(Vietnam) The religious brothers and sisters began their working shift with prayers for patients who had just passed away because of the coronas virus at 7:30 a.m. at the field hospital No. 16, Ho Chi Minh City. Those frontline workers are members of different congregations in Ho Chi Minh City who volunteer to assist medical staff to take care of patients with Covid-19 as well as do logistical works.
In July 2021, the standing committee of the Fatherland Front of Vietnam called for the voluntary participation of dignitaries and followers of religions in Ho Chi Minh City to participate in the prevention of the Covid-19 pandemic. Soon after, about 700 volunteers from religious organizations joined the field hospital.
Besides the work of taking care of the sick, logistics, … they also do a special task: pray in front of the cold room of those who unfortunately die from Covid-19 every day. “All medical staff and volunteers are aware of their role as the patient’s family member because the patients came here alone. If the patient dies, even the family cannot be present. Therefore, I always want to do something for them. We also pray for all the patients here,” sister Thuy Linh, a member of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, said. She compares this pandemic to a war that no one had imagined: “This is indeed a very fierce battle. Realizing such horrific, we have to join hands with doctors and nurses. We came here to assist and work with the medical staff.
Brother Quang Phung, a Redemptorist seminarian, explains what the volunteers do in the field hospital: “Taking care of the patients needs a dedicated service. In particular, we change diapers, change beds, serve food for the patients, visit and encourage them. If the patient needs anything, we will provide them for the patient.” Sister Thuy Link says this is not an easy job, especially she has to wear a disposable medical protection suit. But she strongly confirms that: “I never have any thought of giving up.” She explains her determination: “Because I’m surrounded by people who need a breath. While I can still breathe, I need to help them.”
It is a joy for volunteers when any patient recovers. Brother Quang Phung comments that they serve everyone no matter whether the patients are Catholic or non-Catholic: “The Vietnamese people are a united nation. We serve and care for every patient regardless of their religion.” Sister Linh wishes that the epidemic ends soon.
After watching this video, Fr Alphonsus Tran Ngoc Huong CSSR was touched by the dedicated service by the volunteers and thus wrote these reflections:
“This morning, when I watched VOV’s video reportage at field hospital No. 16 with the topic “Prayer at the center of the pandemic,” I saw the religious brothers and sisters standing in front of the coffins, praying for those who had passed away due to Covid-19 so that their souls may be at peace, and they may gently and peacefully “depart”. I also saw the Sign of the Cross being “raised”; I was moved by the act. I ask myself: every day, how many times do I make a sign, as a habit, and how many times do I do with a sense of conviction as those volunteers?
THE SIGN of the Cross, a sign of love without borders. Because of the SIGN of the Cross, religious brothers and sisters become “relatives” of the patients and offer “prayers” for those who have passed away. The relatives of those diseased may not know right away the sadness.
Not only serving as servants, those religious brothers and sisters become spiritual bridges, the bridges for the departed brothers and sisters to peacefully enter the “world” beyond death. The religious volunteers have a strong conviction of God who is loving, and a God who is rich in His mercy. He is a God who accepts and welcomes all. He is our God, and we are his children. That belief makes people no longer separated from each other, not even death can separate them.
The important thing is that they are accepted and loved irrespective of their religion, caste, or creed. God is love and all things possible in the love of God. The pandemic closes many doors, but it is also an opportunity to open other doors in many ways: the door of responsibility; the door of humanity; and a special door for the deceased, the Gate of Heaven.
THE SIGN OF THE CROSS is a prayer to God to open the DOORS OF THE HEAVENLY WORLD! As Saint Paul said to the Galatians: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, man or woman; but you are all one in Christ.” (Gal 3:28). Yes, we are all ONE in Christ.”
Duc Trung Vu, CSsR
Tran Ngoc Huong, CSsR