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Vietnam nuns make eco-friendly crèches, practice charity

They want to convey the Christmas message that ‘Jesus was born in a manger and among herdsmen’
Nuns from the Daughters of Our Lady of the Visitation make creches from used items at their convent in Thua Thien Hue province

Nuns from the Daughters of Our Lady of the Visitation make creches from used items at their convent in Thua Thien Hue province. (Photo: UCA News)

Published: December 22, 2023 10:54 AM GMT
Updated: December 26, 2023 06:50 AM GMT

Sister Mary Agnes Truong Thi Phuc decorates crèches with small pebbles while two other sisters make Christmas trees from old bottles.

“We use old items to produce nativities as a way to heighten public awareness of environmental protection in this Christmas season,” Phuc said.

The nuns make small crèches from cardboard, polystyrene, branches, pebbles, and pine fruits. The crèches measuring 50 centimeters in length and 40 centimeters in width are in the style of miniature rockeries that are familiar to the local people.

The nuns say local Catholic students collected the used items from their own and others' homes and offered them to the nuns to make environmentally friendly cribs. 

“Our Christmas message highlights environment protection and charity as Jesus was born in a manger and among herdsmen,” Phuc said.

The three nuns from the Daughters of Our Lady of the Visitation based in Thua Thien Hue province produce over 200 nativities during Advent and sell them for 200,000 dong (US$8) each.

The money is used to provide food for people whose crops were washed away in October and November.

“Many followers of other faiths buy our hand-made cribs and pay us more than 200,000 for each crib as they are interested in them,” Phuc said.

Le Thi My Tien, the owner of a clothes shop in Hue, said she finds the beauty of sincerity and simplicity in the crèches made of used items.

Tien, 38, said she bought a crèche from the nuns and displayed it in her shop to share the nuns’ Christmas message with her customers.

Stephanus Tran Van Thuan from Thuan Nhon Parish in the province said he and other catechism students are inspired by the nuns to make Christmas cribs from old paper, straw, pebbles and bamboo. They use clay to make statues of animals and paint them.

Thuan, 14, said they collected 10 million dong through donations to buy electric lamps and statues of Joseph, Mary and Infant Jesus to decorate the nativities. The parish has 80 students studying catechism on Sundays.

“We have offered 40 crèches and colorful lanterns to families who could not build them in their homes,” he said. “We want to ensure that poor people also have something useful to celebrate Christmas as Jesus comes to all people.”

Anna Le Thi Cong from Huong Lam Parish said her three children are away at work and she could not make a crèche or decorate her house.

“I am very touched by a crèche and two lanterns the students gave me as I am alone this Christmas,” Cong, 67, said.

Heavy rains battered the central province of Thua Thien Hue for days in November claiming the lives of five people and damaging 19,000 houses, crops, poultry, and cattle.

During Advent, Caritas in Hue Archdiocese has provided rice, instant noodles, clothes, blankets and money for 1,000 people. Some parishes have offered gifts to people in need to celebrate Christmas.

Father Francis Ho Van Uyen, parish priest of Nhan Dong in Quang Tri province, said many people suffer from lack of food because they lose their jobs and are badly affected by climate change.

The priest said he has appealed to parishioners to donate 10 kilograms of rice to poor people and help them celebrate Christmas.

“Christmas is only meaningful when we know how to share with our brothers and sisters in this difficult time,” he said.

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