Catholics attend a special Mass at Thanh An Church in Long Xuyen Diocese on Sept. 13. (Photo courtesy of gplongxuyen.org)
Catholics in southern Vietnam are being called on to follow Mother Mary’s example to bring Christian love and care to people in October, the month of the Holy Rosary.
Bishop Joseph Tran Van Toan of Long Xuyen said October is a time to pray the rosary and mark World Mission Day, which will be observed on Oct. 18.
Long Xuyen Diocese will be marking its 60th anniversary this year.
Bishop Toan, who became the diocese’s bishop in 2019, invited all people to “live out the Beatitudes according to Mother Mary’s example so that we can become seeds of God’s kingdom.”
The prelate called on Catholics to live the spirit of poverty by accepting a simple life and sharing what they have with people in need to make friends with the poor.
They should accept their shortcomings and honestly correct other people’s faults, and treat their enemy with tolerance, he said.
The diocese’s fourth bishop said people should cry about broken relationships, separation, fears, bias and sins among their communities, and know how to heal hurt in others’ souls.
He also called on them to accept being excluded and ostracized for following and sharing Christian values as a way to be salt and light in the world.
Bishop Toan said his diocese has shown a strong presence in the two provinces of An Giang and Kien Giang and in part of Can Tho City in the Mekong Delta thanks to local Catholic communities’ missionary activities.
The first church in the diocese was erected in Ha Tien by Father José Garcia in 1735.
When it was created in 1960, the diocese had 68 parishes, 86 subparishes and 18 mission stations. Now it serves 151 parishes, 59 subparishes and 23 mission stations.
“These numbers show that local Catholics are welcomed to journey with people of agricultural culture and followers of other faiths and beliefs, share difficulties with them and work with them to build a civilization of love and life,” Bishop Toan said in his October pastoral letter.
He said the local Church, which is home to various indigenous faiths and ethnic groups and cultures, such as Cham, Chinese and Khmer, is always grateful to local people.
In 2018, An Giang provincial authorities returned the former St. Thomas Major Seminary building to the local Church after using it as an educational center for decades. The building is now used as a pastoral center.
The 65-year-old bishop said local Catholics are used by God as salt, yeast and light for society to serve and work with other people and live in the spirit of the Beatitudes.
Bishop Toan asked local Catholics in October to recite the rosary daily, pray for evangelization work and do charitable deeds for those who have not known the Good News.
He suggested parishes launch fresh initiatives in evangelization while associations should visit, pray for, offer financial assistance and personnel and strike up harmonious relationships with mission stations.
The bishop also asked the diocese’s ministry committee to work with the committee for evangelization to set up a missionary childhood association.
The committees for evangelization and migrants and Caritas workers will outline the diocese’s missionary plans for 2021.
Long Xuyen Diocese, which has 230,000 Catholics out of a population of 4.3 million and is served by 315 priests, 515 religious, 150 seminarians and 1,700 catechists, plans to conclude its jubilee year on Nov. 24.