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Vietnamese priest offers ‘spiritual’ New Year

Franciscan visits remote Central Highlands province to say Mass during Tet

Vietnamese priest offers ‘spiritual’ New Year
People receiving colorful papers containing verses of the Scripture reporter, Kon Tum city

February 7, 2011

Catholics in a remote province in the Central Highlands of Vietnam say they have strengthened their faith during the Tet lunar New Year because of the pastoral visit by a Franciscan priest.

Franciscan Father John Baptist Tran Khac Du from Ho Chi Minh City celebrated Mass and heard confessions of hundreds of Catholics from various villages in Ngoc Hoi district in Kon Tum province January 31-February 6.

“We are very happy to attend Mass during the Tet festival at our chapel for the first time in years,” said Joseph Nguyen Van Lanh. St. Anthony sub-parish with 100 Catholic migrants is based in Ngoc Hoi district, he said.

They were also given loc thanh or colorful papers containing Scripture verses to practice their faith during the Lunar New Year festival, said Lanh who is from the northern Nghe An province.

“I feared my children would lose their faith,” said the 40-year-old father of four. Lanh, a coffee farmer said he used to live in Ngoc Hoi district for four years but had to move back to his home land since there was no priest or chapel back then.

After 30 Catholic families came to live here and gathered to pray weekly, he said.

Paul Nguyen Van Nhi, who moved to Kon Tum province 20 years ago, said in the past he had to travel 100 kilometers to attend Mass only on Christmas and Easter.

“Many local migrant farmers had to move to other places since they feared they would lose their faith,” said the 50-year-old farmer.

Nhi said Ngoc Hoi and Dak Glei districts have 15,000 Catholics from 45 villages. They belong to the ethnic minority groups of De, K’hor, Kinh and Sedang.

Only two priests from Dak Mot parish pay monthly visits and celebrate Mass on Sundays, he said.

“The local Church should reach out to those people,” said Father Du. He said the aim was to bring the joys of Tet to poor local farmers who moved from northern provinces to the central province.

Related reports
Franciscans to give top priority to ethnic groups
Vietnam blocks bishop from pastoral visit

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