Bishop Paul Ramond hailed as 'an exemplary, benevolent and virtuous bishop who dedicated his life to serving God and people'
Catholics offer flowers and incense at the grave of Bishop Paul Ramond in the compound of Sapa Church on Jan. 6. (Photo courtesy of sapachurch.org)
Vietnam Catholics in a northern parish have expressed their filial affection to a French bishop who laid sound foundations for the local Church.
Father Peter Pham Thanh Binh and four other priests concelebrated a special Mass to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the death of Bishop Paul Ramond, a member of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris (MEP) who was the first prelate of Hung Hoa Diocese.
The celebration attended by many local Catholics and religious was held on Jan. 6 at Sapa Church in Sapa town of Lao Cai province.
Father Binh said the event was a good opportunity for Catholics to show their deep gratitude, respect and filial affection while praying for Bishop Ramond, who built firm foundations for future development of Vietnam’s largest diocese in terms of territory.
The priest said local people enjoy the heritage of faith, hope and love from the missionary who was an exemplary, benevolent and virtuous bishop who dedicated his life to serving God and local people, especially ethnic groups. The prelate adopted the Vietnamese name Loc, meaning good fortune, as his great dedication to the local Church.
“Bishop Loc worked as a dedicated missionary like St. Paul, as a witness of prayer and ardent love for the Lord like St. Therese of the Child Jesus. He loved Mother Mary and diligently recited the rosary like St. Alfonse, and immersed himself in praying in front of the Eucharist like St. Benedict,” the parish priest of Sapa Church said.
Catholics had to move to other places to stay clear of persecution and wars which ruined church facilities
The head of the ministry committee for ethnic minorities in Hung Hoa Diocese said local Catholics had no resident priests for nearly 60 years after MEP member Father Jean Pierre Idiart-Alhor was beheaded on May 18, 1948, while he was preparing to celebrate a Mass.
Catholics had to move to other places to stay clear of persecution and wars which ruined church facilities.
Father Binh, who was assigned to the parish in 2006, said local people started to commemorate the death anniversaries of Bishop Ramond and Father Alhor in 2010 after he disinterred their graves for proper reburial behind the church.
The 50-year-old priest said he follows the foreign missionaries’ examples by evangelizing and re-evangelizing Hmong ethnic people and restoring facilities built by missionaries. He has repaired the stone church built in 1026 and built a pastoral center and a dozen churches and chapels in Hmong villages.
He said some 3,000 people have joined the 120-year-old parish over the past 15 years.
Born in 1855 in Rodez Diocese in France, Bishop Ramond started to work in Vietnam in 1881 and became the first apostolic vicar of Hung Hoa Apostolic Prefecture in 1895. He sent many MEP members to work and set up mission stations among ethnic groups in northwestern provinces, set up new parishes and mission stations for ethnic groups in remote areas, trained indigenous clergy and strengthened local Catholics’ faith life.
The bishop, who was noted for being gentle, humble and fluent in the Hmong language, retired in 1938 and died on Jan. 6, 1944, in Sapa Church.
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