Hanoi (AsiaNews/EDA) - The priesthood and the consecrated life are exerting a
growing fascination among young Vietnamese Catholics as evinced by the high
number of candidates applying to enter the Major Seminary of Vinh-Thanh (which covers
the northern dioceses of Vinh and Thanh Hoa). Last month saw in fact a peak,
with 410 men asking to write the entrance exam for the 2013-2014 academic year.
such a high number involves an institution located in northern Vietnam, a
traditional stronghold of the Vietnamese Communist Party, which for decades has
used every means at its disposal to discourage religious practice and crush religious
freedom. Catholics, who have often been associated with the West, have suffered
persecution and abuse under Communist rule as shown by the life of Card
Van Thuan and other
Vietnam's seminaries required candidates to undergo aptitude tests and exams at
the level of each diocese and religious congregation, in both South and North, in
order to carry out an initial screening and assess qualifications.
ecclesiastical province of Hanoi, there are four major seminaries. The one in
the capital was the first to reopen in 1987 after the Communist government shut
down it following reunification in 1975.
months later, a seminary reopened in Saigon, in the south, even though the
conditions imposed by the authorities were very strict and news admissions were
allowed only every six years.
things have changed and the new seminaries of Vinh-Thanh, Bui Chu, and Thai
Binh were set up in the North.
year, the diocese of Vinh (which has about 500,000 members) broke all records
in terms of candidates to the priesthood.
On 1 August,
410 candidates from the diocese's three provinces took the entrance exam. After
morning Mass, they wrote three tests to assess their level of knowledge of the
Holy Scriptures, Christian spirituality, general culture and society. This was
followed by one-to-one interviews to learn more about their wish to join the consecrated
life. Only 40 will be eventually selected for the programme, which is set to
begin in a few weeks time.
of female vocations is also a measure of the vitality and dynamism of the
Vietnamese Church. In Vinh, the Congregation of the Sisters Lovers of the Cross
organised exams for future novices on 27 July, with 65 candidates ranging in
age between 18 and 23 admitted to the one-year programme in 2013-2014 to vet further
the high number of candidates to the priesthood is a sign of the vitality of
the Vietnamese Church, Catholic leaders still want to examine closely the
reasons that motivate young people to want to dedicate their life to Christ and
the desire to wear the cassock is based more on "worldly ambitions"
than a genuine spirit of service. This is why their motivations must be
evaluated, and then adjusted, refined and purified along an educational path shaped
by teachers, family, priests and other seminarians.