance between the four pillars of formation.


Best advice you’ve heard in seminary?

“It is time for you to be the man God wants you to be, not the man you want to become.”


Other comments?

I am grateful for my vocation and for those who support me.