Ethnic Catholics in traditional clothes attend the ceremony to mark the 125th anniversary of Hung Hoa Diocese’s establishment in Son Tay Town on Dec. 8. (Photo: UCA News)
Catholics from the largest diocese in northern Vietnam have been asked to follow ethnic groups’ good examples in evangelization to celebrate the anniversary of the Church’s establishment.
Some 2,000 people wearing face masks attended the opening Mass of the jubilee year to mark the 125th anniversary of the foundation of Hung Hoa Diocese on Dec. 8. The open-air celebration was held in cold weather at the newly built Bishop’s House in Son Tay Town in Hanoi.
Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Vien, apostolic administrator of Hung Hoa, presided at the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the diocese’s patroness, concelebrated by three bishops and joined by 150 priests.
In his homily, Bishop Alfonse Nguyen Huu Long of Vinh, head of the Episcopal Commission on Evangelization of the Vietnamese bishops, said local people first received Catholicism nearly 400 years ago and the diocese was established in 1895 with 17,000 Catholics from 11 parishes served by 25 priests.
“Today evangelization is an urgent mission we must pay much attention to because local Catholics represent only a small proportion of the total population,” Bishop Long told the congregation.
The prelate said the diocese covering nine provinces and part of Hanoi now has some 258,000 Catholics in 116 parishes, accounting for 3.9 percent of the population.
He said the diocese served by 162 priests, 420 religious and 3,880 catechists received only 1,700 newcomers last year.
He warned that it is not good for those who have not brought anyone back to the Church in their lives as they are considered like fig trees without fruits.
“I would like to call on all of you to carry out the evangelization mission as our top priority as a way to celebrate this jubilee year,” Bishop Long said.
Father Peter Nguyen Truong Giang, deputy of the diocese’s ministry committee for ethnic minorities, acknowledged that evangelization is a must for local Catholics since half of last year’s newcomers are from the Hmong community, among them 20,000 Catholics. The diocese is home to various ethnic groups.
Father Giang, pastor of Lao Chai Parish in Lao Cai province, said it is sad that some 230,000 Kinh or the majority Vietnamese bring few people to the Church.
“Kinh people should follow examples of Hmong Catholics in evangelizing their fellows,” he told UCA News.
Bishop Vien, who has paid pastoral visits to Catholic communities in remote areas in nine provinces since he started to head the diocese in September, said the diocese has various ethnic groups and traditional cultures and religions so local Catholics have opportunities to bear witness to the Good News among people of other faiths.
“I am enormously impressed to have administered baptism to 51 Hmong villagers at Phinh Ho Parish in November,” the prelate told UCA News. He appreciated local priests, nuns and Hmong lay missionaries who make great efforts to carry out evangelization work.
Joseph Sung Say Chu, a Hmong lay leader from Phinh Ho Parish, said he and other Catholics traveled 270 kilometers from their parish to attend the Mass.
“Local Hmong people live in poverty but always do faith practice and manage to talk to others about Catholic values,” the father of five said.
Chu said Vincentians have worked with them for the past decade, building roads, bridges and toilets that help improve people’s lives. Now 10 Vincentian priests offer pastoral care to 5,000 Hmong people from two parishes of Tram Tau and Giang La Pan in the mountainous province of Yen Bai.
Prior to the opening Mass of the jubilee year of Divine Mercy, Dao, Hmong, Muong, Tay and Thai ethnic people sang songs, danced and gave other cultural performance.
The bishops also inaugurated the three-story Bishop's House.