07/17/2006, 00.00
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Catholic education trying to stop family crisis in Vietnam

by JB Vu
After a lull due to Communist repression, the Holy Sacrament movement is back stronger than ever in providing pastoral care to street kids and education to young people.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – The Holy Sacrament movement wants to take care of children, provide pastoral guidance to young couples and inspire values that can help married people overcome any crisis they might experience. It is increasingly making its presence felt across Vietnam.

Founded in the first half of the 19th century by Fr Léonard Cros, the movement arrived in Vietnam in 1929, first in Hanoi, and two years later in Ho Chi Minh City (then called Saigon), from there it spread across the country.

The Communist government banned all its activities in 1975 until 1989 when economic liberalisation opened up a window of opportunity for religion as well.

Since then it has renewed with its traditional activities such as social and pastoral assistance.

"Every Sunday, children from 8 to 16 come to church to take part in our activities," said Fr Giuse Trinh Van Vien, Binh An's parish priest. "They read the Bible and participate in our pastoral service."

One of the teenagers explained that "all the activities of the movement are of great help to the parish kids. We are some 70 volunteers and work with the smaller children. We teach catechism and some of us offer pre-marital courses to young couples."

Education is an issue strongly felt around the country. In Ho Chi Minh City there are 20,000 street kids, some 30,000 drug addicts—90 per cent under the age of18— and more than 40,000 people living with HIV, 10 per cent born with it.

For some sociologists these problems are rooted in the failure of the Vietnamese family to teach children values and to the fact that more and more families are splitting when the children are still small.

"I heard the Word of God just recently," said one young members of the movement, "but I am a Catholic who believes. There is something beautiful about taking part in the courses, and when I'll be ready to have my own family, I'll know how to educate it."

"In this sense, the Bible can guide me and make me understand the importance of my future role and how I can best perform it," he said.

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