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Vietnam's Covid frontline volunteers pray for the departed

Religious brothers and sisters become spiritual bridges for the deceased to peacefully enter the world beyond death

Duc Trung Vu and Tran Ngoc Huong, CSsR

Duc Trung Vu and Tran Ngoc Huong, CSsR

Published: September 22, 2021 04:10 AM GMT

Updated: September 22, 2021 04:55 AM GMT

Vietnam's Covid frontline volunteers pray for the departed

Religious brothers and sisters pray for patients who died of the coronavirus at a field hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. (Photo: YouTube)

At 7.30am at field hospital No. 16 in Ho Chi Minh City, religious brothers and sisters began their shift with prayers for patients who had just passed away due to the coronavirus.

Those frontline workers are members of different congregations in the southern city who volunteer to assist medical staff in taking care of patients with Covid-19 as well as carry out logistical work.

In July, the standing committee of the Fatherland Front of Vietnam called for the voluntary participation of dignitaries and followers of religions in Ho Chi Minh City in stemming the contagion.

Soon after, about 700 volunteers from religious organizations joined in at field hospitals.

Besides taking care of the sick and logistics, they also perform a special task: pray in front of the cold room of those who succumbed to Covid-19 every day.

"All medical staff and volunteers are aware of their role as the patient's family member because the patients came here alone. If the patient dies, even the family cannot be present. Therefore, I always want to do something for them. We also pray for all the patients here," said Sister Thuy Linh, a member of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres.

I'm surrounded by people who need a breath. While I can still breathe, I need to help them

She compared this pandemic to a war that no one had imagined: "This is indeed a very fierce battle. Realizing such fierceness, we have a duty to join hands with doctors and nurses. We came here to assist and work with medical staff.”

Brother Quang Phung, a Redemptorist seminarian, explains what the volunteers actually do in the field hospital: "Taking care of patients is a general term. In particular, we change diapers, change beds, take food for patients to eat, visit and encourage them. If the patient needs anything, we will go get it for the,."

Sister Thuy Link says this is not an easy job, especially as she has to wear a disposable medical protection suit.

"I never have any thought of giving up," she says. "I'm surrounded by people who need a breath. While I can still breathe, I need to help them."

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It is a joy for the volunteers when a patient recovers. Brother Quang Phung says they serve everyone no matter if the patients are Catholic or non-Catholic: "The Vietnamese people are a united nation. We serve and care for every patient regardless of their religion."

After watching this video, Redemptorist Father Alphonsus Tran Ngoc Huong felt touched by the volunteers and wrote this reflection: "This morning, when I watched VOV's video reportage at field hospital No. 16 with the topic ‘Prayer at the centre of pandemic,’ I saw the religious brothers and sisters standing in front of the containers, praying for those who had passed away due to Covid-19 so that their souls may be at peace and they may gently and peacefully depart. I also saw the Sign of the Cross being raised. My heart feels truly touched. I ask myself: every day, how many times do I make a sign as a habit and how many times I do with a sense of conviction as those volunteers?"

Because of the Sign of the Cross, religious brothers and sisters become "relatives" of the patients and daily offer a prayer for those who have passed away. The relatives of the departed may not know right away the sadness.

Besides acting as servants, the religious brothers and sisters become spiritual bridges for the deceased to peacefully enter the world beyond death. 

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