(Vietnam)Last week, the Office of the Registrar of Saint Alphonsus Theologate released an announcement of the Philosophy and Theology Faculties’ enrollment for the 2021-2022 academic year. The candidates are to take the exams of 3 Subjects: Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, Vietnamese Literature and Foreign Languages [English/French].
Saint Alphonsus Theologate is a seminary run by Redemptorists in Vietnam, which provides an academic program in both Theology and Philosophy for more than 100 students of 16 Congregations in the Archdiocese Sai Gon. It is located at the address: 970D (352/5) Binh Quoi, Ward 28, Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City. More than 50 professors are teaching here. The program of formation is 2 years of philosophy and 4 years of theology.
This Theologate has its history of over 85 years since its foundation and has trained many generations of religious and priests of the Redemptorists and other religious congregations as well.
Duc Trung Vu, C.Ss.R.
FOUNDATION AND DEVELOPMENT OF ST. ALPHONSUS THEOLOGATE IN VIETNAM
November 1925, three first Redemptorist missionaries from the Province of Sainte-Anne de Beaupré (Canada) came to Hue to start the presence of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in Vietnam. When they arrived in Vietnam, the missionaries carried out the missions pertaining to the Redemptorist charism and sought indigenous vocations to establish a new Redemptorist province in Indochina.
In 1935, after 10 years of presence, the Canadian missionaries decided to establish the Redemptorist Theologate in Vietnam, in Thai Ha – Ha Noi. The first director of the Theologate was Father Pamphile Couture. Like other Redemptorist Theologates, the Redemptorist Theologate of Vietnam chose the expression “Soli Deo et Studiis” as its motto. We can say that the decision to found the Redemptorist Theologate was an intelligent, courageous choice and a historical turning point. Because of the shortage of vocations, there were only two students at that time. On the one hand, some Canadian students were sent to Vietnam to study together with the indigenous students at the Theologate. On the other hand, ordinary professors from the Canadense Province, who had much experience and ability, were also sent to teach in this new Theologate. In the first period, the Theologate provided a formative environment in which there was an exchange of culture, language, thought and character between men from two different countries. The students also built up a life of fraternity and family spirit.
In 1938, a large and spacious building was inaugurated, which became the student house and headquarters of the Theologate. Due to the historical and political context, this building has become the Dong Da Hospital – Ha Noi.
After 15 years in Ha Noi, in 1950, the Redemptorist Theologate in Vietnam was transferred to Da Lat, now confiscated by the State. From 1952 onwards, because the number of students was quite large, the Theologate was no longer for Canadian students but only for Vietnamese students.
In 1956, marking an important imprint of the Redemptorist Theologate in Vietnam, Father Stephen Nguyen Tin was the first Vietnamese to become its director. He was a professor of theology at the Theologate. Besides, Father Joseph Nguyen The Thuan, Professor of Scripture, and Father Ignatius Bui Quang Diem, Professor of Philosophy, were the first Vietnamese professors to teach at the Theologate. The emerging point at the stage when the Redemptorist Theologate was in Da Lat was the sensitive and enthusiastic spirit of seeking new ways to engage and to serve. This spirit grew out of that of the Second Vatican Council. At that time, events and movements presented the enthusiasm of youth and the joy of zealous religious.
In 1971, the Theologate transferred again, this time to Thu Duc – Sai Gon. During the time in Thu Duc, the students studied and built the house, gardened, cultivated, and farmed. Now, all this land has been expropriated.
On 25th January 1978, the entire Congregation in Thu Duc was closed: the religious house, the Theologate and the Aspirantate. These students lived outside the community; some returned to their families. During this time, they worked in different ways to support themselves. From here, the Redemptorist Theologate in Vietnam seemed to cease to exist, with no location, no organization, no classes. This stage lasted more than 10 years.
At the end of 1989, the Superior Provincial, Father Joseph Tran Ngoc Thao and his Consultative Council decided to reorganize the Theologate by implementing a convergent formation programme. On January 1, 1990, the Redemptorist Theologate was reorganized, and the location was Ky Dong House (Sai Gon), with 13 students. From 1995, students studied the philosophical programme at the Dominican Academy and the theological programme at Paul Nguyen Van Binh Theological Academy. In 2006, the component of Redemptorist professors was enough both in quantity and quality.
In December 2015, due to a large number of students and the space of the Ky Dong house being a bit cramped, the Theologate, therefore, continued to transfer to the Mai Thon community. The religious house in Mai Thon, which has quiet space and healthy air, was a suitable choice for a new location for the Theologate. When the Theologate was transferred to Mai Thon, the students together renovated the rooms.
In 2020, after 95 years since three Redemptorist missionaries first came to Vietnam and 85 years since the Redemptorist Theologate in Vietnam was founded, the number of students in the Theologate is 105 students, 93 students who are studying at the Theologate and 12 students who are studying abroad: Italy, France, the United States, Australia and the Philippines. And the Redemptorist Theologate has been renamed as the Alphonsian Theologate. In terms of numbers, the Alphonsian Theologate in Vietnam is one with the biggest number of students in the whole Congregation. Moreover, the Theologate now trains not only Redemptorist students but also students belonging to other congregations in Vietnam. By the grace of the Redeemer, the intercession of Mary Mother of Perpetual Help and St. Alphonsus, the Alphonsian Theologate in Vietnam is confident in its mission to form religious and missionary priests who follow the Redeemer to proclaim the Gospel to the poor, the most abandoned.
Paulus Hồ Nam, C.Ss.R.