03/29/2010, 00.00
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"Mission means bringing God’s love to all" says father Ngo Phuc Hau

by J.B. Vu
The story of a priest who baptizes 200 people every year: children, teenagers and adults. when he arrived in his area there were only 501 Catholics, now only his parish has 2,500. The difficulties of meeting with local cultures and traditional religions.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - "Mission means bringing God’s love” it means learning languages, traditions, culture and the needs of the population you are sent to. This is the "lesson" offered during a seminar in Ho Chi Minh City by Father Pius Ngo Phuc Hau, a priest of 70, a missionary in Vietnam's Ca Mau province since 1971. When he arrived in his area there were only 501 Catholics, now only his parish has 2,500.  

The province of Ca Mau depends on Can Thao diocese, which covers four provinces in the south of the country: Can Tho, Soc Trang, Bac Lieu and Ca Mau. At 13,257 km2, there are 176,424 faithful, out of a total of 5,793,000 inhabitants. The diocese has more than 170 priests, 659 religious and 1,199 catechists, for 128 parishes.  

During Lent and as Holy Week begins hundreds of thousands of Catholics in the archdiocese of Saigon are living this time, with a  spirit of sacrifice and hope. Many have seen and heard this elderly missionary.  

The priest knows all the "area of rivers” and cultures of the population like the back of his hand. According to government figures, the province of Ca Mau has 1.2 million inhabitants about 5,211 km2. It 'a plain with many rivers. There are 20 different ethnic groups, 97.16% are Kinh. The Khmer population represents 1, 86%, the rest are Chinese or other minorities. There are only 14.

When Father Ngo Phuc Hau describes his experience, he says: "Every priest must be a missionary. The missionary brings love, brings God to everyone and should not make differences between Catholics and non Catholics, because God is love. " "When I meet someone - he adds - I talk to him amicably. This is a good way to accomplish mission in that area, in which the majority is composed of very poor farmers. "  

The priest is very busy: he teaches catechism, performs baptisms, visits families, helps the poor, builds bridges and schools and conducts social and charitable activities.  

"When I visit people – he continues – I even mention 'Dao Ong Troi'. In Vietnam, many people are tied to the religion of their ancestors, and this is the religion of 'Ong Troi,' which means 'God in and of the universe. It is easy for them to understand and accept Catholicism "  

Accomplishing his mission, father Hau has faced numerous difficulties. For example, when speaking of Mary, virgin and mother, the sacrament of the Body of Christ, death and resurrection of Jesus and of Catholics who believe that we die and rise again. Many people can not believe it and then father Hau tells stories, taking examples from everyday life, after which they say "God is wonderful."

Each year, Hau father visit families and organizes many catechism classes, each of which has between 50 and 70 students. Every year he baptizes about 200 people: children, young people and  adults.  

In the Vietnamese society and in the way of life, many people think " hon ai nay giu ", "the soul is yours, you have to take care of it and safeguard it for yourself." But if everyone only cares about his soul and does not care about others, we are not true Christians. If each Vietnamese became a missionary towards another next Easter we would  have double the number of Catholics.  

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