Updated: April 20, 2021 09:12 AM GMT
People in mourning say farewell to Father Joseph Nguyen Dinh Dau on April 16 at Vinh Loc Parish in Thach That district of Hanoi. (Photo: UCA News)
Catholics in a northern diocese in Vietnam are mourning a senior priest who dedicated himself to restoring religious activities in hard times.
Father Joseph Nguyen Dinh Dau, 76, died of pancreatic cancer on April 13 at a house for retired priests in Vinh Loc Parish in Thach That district of Hanoi.
Thousands of people including non-Catholics paid visits, offered incense and recited prayers round the clock in front of the priest’s coffin in Vinh Loc church before the funeral.
After the Mass, people marched in a procession carrying the priest’s coffin two kilometers through the village to the parish cemetery.
Bishop Chuong, who served Hung Hoa Diocese from 2003 to 2011, praised the late priest for having dedicated himself to providing pastoral care for tens of thousands of Catholics from eight parishes in the northern mountainous province of Yen Bai for two decades.
He remained faithful to God and the Church and served Catholic communities in difficult times in the 1980s and 1990s
He said the priest sang well and had a God-given talent for finding underground water for people to dig wells.
Father Peter Pham Thanh Binh, priest of Sa Pa Parish, said local people deeply grieved the death of Father Dau, who was a holy, endearing and good-natured priest.
“He remained faithful to God and the Church and served Catholic communities in difficult times in the 1980s and 1990s when religious activities were restricted by the government,” said Father Binh, who worked with the late priest for years before his ordination. At that time, the largest diocese in terms of territory had 10 elderly priests.
Father Binh, who serves as head of Lao Cai Deanery, said Father Dau, who lived in humility and poverty, restored religious services at abandoned churches and paid pastoral visits to people from the Hmong community in the parishes of Giang La Pan and Phinh Ho since French missionaries left in the early 1950s. Local Catholics were not allowed to attend Masses in other places, while priests were prevented from traveling.
Father Binh said the late priest had to seek permits from all government levels who only granted him limited time before he was allowed to administer last sacraments to dying patients or celebrate Masses in other places.
He said Father Dau patiently and bravely demanded religious freedom for local people.
The priest encouraged and supported young people to follow consecrated lives
Dominican Sister Mary Cu Thi Huynh Hoa, the first Hmong nun in the diocese, said Father Dau walked and rode horses to visit her parish of Giang La Pan in the 1990s.
Sister Hoa, who was sent to study in the south, said the priest encouraged and supported young people to follow consecrated lives and consequently there are 40 priests.
Maria Tran Thi Thuy, who was supported by the late priest and now serves as a catechist, said he rebuilt Yen Bai church, which was completed in 1998 — the first church to be built in the province since 1954. The old church was destroyed in the war.
Thuy said she raised money to hold the priest’s funeral as a way to express her gratitude to him.