The president of the Episcopal Committee for the Clergy, Consecrated life and Vocations believes that the quality of training has improved greatly thanks to their help. For decades, Vietnamese authorities had severely restricted the recruitment of seminarians. Vietnam has seven seminaries: Hà Nội, Vinh, Huế, Nha Trang, Sàigòn, Xuân Lộc and Cần Thơ. A declining birthrate and rising secularism have led to fewer vocations.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Mgr Antôn (Anthony) Vũ Huy Chương, bishop of Đà Lạt and president of the Episcopal Committee on Clergy, Consecrated life and Vocations, praised the Holy See and the Pontifical Mission Societies all over the world for helping the Church in Vietnam to greatly improve the quality of priestly training in recent years.
The ordination of a local seminarian, Phaolô (Paul) Đỗ Văn Tân, two days ago brought great joy to the entire Vietnamese Catholic community, both at home and abroad. This occurred on the 55th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, when Pope Francis ordained 16 young men in St Peter's Basilica, including the student at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Rome.
Bishop Chương has overseen the Episcopal Committee on the Clergy, Consecrated life and Vocations since 2004. Recently, the body has been reinforced with the appointment of a deputy president, Bishop Giuse (Joseph) Đỗ Mạnh Hùng, apostolic administrator of Sàigòn.
The committee is tasked with assisting bishops, collectively and individually, in promoting, supporting and educating the Church about its pastoral needs and concerns vis-à-vis the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life within the various sociocultural contexts of Vietnam.
Through biannual conferences, the committee has proved to be a highly valued resource bolstering the network of Catholic seminaries in Vietnam, whose responsibility is to train priests.
For decades, the recruitment of seminarians had been severely restricted – only a certain number could be enrolled in diocesan seminaries each year, and candidates and their families were closely scrutinised. This led to secret priestly training and "underground" ordinations.
However, things have improved recently. "Now, restrictions on the recruitment of seminarians have ended. The only restriction we are facing now is the capacity of major seminaries," Bishop Chương said.
"Currently we have seven major seminaries in Hà Nội, Vinh, Huế, Nha Trang, Sàigòn, Xuân Lộc, and Cần Thơ. In the academic year of 2017-2018, there are 2,650 major seminarians," the bishop of Đà Lạt added.
With respect to vocations, the prelate noted that the country’s "declining birth rate and the rise of secularism have reduced the number of vocations in Vietnam. The drop can be seen in metropolitan parishes. Parishes in remote areas seem to be fine."
Still, Bishop Chương believes that in terms of quality, various aspects of priestly training have greatly improved with the help of Vatican congregations, the Pontifical Mission Societies around the world, and especially the Paris Foreign Missions Society (Missions étrangères de Paris, MEP).
Finally, the prelate announced that thanks to funding from the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and help provided by the Catholic University of Paris (Institut catholique de Paris, ICP) and MEP, his committee will organise a conference for hundreds of seminary educators from 1 July to 14 July 2018.