Students from the dioceses of Mỹ Tho, Phú Cường and Phan Thiết took part in the initiative undertaken by the St Joseph Major Seminary. The group attended some courses on social work theory, practice and methodology. Participants helped take care of hungry children as well as children with HIV and cancer. For Mgr Joseph Đỗ Mạnh Hùng, “We must pray for ourselves to face this huge demand.”
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – The St Joseph Major Seminary in Ho Chi Minh City organised a summer pastoral outreach programme held from 3 to 14 August.
The initiative allowed 31 future priests to leave their seminary and go into the margins of society to serve needy children and the marginalised, regardless of religious affiliation.
Some participants attend the historic seminary whilst others came from the dioceses of Mỹ Tho, Phú Cường and Phan Thiết.
Before helping the beneficiaries of the project (thân chủ), the group attended some courses on social work theory, practice and methodology.
One of the main topics addressed during the preparatory lessons was ‘general charity - social activities and method of working with the parish community’.
Divided into small groups, the seminarians discussed some "practical cases" from their dioceses and found solutions. AsiaNews spoke to some of them.
"We dealt with vulnerable children – disabled and HIV-positive – who live in very difficult circumstances,” said Joseph from Group 1. “We brought them joy, even though they are already cared for by the love of Catholic nuns and volunteers.”
"Step by step, these children have overcome their hard fate. Some are studying at elementary schools; others are in high school or university (a few cases)."
Group 2 participants took care of the children at the MT Warm Shelter. Here too some children are HIV-positive. They live together with their blind, deaf and mentally disabled peers. The facility also houses several terminally ill patients, cared by a community of nuns.
Group 3 started their summer pastoral outreach programme at the MT Warm Shelter but ended it at the Thị Nghè Social Centre where Sister Hoa is responsible for children’s health care.
“To better help the children, we work closely with their parents. The children feel loved and were curious about the seminarians,” explained the nun.
“The people we care for are very poor; some of them suffer from cancer in final stage, or incurable diseases. We also offer support to the children’s families."
"What struck me the most at Thị Nghè centre is the joy and positive attitude with which children face illness," said JB, one of the seminarians.
Group 4 worked initially at ‘social rice shops’, which provide food, words of comfort and psychological support to poor children, students, seniors and workers.
Later, the group served at the Thiên Phước Warm Shelter (pictured), where nuns, doctors and social workers follow hundreds of disabled children.
At the end of the summer pastoral outreach, the 31 seminarians met to share experiences and impressions. Mgr Joseph Đỗ Mạnh Hùng, apostolic administrator of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), attended their meeting and listened to their remarks.
“In today’s society, there are more and more poor, disabled people and children living in poor conditions. We must pray for ourselves to face this huge demand,” he said.
"As future priests,” he told the seminarians, “you will take care of the poor in our parishes. We have to pray always. Above all, we must promote the consecrated life through your example."