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Dominica

DOMINICAN SISTERS SERVE DISCREETLY IN NORTHERN DIOCESE

Updated: January 05, 1999 05:00 PM GMT
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Dominican sisters have been ministering discreetly in Vietnam´s northeastern Lang Son diocese for the last 10 years despite hardships and trials, says a local leader of the Religious congregation.

The nun, one of the Dominican sisters based in Ho Chi Minh City, recently told UCA News that for the past decade, her congregation has sent many groups of nuns back to Lang Son diocese, which it left some 45 years ago.

"Since our sisters do not have the government´s official permission to work publicly, they have to stay in people´s homes, live among ordinary people and not wear the habit," said the sister, who asked not to be named.

Most of the time, she continued, the sisters walk through the hills and valleys, bringing consecrated hosts to the faithful in remote subparishes, teaching catechism to children and caring for the sick and the poor.

The group has faced unexpected difficulties, such as when local authorities expelled some of the sisters from the province, but the congregation was able quickly to replace them. As a result, the sister pointed out, the community has managed to provide uninterrupted service to the diocese for 10 years.

A project worker for an international non-governmental organization told UCA News, "Local authorities where the sisters live and work have come to appreciate what they do for local people, especially the social services they provide."

The unnamed sister added, "The authorities seem to accept youngsters from the locality but do not trust people from other places or from southern dioceses."

Accordingly, she said, the congregation tries to recruit young women from Lang Son, who return to the diocese after completing formation in Ho Chi Minh City.

Presently, three members of the community are from Lang Son.

The superior also clarified, "We send only sisters who can endure hardship and sacrifice. Otherwise, they cannot stay long in such a remote place with very little Church support."

The congregation´s motherhouse of is in Go Vap district in Ho Chi Minh City.

Of its 82 nuns, 56 work in the city, while nine more communities are in Da Lat, Xuan Loc and Long Xuyen dioceses, all in southern Vietnam.

The congregation, which was officially approved by the late Archbishop Paul Nguyen Van Binh of Ho Chi Minh City in 1978, originated from Dominican houses of charity founded in 1715 by a Spanish missioner in northern dioceses.

Some nuns moved to Lang Son in 1918, but all of them left the north and moved to Ho Chi Minh City, then called Saigon, during the 1954 Catholic exodus.

Unlike other northern coastal dioceses served by Spanish Dominicans, Lang Son, the northernmost diocese near the Chinese border, was originally administered by Dominicans affiliated with what is now the Dominican province of France.

The diocese has but one priest, 94-year-old Father Vincent Hoang Trong Quynh, a seminarian studying in Ha Noi and a few candidates with the Dominican order.

Bishop Vincent Pham Van Du, its first native bishop, died last September.

The diocese struggles to provide pastoral service to the 5,000 or so Catholics who live in its three provinces. Moreover, most of Lang Son´s 16 parishes have no churches since they were destroyed by war in the last few decades.

Lang Son is home to Buddhist pagodas, attractive landscapes and historical sites. It also has several ethnic groups, such as the Nung and Tay peoples, who respectively represent 44 and 36 percent of the diocesan population.

END

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