Father Joseph Nguyen Huu Triet (second from right) shares lunch with poor laborers
Catholics from a southern parish are reaching out to poor and underprivileged people by providing them with free lunches and the chance to make new friends.
Thach Thi Toi, who is paralyzed from the waist down, has been going to the parish house in the compound of Tan Sa Chau Church in Ho Chi Minh City for lunch for two years.
“I love having lunch here because I am treated with respect and love,” said Toi, a Buddhist who earns a very modest living selling lottery tickets.
Parish priest, Father Joseph Nguyen Huu Triet, gives talks and good advice and also has lunch with us, the 48 year-old woman added.
Father Triet, 66, said the parish started offering free lunches on weekdays in October 2008 after many poor people came to him asking for food.
The priest said the lunches “are to create opportunities for local Catholics to reach out to, and express sympathy with, underprivileged people and followers of other faiths.”
Local Catholics donate money and food, while volunteers cook the meals, he added.
Joseph Tran Viet Hop, a volunteer, said lunch is served each day to 120 people. They also deliver food for 50 people unable go to the parish house.
Hop said most of them are followers of other faiths and four have converted to Catholicism.
Tran Van Hai, 80, had lunch for the first time at the parish house in early April.
“The food is good and I will be coming here regularly because it will help me support my 43-year-old son who is mentally handicapped,” he said.
The pale, thin man said he earns 30,000-40,000 dong (US$1.5-2) a day collecting thrown out items and doesn’t have enough money to eat at local small restaurants.
“We are lucky to have lunch here. If not, we would die of starvation,” said Nguyen Thi Hai, another used item collector.
“I am happy the priest allows us to have lunch here each day,” the 74-year-old woman added.
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