Updated: November 12, 2021 06:42 AM GMT
Government authorities offer flowers and congratulations to Moc Chau parish in Son La province on Nov. 6. (Photo courtesy of giaophanhunghoa.org)
Authorities in a Vietnamese province which used to reject all religious activities have recognized a parish where Catholics first gathered for prayers three decades ago.
Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Vien, apostolic administrator of Hung Hoa Diocese, presided at a special Mass to mark the establishment of Moc Chau Parish in Son La province in the northwest of the communist country.
Present at the ceremony on Nov. 6 were Emeritus Bishop John Marie Vu Tat, 21 priests and many people including representatives from local authorities and Buddhists who offered large bouquets of flowers to the parish.
Bishop Vien said God performs terrific things in the parish, the first officially approved by the government in a province that has eight parishes.
The prelate said the parish, which was established in 2015 by Bishop Tat, had developed thanks to many priests, religious and local people who overcame numerous grave difficulties to form and build Catholic communities over the decades.
He called on people to trust in one another, promote a culture of thanksgiving as God always loves them, and perform God’s will in their daily lives.
The starting point of building the local community was when Bishop Chuong and two priests paid a first brief visit to them on Christmas Day in 2005
Bishop Vien also appointed Father Joseph Nguyen Cong Binh as the first parish priest of Moc Chau, where Father Binh has served since 2018.
The parish has 240 families with 885 members in four subparishes and two mission stations in two districts of Moc Chau and Van Ho.
Peter Nguyen Van Nha, head of the parish council, said that in 1991 some Catholics gathered to pray and sing carols on Christmas Eve at a family’s house for the first time as they had no Mass. They then regularly gathered to say prayers and share their joys and sorrows with one another on Sunday evenings and solemn feasts.
In 2003, 39 Catholics attended Bishop Anthony Vu Huy Chuong’s episcopal ordination at Hung Hoa Bishop’s House and came into contact with church leaders.
“The starting point of building the local community was when Bishop Chuong and two priests paid a first brief visit to them on Christmas Day in 2005,” he said. The prelate also started to meet and discuss religious issues with provincial authorities.
In 2006, Father Joseph Nguyen Trung Thoai started to provide pastoral activities for three communities at people’s homes. Priests from other places also visited and offered services to them.
As a result, many Catholic communities in the province were established. The province now has eight parishes — Son La, Huoi Mot, Chieng Khoong, Muong La, Mai Son, Yen Chau, Phu Yen and Moc Chau — all founded by the diocese.
A total of 8,000 Catholics have resident priests and five parishes are served by Lovers of the Holy Cross sisters.
Nha said Catholics in the province hope the local government will soon recognize the other seven parishes so that they have opportunities to build facilities and foster their faith life.
Son La province is Vietnam’s last place to approve religious activities.
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