Catholics in a central mountainous district have for several years been taking it upon themselves to provide the funds and the land to build chapels for their religious needs. Michael Bui Khac Vinh, head of Ha An sub-parish, is helping provide the latest one. “We have just bought a 1,000-square-meter plot of land and plan to build a new chapel after Easter to meet our increasing religious needs,” he said. Vinh, 66, said the new plot cost 300 million dong (US$14,354) and he sold 1,000 kilograms of rice, four pigs and one cow as part of his contribution to get the money to buy the plot. The father of six said he and his family, as well as 50 other Catholic families from Hue City, were forced to move to the area in Nam Dong district of Thua Thien-Hue province in 1975. After that they had to travel on foot or by bus 30 to 50 kilometers to attend weekend Mass in churches elsewhere, he added. After religious restrictions were relaxed in 2000, Vinh said he has used his own home as a chapel for local Catholics. However, he said he has been questioned by local government officials on a number of occasions because he didn’t seek government approval for the prayer meetings. Vinh said Ha An sub-parish now serves 300 Catholics and is one of four in Huong Phu parish. Parish priest Father Paul Nguyen Van Hieu, said between 2001 and 2007 local Catholics offered up plots of land to build four other chapels. He serves 1,130 local Catholics in a district with a total population of 23,875 that includes the Co Tu, Pa Co, Pa Hy, Ta Oi and Van Kieu ethnic groups. Sister Catherine Nguyen Thi Ngoi, one of six Daughters of Mary of the Visitation nuns who have worked in the area since 2006, said local Catholics also gave them land to build a convent and a day-care center. VT13987.1649
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