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Ha Noi Major Seminary Revamps Management, Formation

Updated: January 30, 2006 05:00 PM GMT
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The Ha Noi-based St. Joseph Major Seminary saw significant changes in management and the formation of seminarians during 2005.

Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Ha Noi "made radical changes in management and improvements in the formation quality at the major seminary," Auxiliary Bishop Pierre Nguyen Van De of Bui Chu told UCA News on Jan. 27.

Salesian Bishop De, who has taught at the major seminary since 2000, received episcopal ordination on Jan. 18. He plans to continue teaching.

According to the bishop, the most important change Archbishop Kiet instituted was in September, when he decided not to continue as seminary rector as the previous Ha Noi archbishops had done. Instead, he selected a governing board of directors to run the seminary.

Archbishop Kiet chose well-qualified priests for the board and gave them the authority to decide the seminary curriculum on their own, Bishop De said. He added that the board already has upgraded the library and teaching equipment, and set up a computer room with an Internet connection.

The 53-year-old archbishop had served as rector of the seminary since he was named Ha Noi administrator in May 2003. The late Pope John Paul II appointed him Ha Noi archbishop on Feb. 19, 2005, the day he accepted the resignation of Cardinal Joseph Pham Dinh Tung, then 85, as archbishop.

Bishop De said Father Laurence Chu Van Minh, who has a doctorate in inculturation and religions, is now the seminary rector, assisted by two vice rectors: Father Jean Vu Tat, a canon law expert, and Father Joseph Nguyen Van Diem, an expert in Biblical studies.

The bishop pointed out that about 30 bishops, priests, Religious and laypeople from across the country with specific expertise are invited to teach or give talks at the seminary. Some of them are associated with seminaries elsewhere in Vietnam.

Bishop De also pointed out that a seminary website (www.daichungvienhanoi.com) and an archdiocesan website (www.giaophanhanoi.org), both in Vietnamese, became operational in March, giving Catholics access to the latest developments in the local Church.

According to a newsletter recently published on the seminary website, other remarkable events last year included seminarians serving at four northern leprosariums as part of summer pastoral work. In December, seminarians and priests who teach them visited and celebrated Mass at Qua Cam Leprosarium in the neighboring province of Bac Ninh.

Jean Baptiste Vu Van Thuong, one of the seminarians who visited Qua Cam Leprosarium, told UCA News, "It was also the first lesson for us seminarians on how to serve."

As reported on the seminary website, Archbishop Kiet said at a Jan. 1 gathering of about 1,000 seminary benefactors and seminarians´ relatives: "If we just sit in one place, we could not know how Catholics are living. Therefore, priests, Religious, seminarians and catechists have to go out to places with poverty and to people with difficulties."

People found it strange that seminarians went to leprosariums to serve patients, "but this should have been a normal thing," he said, reminding the seminarians to have "the spirit of shepherds who look for and serve lost sheep."

Another highlight of the past year was that St. Joseph Major Seminary was allowed to recruit new seminarians annually, making it the first major seminary in Vietnam given this permission by the government. Since the seminary is short on space, the 43 new seminarians use the Salesian building in Co Nhue, 18 kilometers from St. Joseph.

Archbishop Kiet told UCA News early this month that the Ha Noi seminary is overloaded in terms of living space, study and other activities for seminarians. "It is urgent that this year we have to start building another bigger seminary to meet the need for formation," he said. The seminary, which provides priestly formation for eight northern dioceses, has 235 students.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City told UCA News Jan. 17 that the government gave official permission early this month for a new branch of Ho Chi Minh City-based St. Joseph Major Seminary to be established in Xuan Loc diocese´s old seminary building in Long Khanh town.

Cardinal Man noted that it would take much time and money to upgrade the old building. He said his seminary, which serves students from six southern dioceses, is "now overloaded," since the government last year allowed all candidates proposed by the dioceses to enter. In the past, government authorities recognized only 10 or 15 candidates from the lists the dioceses submitted, which typically contained 12-20 names.


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