Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church brings the Good News to communities in a remote mountainous province
A diocese in northern Vietnam has inaugurated a new church to bring the Good News to ethnic communities in a remote mountainous province where Catholics had no resident priests for decades.
On Oct 20, Bishop Cosme Hoang Van Dat of Bac Ninh formally inaugurated the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Na Phac sub-parish in Ngan Son district of Bac Kan province. Some 100 priests joined the ceremony attended by many people including local government officials.
“This is the first church in the province and is a source of pride and a clear sign of the faith of local Catholics,” Redemptorist Father Joseph Nguyen Van Tinh, who was in charge of the church’s construction, said.
Father Tinh, 49, who began serving the sub-parish in 2011, said the Gothic-style church with a bell tower and 300 seats will be a solid fulcrum for local people to find ecstasy and peace in their faith life.
“We hope people will improve their faith life and earn absolute trust in God and the Church because they did not have such a church before,” he said. There is a Redemptorist monastery and a pastoral house adjoining the church.
The pastor of Bac Kan parish said the new church is “compelling evidence of God answering Bishop Dat’s prayers.”
In his homily, Bishop Dat said in the past he was seriously concerned about the safety of two sisters who served the sub-parish with 18 Catholic families. The nuns lived in a shabby little house some 200 kilometers from the Bishop’s House in Bac Ninh City.
The Jesuit prelate said that in 2008 he paid a courtesy call to the head of the People’s Committee of Bac Kan province and was offered a bouquet of flowers.
“I immediately went to Na Phac and put the bouquet at the foot of a Marian statue in the sisters’ house, praying to Mother Mary to protect the nuns and local people and give them a church. Mother Mary remembered my appeal and offered what we have today,” he said, adding that he never dreamed of a big church there.
The bishop, who paid pastoral visits to the sub-parish and baptized many ethnic people, believed God uses this remote place to implement his plan for the local church.
“Today is the happiest day for people in Na Phac,” he said, adding that locals should be grateful to Redemptorists, government authorities and those who made generous donations for the church’s construction.
Bishop Dat ordained Father Tinh in 2011 and assigned him to the sub-parish that year and to Bac Kan parish in 2014. He also allows other Redemptorists to work in the province.
Redemptorists work hard to bring the Good News to ethnic groups and provide basic education and accommodation to ethnic children. They also help ethnic groups preserve their cultures and languages by translating the scriptures and hymns into Hmong and celebrating Masses in the Hmong and Vietnamese languages.
Many ethnic people who live far away have to arrive at the church the previous day to study catechism, attend Mass and have meals at the church.
Since the first Hmong family with five members was baptized in 2015, the sub-parish has served 450 Catholics, most of them from the Hmong and Dao ethnic groups. Some Kinh-majority Catholic families from Cao Bang province moved to the area in 1979 to avoid the Chinese invasion of Vietnam.
Na Phac is one of five sub-parishes belonging to Bac Kan parish which was founded in 1928. The province’s only parish, which had no resident priest for 60 years due to wars and religious restrictions, has a total of 1,200 members.