The Revd Heidin Kunoo grew up thinking that becoming a woman priest wasn't possible. But she ended up making the impossible a reality.
As a young Karen girl growing up in an Anglican family in Pa-an, the capital of Karen state in Myanmar, Heidin Kunoo dreamt of one day becoming a missionary. The idea of being a priest never occurred to her. 'As a woman, that was not possible,' she recalls.
But when she was in her mid-teens, her uncle sponsored the family to migrate to Australia. They settled in Hoppers Crossing, in Melbourne’s west, and became Australian citizens. Despite having no knowledge of English when she first arrived here in 2005, Heidin successfully completed Year 12 at Werribee Secondary College and then obtained a Certificate III in Community Service from Victoria University.
Still aspiring to work as a missionary in a developing country, she commenced a Bachelor of Ministry course at Tabor College, a tertiary Christian College in the outer eastern suburbs. By the end of her first year, however, the daily travel involved had proved too onerous and she started looking for other options closer to home.
Her Bishop recommended she apply to Trinity College. 'I believe that God chose Trinity for me, and I have never regretted it,' Heidin says.
'Trinity showed me a diversity of views and opened my eyes to possibilities I had never thought of. Many of the other students who were also exploring ministry formation had experience of Roman Catholic theologies which enabled me to compare these with my Anglican background. There was never just one theological direction at Trinity; rather, it was very open to various kinds.
'Although most students were older than I was, they were very supportive and encouraging and we formed strong bonds of friendship. It was a very welcoming community.
'Trinity’s faculty were extremely knowledgeable – and also very helpful and supportive whenever I was struggling,' she says, appreciatively. 'The faculty were like gardeners – they planted the seeds of theology in our hearts and nurtured us as we grew, so we could bear fruit to share with others.'
Completing her Bachelor of Theology, Heidin was ordained a Deacon in February 2017. She served as Assistant Chaplain for Trinity College Foundation Studies, which each year prepares around 1900 overseas students from different faith backgrounds for entry to the University of Melbourne.
While her original passion was for missionary work, she believes that God has now shown her another path and she was ordained a priest on 25 November 2017. She was appointed to St James’ Church, Point Lonsdale, and St George's Church, Queenscliff, and took up her position there at the start of 2018.
For Heidin, being a female priest went from being impossible to a reality.
By Rosemary Sheludko