Christ calls, Asians respond

Lent series 2023


Curiosity leads Vietnamese orphan to Catholic faith

By UCA News Reporter, Hanoi

February 22, 2023 03:29 AM

Le Dac My is deeply inspired by the dedication of Catholics to live a life of faith and love for fellow humans

Le Dac My at his baptism ceremony at Ben Ngu Church in Hue on Feb 2, 2023

Le Dac My at his baptism ceremony at Ben Ngu Church in Hue on Feb 2, 2023 (Photo supplied)

For Le Dac My the quest for Christ began discreetly some seven years ago. Ever since, as a moth moves toward the light, he’s drawn closer to God’s warm love.

My, a Buddhist orphan who lives with his aunt in Hue, the capital of Vietnam’s Thua Thien Hue province, remembers feeling curious to look inside a church on the way to his home village for the Lunar New Year festival in 2016.

He then joined the churchgoers in picking one of those "sacred buds" containing passages from the Bible, attached to a blooming apricot tree in front of the church.

Le Dac My (right) talks with his godparent Peter Nguyen Quoc Phong at his home on Jan 30. (Photo: UCA News)

His sacred bud read: “Today salvation has come to this house because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

“I did not understand the passage but saw it as a talisman and stuck it on the wardrobe so that I could read it daily,” said the 25-year-old My, who sells clothes for a living.

Little did he know that his curiosity was about to create circumstances that would draw his heart closer to God whose powerful presence has reassured him ever since.

“I could feel a powerful God who always accompanied and protected me every time I was in danger,” My recalls.

In 2017, five gangsters with machetes stopped his van in Nghe An province and tried to take away four bales of new clothes he was transporting.

My desperately cried for help and a local Catholic businessman came to his rescue. The man called other people for help and ensured the goods were restored to their rightful owner.

The following year, on his way to deliver clothes to customers in Ha Uc parish, My met with a road accident that knocked him unconscious. The local Catholics rushed him to a hospital and looked after his motorbike and goods.

Last year, both he and his aunt contracted Covid-19 and once again, Catholic volunteers took them to a Church-run clinic where they were given medical treatment and taken care of until they fully recovered.

“I was only too delighted that those Catholics saved my life even though I was not a Catholic. It is they who transmitted the fire of faith and divine love to me. I believe God exists, loves me and sends his children to walk with me," My said.

“It took me months to think about conversion and I finally decided to embrace Catholicism because I am deeply inspired by Catholics’ dedication to living out their faith and coming to the aid of people in need,” he added.

The single man with short hair has now completed a five-month course in Christian ethics, Church history, liturgy, sacraments and Scriptures for 37 catechumens at Ben Ngu parish.

“I look up to martyr saints like Joseph Marchand Du and Emmanuel Nguyen Van Trieu, who dedicated themselves to serving people in need and bore witness to the living Jesus until their last breath. Their lives have good influences on my faith,” the catechumen, who has an interest in Vietnamese martyrs, said.

My (first line, second from right), other Neophytes and priests pose for a photo after the baptism ceremony at Ben Ngu Church in Hue on Feb 2, 2023 (Photo supplied)

Father Marchand Du, a French missionary, was killed in 1835 and his body was thrown into the sea, and Father Trieu was a native priest who was beheaded in 1798.

My has chosen Peter Nguyen Quoc Phong, a Nam Pho parish council member, to be his godfather.

“He is friendly, kind and useful to all people in need, and takes an active part in church activities. I need such a man of exemplary character to lead my faith life,” he said.

Phong, 62, a former gangster who worked at train stations when he was young, said he turned over a new leaf in 1988 after picking up a sacred bud reading: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”

“I respect My for his strong faith and determination to embrace Catholicism,” Phong, who has eight godchildren, said.

He is happy that his attempts to share his faith experience with My are bearing fruit that will last. My is gentle and polite, and is turning into a gift that keeps on giving, Phong feels.

My was among 13 catechumens who were baptized by Father Joseph Nguyen Van Chanh at Ben Ngu Church on Feb. 2, the day that marks the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus.

Father Joseph Pham Dinh Toan, who is in charge of catechumens and marriage in Hue City Deanery, said Hue Archdiocese welcomes some 800-900 catechumens every year, though some 100 of them get baptized.

Le Dac My and his aunt during his baptism at Ben Ngu Church on Feb. 2. (Photo: UCA News)

The archdiocese has 96 parishes with 67,000 Catholics among a population of two million in the two provinces of Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue, which is home to followers of Protestantism, Buddhism and some indigenous faiths, besides atheists.

My said his Buddhist aunt, who attended his baptismal service, supports his religious conversion and plans to join the faith in the future.

“I am on top of the world to be fully Catholic, worship the God of love and live in harmony with other followers,” he said, adding that he will marry a Catholic woman in the future so that they can help one another to live out faith.

He said he is interested in his sacred bud of this year saying, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud."

“Good Catholics must respect and love others, which is a good motto for my new life,” he said.

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