Only a few Catholics live near the mission point. Although most residents are not baptised, every year about 100 children come to the church for entertainment, education, and basic catechism.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – After the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit Vietnam in February-March 2020, Father Joseph Nguyèn Ngèc Tâm was sent on 18 August 2020 to the Lamb of God mission point to assist the local parish priest, Father Joseph Nguyèn Văn Khiêm.
Father Joseph has been in charge of the Doi Lầu missionary point in Cần Giờ, a district in Hồ Chí Minh City, since 2016. When he first arrived, he met with children and young people.
Together with some Catholics he visited some of the poorer families in the community. In addition, he worked with religious, missionaries, lay people, Catholic and non-Catholic donors who contributed to the construction of the church and the centre for children and teenagers (nhà sinh hoạt).
Doi Lầu is a hamlet on a small plateau in Cần Giờ district. Building the church was not easy. In the dry season, the sun burns. The area also includes a mangrove forest. This makes life more difficult for clergy and parishioners.
In order to overcome obstacles, the parish priest, some parishioners, donors and residents built the church. Now children and parents come to regularly to and pray to God. The site was later renamed Lamb of God mission point.
Currently, it includes a recreational area (khu vực sinh hoạt) for children and teenagers next to the church. Most children are not Catholic. Most locals are not baptised; only a few Catholics live in the area but many residents come to church for Holy Mass.
In one of his homilies, Father Khiêm reread the Gospel passage about a rich young man who asked God how to have eternal life in order to ask the children: “Why did you go to church?” The children replied: “To see God. Seeing God gave us a lot of joy.” “When you went home did your relatives ask you why you went to church.” The children said: “Yes, we told our relatives about the joy of meeting God.”
“These children wear uniforms and welcome Father Tâm and the guests at the church gate,” Father Khiêm said when he welcomed Fr Joseph Nguyèn Ngèc Tâm.” Most of these children have not yet been baptised.
The area around “This mission point has only a few Catholics. Most residents are not baptised. Hundreds of children and adults come to church for daily Mass and Sunday Mass.” Yet together, “They come as a Catholic community.”
“Every year, about 100 children come to church for entertainment, education and basic catechism. They are of kindergarten and primary school age. Most of them have not yet been baptised.
“The Lovers of the Holy Cross Sisters teach the children sacred songs, Hail Mary and other prayers. Every year senior seminarians come here to organise outdoor games and teach catechism to these children. They can sing sacred hymns, memorise prayers, recite the Rosary, and understand the basics of catechism.
“We teach the children how to make the sign of the Cross,” said some of the Brothers from Saint Joseph Major Seminary in Saigon, speaking to AsiaNews. “Missionary work with children is not easy. We must love the mission, invest time and effort and be close to children. We need time to visit families. Our missionary works will bear good fruit.”
“Brothers and sisters have been teaching these children for more than two years,” Father Joseph Khiêm explained. “We provide basic catechism classes many times so that they can remember correctly and for a long time.”
Many children say, “We love Jesus.” Now, they are members of the parish’s Eucharistic Youth Movement. Some children have become catechists and are involved in missionary work with relatives and neighbours.
Parents have seen their children's progress in school, and be kind and good at home. They come to church for catechism, and have an opportunity to enjoy group activities.
The children are also a bridge between their parents and the church. Parents can hear the Good News and the Love of Jesus from their children.
Father Joseph Khiêm also used donors’ money to provide material support, most notably by installing two clean water systems. Clean water is short supply in Cần Giờ district.
Spiritual outreach and material support for the poorest people are Fr Joseph Khiêm's greatest concern. And his greatest wish is to turn the Cần Giờ mission point into a place where missionary activities can converge.
In light of the current economic situation, many parish Catholic groups, religious and volunteers have become involved in charity work to help people and children living in difficult circumstances.