In welcoming the new catechumens, Mgr Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, archbishop of Hanoi said, “You have the determination to follow Jesus. Thus, today you are introduced to our community and are on the eve of entering the Church and the family of God.” The prelate then invited everyone in the local community to contribute to the newcomers’ education by following the teachings of Christ.
“I studied the catechism for six months at the Redemptorist convent in Ho Chi Minh City,” said Mr Tai from Binh An ha Parish. “After the preparatory course, I took the final exam but failed. Still, I am going to continue with the second course. I hope I can be baptised and get marry by Easter.”
Many of those who choose to undertake the journey of faith ahead of baptism are Buddhist. “I saw Catholics live among us,” an old Buddhist said. “They believe in God and behave correctly towards us. So, I and my family have decided to know God better.”
In Vietnam, Catholics number around six million and represent 8.5 per cent of the population. Since 1975, the country has been run by a Communist government that limits religious freedom, subordinating religious activities to the approval of secular authorities. Catholics are often victims of violence and abuse.
Many people are attracted to the faith by the work performed by priests, religious and laity in favour of the poor and the sick. In spite of violence and the society’s materialism, people convert to Catholicism.
“An AIDS patient asked me recently, tears in his eyes, to help him follow the teachings of the Lord,” Brother Huang, a Franciscan friar, said.
For Mgr Dominique Nguyen Chu Trinh, bishop of Xuan Loc, helping orphans, the elderly and poor as well as the sick is one of the fundamental duties of every Catholic, and this brings people to the Church.
“The path through mountains and across rivers is not difficult,” he said, citing an old Vietnamese song; “it becomes difficult when we fear hardship.”
Last year, more than a thousand people were baptised in his diocese.