09/08/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Six new ‘Dong Ngoi Loi’ or Verbite priests in Vietnam

by JB. VU
At the moment of their ordination they were told: “You are priests who are not only required to engage in pastoral activities but must also work for the people and change society for the better.”
Nha Trang (Asianews) – Vietnam’s Catholics usually refer to them as “Dong Ngoi Loi” or “Dong SVD”. They are in fact the Missionaries of the Divine Word, i.e. the Societas Verbi Divini (SVD), an international religious order with 6,102 members (priests and seminarians) present in 67 countries. They usually live in and are a reflection of their multicultural and multiethnic environment.

In Vietnam, Bishop Jean Simon of the Paris Missionary Association Miswho was the founder of the Society of the Divine Word which he established in 1926 in Qui Nhôn City (central Vietnam), and later in the diocese of Nha Trang, in 1954.

Today Vietnam’s Verbites are getting six more priests, ordained by Mgr Joseph Vo Duc Minh, auxiliary bishop of Nha Trang, where the order’s headquarters are located.

Currently the SVB Institute of Theology has 44 students, and at least 60 priests and over a thousand faithful attended the new priests’ ordination Mass.

“You are priests who are not only required to engage in pastoral activities but must also work for the people and change society for the better,” said a religious at the start of the ceremony.

“Your hands will perform human work, but you shall not be concerned with your position or nice places,” he added.

After the Mass, one of the new priests, Fr Anton Vo Cong Anh, thanked his “parents, who have passed away” as well as the “provincial father, my friends, relatives, brothers and sisters who have taken care of me during my studies and service at St Joseph Parish.”

“Before I entered the order I worshipped my ancestors; I was not Catholic,” he said. “Now I am a Catholic priest and happy. I still feel responsible for my relatives and nephews and nieces. They are Buddhists and into ancestor-worship; they have no chance to know the Bible and the Catholic catechism so as to hear the Good News about the love of Jesus.”

“Today you are priest; that is your duty,” said the bishop. “You can go up to anyone and smile with them. That is very good and good things shall start from here.”

Raised to the status of province on 31 March of this year, the Verbite order has 155 priests in nine dioceses.

Together with other international orders they train priests, nuns, brothers, sisters and lay people who want to contribute to the common mission in a Socialist country and work among various ethnic groups to bring God’s word.

“We work with the disabled, lepers, AIDS patients, street kids, the elderly and young people in difficulty,” Father Hieu told AsiaNews.

“We have opened vocational centres for young people in remote and mountain regions. and some priests work among ethnic K’Hor and Raglay, in the central part of the country and in the north.”

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