Proclaiming the Gospel on the outskirts of Hồ Chí Minh City
With not enough parishes and churches, the Church built 22 missionary points between 2016 and 2019, aiming for 50. These places play a central role in evangelisation. There were no Catholics in An Thi Đông and Doi Lầu; now there are now vibrant communities. The local Church renews its commitment for the extraordinary missionary Month.
Hồ Chí Minh City (AsiaNews) – As it prepares for Pope Francis’s extraordinary missionary month in October, the Church in Hồ Chí Minh City is renewing its commitment to the city’s more peripheral areas (Vùng Ngoại Biên).
The Apostolic Administrator, Mgr Joseph Đỗ Mạnh Hùng, recently announced to the community that the Archdiocese will build 50 mission points in the city’s outlying areas, where parishes and churches are few and far between.
Hồ Chí Minh City’s metro region is now home to 14 million people: 9 million residents (including over 700,000 Catholics) and 5 million migrant workers. Each new missionary point will serve 6,000 people. Once they are built, the Archdiocese will be able to cater to the need of about 300,000 migrants, Catholics and non-Catholics.
Between 2016 and 2019, the Church built 22 missionary points, eight of which offer daily Eucharistic celebrations, pastoral activities and missionary works.
When proclaiming the Gospel in Vietnam, the heroic testimonies of faith by some priests and the activities carried out in missionary points play a central role.
Twenty-five years ago, An Thới Đông, in Cần Giờ district, just outside Hồ Chí Minh City, had no Catholics. Fr Stephano Chân Tín, priest of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorist fathers), planted there the first seeds of the Good News.
After he was arrested by Communist authorities, he was sent into internal exile to the area for three years (1993-1996). Once there, he decided to start missionary work in this strip of land and salt water.
Over time, several of his confreres came to help him: the late Fr JB Nguyễn Văn Đông, Fr Peter Đinh Ngọc Lâm, Fr JB Nguyễn Bình Định, Fr Atxidi Hoàng Minh Đức and other men religious. In 2000, the missionary point in An Thới Đông became a parish. Twelve years later, Fr Chân Tín passed away at the age of 92. Today, the vicar, Fr Martin Trần Quang Vinh, continues his work in a parish of 650 members.
Similar stories can be heard across the Archdiocese. The missionary centre in Doi Lầu, Lý Nhơn, a municipality in Cần Giờ district, was but a small house with a little red cross. Now, it caters to over 100 baptised families and about 40 children who attend catechism. Every year, around a hundred people prepare for baptism. In 2018 a church replaced a temporary chapel.
"Last year, when I celebrated Mass on the third day of the Lunar New Year (Tết), more than half of the church was filled with non-Catholics, many of them children,” said Mgr Joseph Đỗ Mnh Hùng. “When I imparted the sacrament of the Eucharist to the faithful, they approached to ask for a blessing.”
The Apostolic Administrator of Hồ Chí Minh City asked the local clergy to support the apostolic work in some of the Archdiocese’s 22 missionary points. Among the first to respond were the communities of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Chợ Quán and Th Thiêm. The nuns chose eight young sisters to serve at these facilities.
In recent months, even lay people began offering to help out. In particular, teenagers from the diocesan ministry for young people became engaged in social outreach and charity work.