Bishop of Ulaanbaatar Mgr Wenceslao Padilla will ordain the first-ever Mongolian-born priest, Joseph Enkhbaatar, on August 28 at the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Baptized as Joseph, Enkhbaatar is the first Mongolian Catholic to enter a seminary Joseph Enkhbaatar was ordained a deacon on December 11, 2014 in Daejeong, South Korea, where he received his initial formation. He will be ordained a priest at the world’s youngest Catholic Church, the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar, established in 2002. It has not yet reached the status of a diocese, as it is still too young to support itself.
“We at Missio rejoice with the community in Mongolia, as this is a wonderful example of what it means to be a missionary church. The first native priest of Mongolia is a great sign of hope for the people of Mongolia and for us all,” Fr Anthony Chantry said, the national director of Missio, the papal charity responsible for supporting their affiliate church overseas.
Missio has recently supported the Mongolian church by training lay leaders and deacon Enkhbaatar. The charity raised a total of 533,397 USD for the training of priests and building churches last year with their World Mission Sunday collection.
Bishop Padilla, apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar, described the ordination as a “historic event in the life of the Catholic Church in Mongolia”.
Before joining the seminary, the 25-year-old parishioner from St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Ulaanbaatar, graduated in biochemistry from the Mongolian International University, an institution run by South Korean Protestants.
“I wanted to go to the seminary right after finishing school, but my family and everybody in the mission, including the bishop, advised me to go to university first. I was very disappointed,” Joseph Enkhbaatar said. However, he admitted that it was the right decision.
“I later saw that my elders were wise,” he acknowledged. “Science it brought me closer to understanding God’s creation.” After Joseph Enkhbaatar earned his university degree, Bishop Padilla approved his application to become a priest.
Missionary priests first arrived in Mongolia in the early 1990s. At present, Mongolia has just over 1,000 baptized Catholics with 20 missionaries and 50 nuns working in six parishes.
According to the 2010 National Census, there were 41,117 Christians above the age of 15, which was equal to 2.1 percent of the total population at the time. Most Mongolians are Buddhists, incorporating local shamanistic beliefs and traditions. The proportion of atheists is very high with almost 40 percent of the total population identifying themselves as having no religion.