Priests and relatives stand behind the coffin of Dominic Dinh Van Bang, who rang church bells to maintain people’s faith life for half a century. (Photo: UCA News)
Hundreds of people have bid farewell to a Vietnamese lay Catholic who spent most of his life maintaining his community’s faith life and took care of a church’s facilities for half a century.
Dominic Dinh Van Bang died peacefully of old age on Jan. 9 in An Cu Parish in Hai Hau district of Nam Dinh province. He was 87 years old.
Father Andrew Nguyen Van Cong, the parish priest, and his two predecessors concelebrated Bang’s open-air funeral in chilly weather on Jan. 11. The parish church is currently under repair.
Father Cong said Bishop Thomas Vu Dinh Hieu of Bui Chu generously allowed him and the two former parish priests to concelebrate Bang’s funeral Mass as a way of showing respect to the layman, who suffered paralysis of his right arm. Concelebrated funeral Masses are usually only dedicated to local priests, religious and their parents.
The 52-year-old priest said Bang, who worked in the parish for 75 years, was gentle, humble and angry with no one, and he always rang the church bells on time to remind people to go to church.
The priests and local Catholics in full mourning marched in procession for one kilometer carrying Bang’s coffin to the parish’s cemetery. They sang hymns, said prayers and played drums and trumpets.
Before the funeral, local people including government authorities visited, offered incense and wreaths and prayed for Bang, who lived on what they offered him. They praised him for living a simple and good life serving the community.
Dominic Vu Van Vy, one of the oldest people in the parish, said Bang worked hard, looked after the parish’s facilities and held prayers at the church in hard times for 50 years after Father Dominic Dinh Tu Phan died in 1956. The parish had no resident priest until 2006.
Vy, 94, said his close friend wisely dealt with problems caused by local authorities who tried to restrict religious activities.
Joseph Nguyen Van Nghiem, a former lay leader, said Catholics called Bang “brother” to express their deep gratitude to him. “What we have today is due to his lifelong contribution,” he said.
Catholicism was brought to the area by foreign missioners over 200 years ago and the parish now serves 1,000 people. The church was rebuilt in 1995.
Bang, who has two sisters, one of them a Saint Paul de Chartres sister, visited his relatives in Phu Nhai Parish for the lunar new year festival and offered them fruits he cultivated.
His relatives will disinter his remains in the future and re-inter them nearby his parents’ graves at Phu Nhai cemetery as he wished.