ASIA/VIETNAM - Priests at the service of the poor, of young people, of the care of the "Common Home" in small communities

Thursday, 16 February 2023 laudato sì   youth   charity  

Ho Chi Minh Ville (Agenzia Fides) - "To serve God through the poor, in whom Christ is present and to be close to them every day" is the desire of Peter Pham Minh Hung, a priest in the parish of Vuon Xoai, belonging to the Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh Ville. In the parishes where he has provided pastoral service, the priest - tells Fides - has come into contact with people and families in conditions of poverty, especially in the parish of Thi Nghe. "Donating even just a portion of rice or basic necessities every month is a simple, but important gesture", he reports, noting that the recipients are people without distinction of ethnicity or religion. Furthermore, on the occasion of national holidays or special religious ceremonies, "it is a good practice to pay special attention to those in need, but often do not dare to ask and cannot fully experience the spirit of the celebration". In the parish of Saint Martin, also in the archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh Ville, every month about 100 poor families residing in the parish area were helped, both Christians and non-Christians. Father Peter Pham Minh Hung also paid special attention there to the disabled, inviting them every Sunday morning to come to church for breakfast and a moment of fraternity. Hoang Mai, a disabled woman, says: "In the parish of Thanh Da, according to the initiative launched by Father Hung, we with disabilities gather for mass on Sunday morning and, after mass, we have breakfast together. We can meet, talk and share our stories, material and spiritual difficulties. It's a very important moment in our lives."
Over the years, Father Peter Phạm Minh Hung thought of creating a well-organized canteen that could prepare hot meals: thanks to the help of volunteers, the priest oversaw the opening of a sort of "cheap restaurant" where, with a contribution of only 2,000 Vietnamese dong (equivalent to 9 US cents, ed), you can have a meal based on rice, broth, vegetables and meat. Having moved to the new parish of Vuon Xoai, where he is today, Father Hung revived the "cheap restaurant" initiative, especially helping day laborers such as street vendors, motorbike taxi drivers, or students. In just two months, the number of meals served daily rose to 700. Today the 58-year-old priest always thinks of families in difficulty and considers the service of charity "a mission that is an integral part of priestly and pastoral life".
Another appreciated pastoral and charitable experience is that of Father Joseph Nguyen Van Que, currently parish priest of the parish of Phong Y, in the province of Thanh Hoa, belonging to the diocese of Thanh Hoa, in northern Vietnam. Father Joseph Nguyen Van Que gives space to many charitable programs and initiatives for the eradication of hunger and the reduction of poverty.
Having noticed his work, the Vietnamese state newspaper "The Natural resources and environment" recently described his precious charitable, educational and environmental protection commitment: "These good deeds - wrote the newspaper - are examples to follow. He has mobilized parishioners to live a good life with practical works such as donations to disadvantaged people, organization of free English courses for children, weekly cleaning of streets and public areas".
When he was in the parish of Tan Dao, the priest noticed that some students in the area had to cross a river to get to school, encountering dangers. Thanks to the support of parishioners and other donors, Father Que had two bridges built to allow pupils to reach the school, works that generated widespread gratitude from the residents.
Having arrived in the parish of Phong Y in 2019, Father Joseph Pham Van Que has not ceased to be interested in environmental issues, education and the poor. Involving the national movement "Hands together to protect the environment", he sensitized parishioners to "start from small and simple practices in their living environment" such as the protection of green spaces in villages, the cultivation of trees and ornamental plants.
In particular, the priest invented and launched the course entitled "Green Summer", a free English course for poor students, encouraging the study of children in rural communities and giving them the opportunity to approach practical experiences on environmental protection and on love for nature, according to the spirit of "Laudato Sì". The English course is held at the Phong Y church during the summer holidays and provides 125 hours of learning for 300 Catholic and non-Catholic students. At the end of the course, students improve their English skills and learn practices of environmental sustainability, respect and care for the "Common Home": this initiative, designed for teenagers and young people, is recognized and brings undoubted benefits to the life of small local communities. (PA/AD) (Agenzia Fides, 16/2/2023)