08/16/2016, 13.03
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A life for the poor: the Vietnamese Church remembers Fr. Joseph Dinh Huy Huong

by Thanh Tin

The priest dedicated 48 years of his life to ministry and care for the poor, lepers, Montagnards, abandoned children, single mothers, students. He served 10 years in prison for being chaplain to the South Vietnamese troops during the war. Since 2006 he had been director of Caritas Saigon. A thousand thank him again: "Whatever difficulties we had, Fr. 'Ut' was always with us".

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Five years after his death, the Church in Vietnam recalls Fr. Joseph Dinh Huy Huong, known as Fr. "Ut", a priest who dedicated his life to supporting the poor, lepers, single mothers, orphans, AIDS patients, Montagnards, with no distinction between Christians and non Christians.

Many believers, in the north, center and south of Vietnam, prayed for him on August 9, the anniversary of his death: "We are very grateful to Fr. Joseph Dinh Huy Huong. When we were in trouble, he was always there to help us both in material and spiritual terms".

"Ut" was born May 6, 1940 in the diocese of Phat Diem, and became a priest of the diocese of Saigon (later Ho Chi Minh City) in 1969.

To serve the Catholic soldiers during the Vietnam War, in 1972 he was drafted into the army. He was chaplain of the Republic of Vietnam troops (ally of the US), giving the sacraments even on the battlefield. Before the North Vietnamese victory, he received an offer to leave the country to go to the USA, but declined to accept. His decision to remain cost him 10 years of hard labor (1975-85). Released but kept under house arrest, he began to serve the poor and by 1995 he was parish priest of Duc Tin, on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City. In 2006, Card. Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man named him head of the Commission for social and charitable work of the diocese. In the following years he collaborated with two priests, two nuns and three parishioners to help thousands of poor people of the area.

After 1975, when the revolutionary government began arresting all religious in the country and to close congregations and seminaries, Fr. Joseph Dinh Huy Huong took charge of maintaining contacts and helping to secretly ordain Redemptorist priests.

One of them, Fr. Vincent Pham Trung Thanh, said: "In 1990, I and two others went with Fr. Joseph Dinh Huy Huong to be ordained priests. Following this, a series of Redemptorist brothers received the ministry in these conditions. In all 34 brothers. From that moment a new phase in the vocations of the Redemptorists began".

From 2009, due to a heart disease, Fr. "Ut" had to live in a nursing home in Phat Diem. But poor health did not stop him: he launched a Du Sinh charity fund (Quĩ Bác Ái Du Sinh), to support the poor and the abandoned Vietnam.

Many believers in the district of Can Gio and Ho Chi Minh City parishes remember him with affection: "We faced many difficulties: typhoons, poor or orphaned children, sickness. Fr. Huong has always helped us with love. Thanks to him, we still have free medical care in the diocese".

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