Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews ) - The 'Community of charity and social services' of the Diocese of Phan Thiet, southern Vietnam, a few days ago celebrated the ordination of its first priest, Fr Joseph Jang Van Tiep. Mgr Paul Nguyen Cong Hoan, Bishop Emeritus and founder of the community, led the ceremony, which was attended by more than 40 priests and a thousand people, including Catholics and members of other religions. Founded in 1995 when the bishop was still parish vicar at Thanh Linh, the group's mission is centred on pastoral care with a truly missionary impetus.
During the homily, Mgr Paul Nguyen thanked God for the "gift" of a priest. The celebration that followed the ordination ceremony was a source of "encouragement" to "social and charity" activities among the poor communities of the Diocese of Phan Thiet.
"Our motto is 'unconditional love and service'," the prelate explained, "and that is why we pray to God and the Virgin Mary for all the people who work with and for the good of the Church."
A young woman who attended the ceremony spoke to AsiaNews about her deep gratitude towards the members of the congregation.
"They are always very close to us," she said, "especially in case of social problems, like the lack of drinking water, education and health for our children, as well as catechetical education and spiritual guidance. "
Local Catholic communities lead a tough life, but the bishop's presence and the action of priests provide great help and comfort.
Under the motto 'love, respect and free service', the diocese has sought to improve the lives of the people, especially the poor and the sick.
Since December 2004, thanks to then Bishop Nicolas Huynh Van Nghi's permission, the community has received official recognition from local Church leaders, continuing its work in favour of the faithful.
Two years later, in 2006, the government sanctioned the official name of the charitable organisation, within the Diocese of Phan Thiet.
Today, the final step is expected, namely the ratification by the Holy See of the "small congregation," a goal that seems to be close at hand following the recent pastoral visit by Bishop Leopoldo Girelli, non-resident representative of the Holy See in Vietnam.
Today, 18 years after its foundation, the religious community has 224 members, including seminarians, 78 religious men and women, and its first trained priest.
Working in the poorest and remotest areas of the diocese, they contribute to local spiritual, human, and social uplifting, proclaiming the Gospel through concrete action.