09/26/2017, 15.55
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Catholic students committed to “missionary discipleship” in Ho Chi Minh City

by Thanh Thuy

Tens of thousands take part in charity and social activities in the country’s parishes, mostly Catholic students attending university or working in cities. St Paul Parish, Binh Tân District, has taken steps for migrants and poor children. During Saigon Diocese’s ‘Migrant Week’, students promoted the message of the encyclical Laudato si’. Some young people told their story.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - Tens of thousands of Vietnamese Catholic students have responded to the appeal launched by Pope Francis at the closing ceremony of the Seventh Asian Youth Day, held in August in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

On 6 August, the pontiff urged young Asians to look at the Mother of the Lord as a "model of missionary discipleship" and "speak to her as they would a mother,’ as well as “trust always in her loving intercession."

Since then, tens of thousands of Catholic as well as non-Catholic students who are coming to Catholicism or studying catechism have participated in charitable and social activities in parishes across the country.

Through these pastoral programmes, student groups have tested their skills and working abilities in firms and offices.

St Paul Parish, Binh Tân District (Ho Chi Minh City), has helped some 500 young people involved in social and pastoral activities or studying the catechism. Most of them are Catholic students who attend university or work in the city.

The parish is also home to tens of thousands of poor migrant families, Catholic and non-Catholic. Their children do not have the opportunity of going to school. Thus, this month, the Binh Tân parish opened the 2017-2018 school year for 320 children in elementary or literacy classes.

Fr Paul Pham Trung Dong, vicar of the parish and head of the Pastoral Immigrant Outreach Committee for the Diocese of Saigon, said that these students " study hard so as not to sadden parents and teachers."

"Children live in poor migrant or broken families,” he told AsiaNews. “They have no chance nor money to attend public schools. They have come to Ho Chi Minh City from around the country to make a living."

On the occasion of the diocese’s "Migrant Week", students showed organic farming methods, such as reusing waste water and promoting environmental protection, following Pope Francis, Laudato si’.

"Before I had free time, I often spent it on online games or wandering around with friends,” Lê Hữu Tài, a student at the Cao Thắng College in Ho Chi Minh City, told AsiaNews. “Now I'm working for a store with my study group. I'm busy and I feel I have a purpose. I am always supported by the community of the people of God."

"In the past six years, with the principle of ‘knowledge – faith – service’, we have been involved together in various charity works, following the spirit of St Thérèse of Jesus Christ,” said Nguyễn Anh Tuấn, a member of the group. “Our travels have always left many beautiful memories and deep feelings in our life as students."

"We do not focus solely on theory,” said Hung, who is studying to become a social worker. “Many students have joined Catholic parish associations. Social and pastoral activities have enriched our spiritual life. We have also improved our working skills to prepare for postgraduate education."

Nguyễn Tiếu Hữu, who studies at the Transport University and attended the choir of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Bình Chiểu, Thủ Đức District, spoke to other students.

"When we are away from home, we often focus only on studying,” he explained. “After our lessons, we work part-time for our daily lives. Sometimes we forget pastoral activities, and gradually move away from the Church. So, our faith becomes 'cold'.”

"By joining choirs or Catholic associations, we have the opportunity of rehearsing the hymns and talk about many issues with other members, share the catechism, the Bible and prayers on a daily basis. Now, I feel happier, because I am able to meet, through my own efforts, the obligations of a Christian."

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