Ordained in 1994, the prelate shared the joy for this "grace". The diocese has 380,000 members and nearly one hundred parishes. One third is tribal in background.
Dalat City (AsiaNews) – On 8 April, Pope Francis appointed Fr Nguyễn Văn Mạnh, a Dominican, bishop coadjutor of the diocese of Dalat.
Mgr Văn Mạnh was born on 12 August 1955 in Cần Thơ province. He studied in the seminary from 1973 to 1977, then continued his education in philosophy and theology at the St Pius X Pontifical College in Dalat. On 29 May 1994, he was ordained by Bishop Batôlômêô Nguyễn Sơn Lâm, and served as priest in Tân Hóa parish, in Bảo Lộc province for nine years.
From 2003 to 2009, Mgr Văn Mạnh studied at the Urbaniana University in Rome, where he obtained a doctorate in canon law. Back in his country in 2009, he became the legal representative of the Dalat diocese.
The new bishop expressed with humility his joy for the appointment. "God has given me a grace. This is a sign of mysterious love,” he said. “It is a blessing and together a test tied to my mission and responsibility in the Dalat diocese."
He shared with the Vicar General and the priests of the diocese the hope of being "ordinary priests who gather around our diocesan bishop. Let us remember each other, not only during the liturgy, and our prayers for each other, but also in our grateful hearts. We all share a liturgical and missionary commitment."
Speaking to the local press, he noted that Dalat Bishop Antôn Vũ Huy Chương is "mother and shepherd" (Mẹ và Mục Tử '). "I am aware that we are born by God’s work. We grow in the Church. Jesus entrusted his flock to the apostles and their successors. Shepherds are approached by the Holy Spirit of Christ to grow and nourish the flock as a mother."
"When I was in the seminary, I served for 14 years the Tân Thanh parish in Bảo Lộc in Lâm Đồng province. Between 1980 and 1994, in a socialist country, the future of my vocation was dark (mù mịt). But I appreciated and thanked some lay people because they carefully protected my vocation during this long period."
The new prelate mentioned the period after his ordination, as vicar of the Tân Hóa parish, which covers three small areas, and includes families that fled northern Vietnam due to the events between 1954 and 1975, between the Communist seizure of power in 1954 and the [departure of the] Americans in 1975.
"I still remember slippery roads with suspension bamboo bridges. All the lives of those lay people create a vivid image. So when I served the parish, I got a lot of pastoral experience and missionary work."
Bishop Chương often refers to the diocese's tendency to build itself and build parishes "to become a community of faith, a community of liturgy, a community of charity, and a missionary community."
Dalat diocese covers an area of nearly 10,000 km2 with a population of some 1,385 million people. According to 2016 statistics, it has nearly 380,000 Catholics, of which more than 137,000 are tribals. The diocese is divided into 98 parishes with 174 diocesan priests, 128 religious priests, 76 superior seminarians, and more than a thousand religious in 50 congregations.
One of Dalat diocese’s special trait is the mission among tribal brothers and sisters. Missionary Jean Cassiagne was sent to the Linh missionary point in 1927, followed by priests of the Paris-based Société des Missions étrangères (MEP) in the 1940s, the Redemptorists in the 1950s, and the priests of the Missionary Congregation of St. Vincent later. Today's missionaries are followed by diocesan priests and by many nuns of various congregations who joined them.
More than one third of the diocese’s Catholic community or 137,000 are tribal. Currently, ten priests and more than 30 nuns of tribal origin work for the mission of the Dalat diocese.
Interviewed by a local newspaper, Bishop Văn Mạnh explained the role of Vietnamese Catholics today: "We, Catholics, live in a certain nation, just like Jesus, who is God and Man. He was a Jew and lived in a certain country. So, we are Vietnamese Catholics, who build the Kingdom of God and their native land."
Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, non-resident representative of the Holy See to Vietnam, attended the first Conference of the Council of Vietnamese Bishops on 24-28 April 2017 in the diocese of Nha Trang.
He shared and talked about the charitable activities of the Vietnamese Church. "Through the Caritas network across the country, we are able to bring the Good News to everyone, with silent but more convincing testimony than words or noisy action. We should visit and share with the poor and the abandoned. This is the way to go 'beyond' and proclaim effectively the Good News to people."