Hundreds of converts to Catholicism in a Vietnamese diocese that is home to various ethnic groups have been asked to look for God and share their faith with other people. About 800 catechumens, mostly from ethnic groups, attended a special gathering on Oct. 18-19 at Hoang Yen Church in Chu Prong district of Gia Lai province in the Central Highlands. The event was held by Kontum Diocese’s committee for evangelization to celebrate Extraordinary Mission Month and mark the 93rd World Mission Sunday on Oct. 20. Organizers said the first-ever gathering aimed to strengthen catechumens’ young faith and offer them opportunities to enjoy the joy of following God and discover the missionary call. “Embracing Catholicism means following God, who does not promise to give us talents, good health and wealth, but if we live up to what he teaches, we will be really happy,” said Bishop Aloisius Nguyen Hung Vi of Kontum.
He said Jesus from Heaven teaches people the truth of God, which aims at bringing them to Heaven. “To believe in Christ means to follow him,” he added. Bishop Vi said religion is very important to people because it gives answers to their insoluble questions — who they are, where they are from and where they are after death. The prelate said only Christianity answers those questions, so “we must believe in Christ who brings us the meaning of our life.” “To become a Christian is not only to be baptized but to pray hard to God to give us the faith, to live out God’s Word and bring the Word to other people,” Bishop Vi said. Johan Ksor Phon from Bon Oi Nu Parish said he took a catechism course and was baptized last Easter by local Redemptorists. “In the past I did not know Catholicism and lived a lonely and miserable life, but now I am happy to know God who loves me and heals me of my diseases,” said the 57-year-old Jrai ethnic man. “I bravely travel to villages to meet and share my joys with other Catholics and followers of other faiths.” Anna Ro Cham Psich from Lan village said Franciscans regularly visit, love and give material and spiritual support to ethnic Jrai villagers who live in poverty. “We are happy that Franciscans journey with us and quietly say Masses to us at our houses even though government authorities prevent them,” the 20-year-old mother of one said. “All villagers embraced Catholicism because the priests tried their best to overcome challenges to serve and love us.” Ro Cham H’Dap, 54, said local authorities have banned his villagers from Catholicism for a long time. Last year many villagers publicly converted to the religion and he decided to follow the faith. “My family were baptized at Easter. My children take Sunday classes and take part in activities held at our parish,” the father of three from Ia To Parish said. During the gathering, participants shared their stories of conversion, experiences in introducing the Good News to other people, gave cultural performance and sang hymns. Dominican Father Anthony Phan Tu Cuong, head of the committee for evangelization, said this year more than 2,000 people, mostly from ethnic groups, have embraced Catholicism. Kontum Diocese serves 350,000 Catholics out of a total population of two million.
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