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Vietnam Catholics bear witness to their first martyr

Blessed Andrew Phu Yen was beheaded in 1644 and beatified by St. Pope John Paul II on Mar. 5, 2000
People attend a special Mass to mark the 23rd anniversary of Blessed Andrew Phu Yen’s beatification on March 5 at Phuoc Kieu subparish in Quang Nam province

People attend a special Mass to mark the 23rd anniversary of Blessed Andrew Phu Yen’s beatification on March 5 at Phuoc Kieu subparish in Quang Nam province. (Photo: UCA News)

Published: March 10, 2023 11:13 AM GMT
Updated: March 13, 2023 06:23 AM GMT

Simon Duong Quoc Thuan and his wife look after the shrine of Blessed Andrew Phu Yen, take part in its services, recite prayers and receive visitors on a daily basis.

“We are longing for many people to visit the shrine, appeal to our Blessed Andrew Phu Yen, and bear witness to his intercessory powers so that he will be canonized in the future,” Thuan said. 

The 16-year-old shrine is based in Phuoc Kieu sub-parish in Quang Nam province.

The 62-year-old Thuan, who wears round-rimmed glasses and sports shoulder-length hair, was diagnosed with a kidney stone 70 millimeters in length at a public hospital in the neighboring city of Da Nang last November. The doctors planned surgery on him.

The expert in casting gongs, trays, incense burners, candle holders, and busts of figures in bronze, prayed fervently to Blessed Andrew Phu Yen to cure him.

He said before the operation, the doctors surprisingly found out that the stone fell into the bladder and floated down the urinary tract.

"I really believe that Blessed Andrew Phu Yen interceded with God to heal me," he said.

The father of three said he will collect all medical documents relating to his case and report to the local Church as a way to testify to the intercession of the Blessed Andrew Phu Yen, the proto-martyr of Vietnam.

Thuan said his near-relative Simon Duong Van Viet, a former communist member who converted to Catholicism in 1984, is believed to have been cured of his stomach cancer by the Blessed Andrew Phu Yen’s intervention in 2010.

He said then Bishop Joseph Chau Ngoc Tri of Da Nang celebrated a thanksgiving Mass for Viet, 70, whose case has been sent to Da Nang Diocese

According to Church documents, Blessed Andrew Phu Yen, who was born at Mang Lang parish in Phu Yen province in 1625, was baptized in 1641 and joined a group of catechists the following year.

The teenage catechist worked with Jesuit Father Alexandre de Rhodes, whose work led to the Quoc Ngu, the romanization of the Vietnamese language. In the past, Vietnamese people used the Chinese script to write their language.

He was beheaded at the age of 19 for his determination to “remain true to Jesus until my last breath” on July 26, 1644, at the place where the shrine is located now.

He was beatified by St. Pope John Paul II on Mar. 5, 2000.

Father Joseph Nguyen Thanh Tung, the rector of the shrine, said many miracles due to the intercession of the Blessed have happened to the sub-parish with 211 members since the Jubilee Year, marking the 30th anniversary of the canonization of 117 Vietnamese martyrs in 2018.

Father Tung said many Buddhist families venerate the Blessed and many donated their properties to the church after their prayers were answered by Blessed Andrew Phu Yen. Some of them later converted to Catholicism. 

The shrine established by Bishop Tri in 2007 now occupies an area of over 5,000 square meters as a result of miracles. Local people have rebuilt facilities since the beatification of Blessed Andrew Phu Yen in 2000.

Simon Nguyen Thanh Phuc, head of the sub-parish council, said Blessed Andrew Phu Yen kept local people safe and healthy during the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic.

“We attended Masses at the church every day, while people from other places had to attend online services due to travel and health restrictions,” Phuc, who voluntarily looks after and guides pilgrims to the shrine, said.

He said the sub-parish which is imbued with blood from numberless martyrs during religious persecution in the three centuries has produced at least four priests and three sisters. 

The sub-parish is considered a cradle of the Quoc Ngu. Phuc said the local government plans to build a public park named after Jesuit Father Francisco de Pina, who was well-known in Vietnam. He led the mission station for years at Phuoc Kieu before drowning on Dec. 16, 1625.

A museum will be erected to show old things relating to the Quoc Ngu and honor foreign missionaries and local scholars who helped it become the national language. 

The lay leader said thousands of people make the annual pilgrimage to the shrine to celebrate the anniversaries of Blessed Andrew Phu Yen's death and beatification on July 26 and March 5, respectively. They pray in front of the big statue of the Blessed in traditional clothes, carrying the Bible.

Blessed Andrew Phu Yen was also chosen as the patron of catechists for Da Nang Diocese and many other dioceses in the country.

“We are extremely proud of our Blessed Andrew Phu Yen, who used his blood and life to transfer the faith to us. We try our best to preserve his heritage for younger generations, that will be the gift that keeps on giving,” Phuc said.

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