Thousands of J’Rai people celebrate 50 years of Redemptorist presence in the Highlands
by Trung Tin

Pastoral activities took place following local traditions over a two-day period. On 27 June, the community celebrated a solemn Mass in honour of Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help. Fr Thomas Nguyễn Văn Thượng said: "We entrust our lives into her hands".


Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Thousands of Catholics took part in the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the presence of Redemptorist Fathers among the J'Rai (Jarai) people (pictured). The event was held on 26 and 27 June at the Cheoreo Mission Centre in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.

On the first day, locals gathered in prayer and took part in pastoral activities based on J'Rai tradition. People recited odes, played local musical instruments and sang hymns to God and Our Lady.

The next day, they took part in a solemn Mass to honour Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help. Fr Joseph Trần Sĩ Tín led the service.

The clergyman is one of the first monks engaged in pastoral work in the Central Highlands. Next to him stood Fr Joseph Trần Minh Chính, superior of the Redemptorist community in the village of Plei Kly, Gia Lai province. Fr Thomas Nguyễn Văn Thượng, one of the priests working with tribal minorities in the Diocese of Kontum co-celebrated the service.

"All the priests, brothers, Catholic sisters and thousands of tribal people are carrying out evangelisation in this area,” Fr Thượng said during the celebration. “In addition, thousands of faithful are here to thank God and Our Lady Mary. We bring Our Lady into our homes to be safe. May the Mother of Perpetual Help help us forever. Let us entrust our lives into her hands.”

Addressing those present, Fr Joseph Trần Sĩ Tín said: "In the last 50 years, the Redemptorists of the Central Highlands have entrusted to God and our Mother of Perpetual Help the intention to provide and preserve our security. As Fr Batôlômêô Nguyễn Đức Thịnh told us: ‘Let us pray to God and our mother Mary to preserve our brothers and sisters for the next 50 years. Let us accompany each other continually on this journey."

Mgr Paul-Léon Seitz, at the time bishop of Kontum, entrusted the pastoral care of the ethnic minority to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, on 10 October 1969. The first missionaries in the village of Plei Kly were Fr Anthony Vương Đình Tài, Brother 'Joseph Tín, Brother Peter Mầu and monk Leonard.

As war raged in late 1969 and early 1970 in Plei Kly. The Redemptorists were forced to leave the village for Maranatha Town, near Plei-Ku Roh (about 1,200 kilometres south of Hanoi).

After moving to the village of Pleichuet, some Redemptorist monks stopped at the Cheoreo Mission Centre to translate the Bible into the J'Rai language.

In 1972, they settled officially in Cheoreo, 70 kilometres from Plei Kly. The mission, which at the time came under Phú Bổn province, became the cradle of evangelisation among the tribes of the Highlands.