Catholics are a small minority and represent only 1.38 of the province’s population. For decades, priests were in short supply. However, “the faithful are very religious, they engage in works of charity and show mutual affection,” noted the bishop. As the Year of the Rat approaches, Bishop Hoàng calls for greater attention for young people.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – In anticipation of Tết, the Vietnamese New Year, on 25 January, the parishes of the Diocese of Bắc Ninh, northern Vietnam, met on 8-11 January with Bishop Cosma Hoàng Văn Đạt to take stock of the pastoral work done in the lunar year that is about to end and plan for the one that is about to begin so as to respond to the opportunities and challenges faced by the mission of evangelisation.
Bắc Ninh province has a population of more than 9 million with a small Catholic community of about 140,000 people or 1.38 per cent of the total. The diocese can count on 96 priests, who serve in 77 parish churches and 263 chapels.
Local churches lack room to teach catechism to children, and many young couples are forced to migrate to the city to look for work. As a result, many grandparents have to raise children. This often prevents them from going church to pray or attend Mass.
Still, “We thank God,” said Bishop Hoàng. “Generally, Catholics of this diocese are very devoted. In the past, some parishes had no priests for decades. However, the faithful are very religious, engage in works of charity and show mutual affection. This shows the strength of their faith.”
The bishop is keen to promote pastoral outreach, and insists that parish priests pay special attention to young people, explain to couples Church teachings on marriage and carefully prepare children for baptism. For the prelate, this will lay the foundations for a greater youth participation in religious life and catechism.
Last Thursday, the 21 parishes in Bắc Giang district held their annual meeting at Ngọ Xá Church chaired by Bishop Hoàng. Twenty priests from 17 communities also took part as did 300 representatives of pastoral committees and Catholic associations.
The obstacles that the parishes in Bắc Giang are called to overcome are manifold. “Our priests are confronted with complex realities in each parish,” said the head of the local clergy. “However, they stand strong in a spirit of communion and unity, sharing work experiences and organising spiritual retreats. In addition, in cases of illness or problems in the parish, they are always ready to visit and support one another.”
On Friday, the 10 parishes in Nội Bài district met at Nội Bài parish. During the year that is about to end, that of the Pig (Kỷ Hợi), local Catholics participated with dedication in the work of the Church, contributing to the proclamation of the Good News through concrete actions and deeds of friendship. In 2020, the district pastoral committee will focus on helping young people.
The last district to meet was Bắc Ninh. On 11 January, priests and faithful from 19 parishes celebrated a thanksgiving Mass in Tử Nê parish. Before the service, the bishop, the clergy and local Catholics talked for about an hour about their respective work experiences and their impressions of the religious life in the diocese. At the same time, priests and parish pastoral committees highlighted the guidelines for the next Year of the Rat (Canh Tý).