The missionary's work began in the village of Pháo Đài in 1956. He was killed by those who feared the spread of Christianity. "It is thanks to Brother Pascal Việt that the seed of the Gospel bears fruit,” said Mgr Pierre Nguyễn Văn Khảm during the baptism.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – On the morning of 12 May, the small Catholic community of Rạch Cầu in the Diocese of Mỹ Tho welcomed 51 new Christians. In addition to baptism, 37 of them also received confirmation.
The date marks the death of Brother Pascal Võ Văn Việt. For the St Paul missionary centre, in Rạch Cầu parish, the anniversary provided an opportunity to see the fruit of Brother Pascal’s evangelising work. He was killed during the Vietnam War.
Sent by his superiors in the Order of Christ the King, Brother Pascal went to the Pháo Đài community as a missionary in 1956. The latter was part of Rạch Cầu parish, and is now in Gảnh, in the municipality of Tân Phú Đông (Tiền Giang province). It is from Pháo Đài that the work of the Saint Paul missionary centre is thought to have begun.
Mgr Pierre Nguyễn Văn Khảm, bishop of Mỹ Tho and general secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, celebrated the solemn ceremony (pictures).
In his homily (see video), the bishop addressed the catechumens saying: "Today is a special day for you. Through the sacrament of baptism, you become a member of a large family – the family of the mission, of the parish and of the Catholic Church – in which everyone is welcomed with love, sharing and mutual support. Therefore, please live and continue to proclaim the Good News of the Lord."
The bishop of Mỹ Tho cited as an example of morality, the life of poverty and the work of Brother Pascal Việt in proclaiming the Good News and the love of Jesus at the mission centre.
"It is thanks to Brother Pascal Việt that the seed of the Gospel bears fruit,” Mgr Kham said. Hence, like today “Many adults, young people and children have become Catholics and children of God.”
Brother Pascal took care of the children and visited the families of the village every day. Some elders in the Rạch Cầu parish still remember. "Every member of the community loved his way of living and his good example,” they told AsiaNews. “But at the time war was raging in Vietnam. Some people hated religion because they feared it. That's why he was killed on a dark night."
The Diocese of Mỹ Tho is suffragan to that of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and has about 137,000 members, or just over 3 per cent of the area’s 4 million residents.
Rạch Cầu is one of 106 parishes in the ecclesiastical district founded in 1895. Today its congregation is 665-strong. Although small, the community is very active. Each year, the vicar organises four catechism courses: two for couples preparing for marriage and two for catechumens.
Since the parish is located in a remote rural area, the community also opened a bookshop dedicated to catechism and a reading room for children and young people, Catholics and non-Catholics.
Located about 20 kilometres from the Rạch Cầu parish, the St Paul missionary centre serves 350 Catholics. The vast majority of people living around this community is made up of Buddhists, Cao Đài followers, Protestants and ancestor worshippers.
(Photo credit: Giáo phận Mỹ Tho).