Proclaiming the Gospel on the outskirts of Hồ Chí Minh City
With not enough parishes and churches, the Church built 22 missionary stations between 2016 and 2019, still aiming to build 50. These places play a central role in evangelisation. There were no Catholics in An Thi Đông and Doi Lầu, but there are now vibrant communities. The local Church renews its commitment for the extraordinary missionary Month.
(Hồ Chí Minh City) As Pope Francis declared the month of October as extraordinary missionary month, the Church in Hồ Chí Minh City is renewing its commitment to the city’s more peripheral areas (Vùng Ngoại Biên).
The Apostolic Administrator, Mgr. Joseph Đỗ Mạnh Hùng, recently announced to the community that the Archdiocese will build 50 mission stations in the city’s outlying areas, where parishes and churches are few and very far.
Hồ Chí Minh City’s metro region is now home to 14 million people: 9 million residents (including over 700,000 Catholics) and 5 million migrant workers. Each new missionary station will serve 6,000 people. Once they are built, the Archdiocese will be able to cater to the needs of about 300,000 migrants, Catholics and non-Catholics.
Between 2016 and 2019, so far the Church built 22 missionary stations, eight of which offer daily Eucharistic celebrations, pastoral activities and missionary works.
When proclaiming the Gospel in Vietnam, the heroic testimonies of faith by some priests are very encouraging and the activities carried out in these missionary stations are awesome.
Twenty-five years ago, An Thới Đông, in Cần Giờ district, just outside Hồ Chí Minh City, there were no Catholics. Fr Stephano Chân Tín, a priest of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorist fathers), preached and planted there the first seeds of the Good News.
After he was arrested by the Communist authorities, he was sent to exile for three years (1993-1996). Once there, he decided to start the mission work in this land.
Over time, several of his confreres came to help him: the late Fr JB Nguyễn Văn Đông, Fr Peter Đinh Ngọc Lâm, Fr JB Nguyễn Bình Định, Fr Atxidi Hoàng Minh Đức and other men religious. In 2000, the missionary station in An Thới Đông became a parish. Twelve years later, Fr Chân Tín passed away at the age of 92. Today, the vicar, Fr Martin Trần Quang Vinh, continues his work in a parish which has 650 members.
Similar stories can be heard across the Archdiocese. The missionary centre in Doi Lầu, Lý Nhơn, a municipality in Cần Giờ district, was a small house with a small red cross. Now, it caters to over 100 baptised families and about 40 children who attend catechism. Every year, around a hundred people prepare for baptism. In 2018 a church replaced a temporary chapel.
“Last year, when I celebrated Mass on the third day of the Lunar New Year (Tết), more than half of the church was filled with non-Catholics, many of them children,” said Mgr Joseph Đỗ Mnh Hùng. “When I imparted the sacrament of the Eucharist to the faithful, they approached to ask for a blessing.”
The Apostolic Administrator of Hồ Chí Minh City asked the local clergy to support the apostolic work in some of the Archdiocese’s 22 missionary stations. Among the first to respond were the communities of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Chợ Quán and Th Thiêm. The nuns chose eight young sisters to serve at these places.
In recent months, even laypeople came forward to help out. In particular, teenagers from the diocesan ministry for young people were engaged in social outreach and charity works.
(by Thanh Thuy – AsiaNews)