In 2009, Bishop Cosma Hoang Van Djat set up a drop-in clinic run by Dominican nuns. Hundreds of young women driven from home because they are pregnant find comfort and support in the facility. Many non-Catholic single mothers “are baptised before they return home”.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – The Từ Phong Drop-in Centre is a clinic that saves babies from abortion; it also offers some solace, support, and hope to single mothers.
Mgr Cosma Hoàng Văn Djat set up the facility in 2009 in Our Lady of Từ Phong parish, in Bắc Ninh Diocese (Hanoi).
Fr Dominique Nguyễn and the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters run the clinic day and night to stop abortions, which have reached a record level in Vietnam.
Currently, some 50 single mothers are staying at the facility with their babies. The nuns provide the young women, who are often poor and uneducated, with an alternative to abortion.
"Hundreds of unfortunate young women and girls have rediscovered happiness and value in their own lives,” Sister Maria Hao said. “They prayed to Our Lady of Từ Phong and gave birth to their children here."
"The nuns are also social workers,” said the sister. “They help the young women in their daily lives, taking care of the infants’ health and teach the mothers work skills. The sisters also provide spiritual and psychological support."
Abortion is a growing phenomenon in Vietnam, which is ranked first in South-East Asia and fifth in in the world for the practice. Each year, more than 300,000 women aged 15 to 19 turn to abortion, often outside normal health facilities.
The abortion rate has reached almost 70 per cent among high school and university students. In the capital Hanoi, many young women abort more than once, as if it were a contraceptive method.
Sister Lien, who works at the Từ Phong Drop-in Centre, met with students in the diocese to explain its work.
"The drop-in clinic is part of the Diocese of Bắc Ninh. In addition to social work, we offer a full range of pastoral outreach services. Every evening, children and mothers participate in the Mass in the local parish church."
“Each mother has a different and tortuous path,” the nun explained. Usually, they are between 16 and 22, and have in common the fact that they got pregnant but did not want to keep the baby.
“In many cases, their family pressured them to have an abortion because they did not want to raise the child. Only when they agree to abortion are they allowed home."
"A young woman told me she wanted to attend catechism, and be baptised along with her son,” said Sister Anna Hoa. “When I heard this, I was moved and happy.”
“Two thirds of abandoned mothers who come to the clinic are non-Catholic, but when they leave the centre to return home to their parents, most are baptised."