Thanh Hóa, mission among the H’Mông tribals at the time of Covid
by Thanh Thuy

Ahead of the New Year of the Buffalo, Msgr. Joseph Nguyễn Đức Cường visited the ethnic communities living on the border with Laos. A poor reality, which survives thanks to agriculture and the forest resources. But at the same time rich in faith and happy to receive a visit from tehir pastor. Mass in the open air, a tree as an altar.


Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Re-launch the mission among ethnic minorities, strengthen the bond of local populations with the diocesan community, pray for the new year of the Buffalo that is about to begin, so that "the difficulties and the danger of the Covid pandemic can be overcome -19 ".

These are the aims and spirit that animated the pastoral mission of Msgr. Joseph Nguyễn Đức Cường, bishop of Thanh Hóa, in the north of Vietnam on the shared border with neighbouring Laos. In recent days, with the lunar New Year celebrations approaching, the prelate together with Catholic, lay and benefactor groups visited the H'Mông peoples of the municipalities of Lốc Há and Pa Púa, in the Mường Lát district.

Msgr. Joseph has been bishop of Thanh Hóa since 27 June 2018 (he was appointed on 25 April of the same year) and, for the four-year period 2019-2022, he also holds the position of president of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Vietnamese bishops. The area of ​​the diocese is located in the mountainous north-west region, along the border with Laos and the inhabitants live on agriculture and the forest resources.

Almost 42,000 inhabitants live in the area, divided into six different ethnic groups which include, among others: Thái, H'Mông, Mường, Dao, Khơ Mú and Kinh. Of these, the Thái and the H'Mông are the majority. And most of the H'Mông families live in conditions of extreme difficulty, often on the verge of poverty.

For the bishop it is the third visit to the community since he began his mandate. The 67-year-old prelate is in good health and for this reason he does not give up traveling and moving, in order to testify his closeness and the bond with the faithful who are always happy to meet their bishop and celebrate mass in the open air, surrounded by forests and natural mountains.

Asked by AsiaNews, a priest said that "we celebrated Mass in the open air, in the heart of the northern mountains". The bishop, he continues, used "an altar made with a tree from the forest" praying "in poverty, as the people who live in these lands are poor" who do not even have a church in which to meet.

Peace, the end of the new coronavirus pandemic, community development were some of the many prayer intentions that have united pastor and faithful, eager to nourish their life in faith and strengthening the spirit of solidarity and mutual help.

At the end of the function, Msgr. Joseph and some members of the delegation distributed some gifts to celebrate the Lunar New Year which falls on February 12th. "In these visits - concludes a Catholic volunteer - the miracle of God's work in the heart of this people really emerges" capable of "praying, singing, smiling open to a prospect of hope to overcome the harshness and dangers of daily life, including the pandemic ".

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