Christmas Thrift Benefits Typhoon Rehabilitation, As Church Appeals For Help

Vietnam
2007-01-08 00:00:00

Catholics in a typhoon-ravaged area of Vietnam donated some money they otherwise would have spent celebrating Christmas to help people recovering from the early December disaster.

"It is good not to buy a new dress so as to share something with others," affirmed Marie Nguyen Thi Xuan Loan of Cai Mon parish. She told UCA News that she did not buy new clothes for Christmas but instead donated 200,000 dong (about US$13) to typhoon-affected people.

The parish, which belongs to Vinh Long diocese, is located in Ben Tre province ´s Vinh Thanh village, 1,790 kilometers south of Ha Noi.

Fellow parishioner Pierre Nguyen Van Tan told UCA News he made a Christmas star for his home instead of buying a decorative one for 50,000 dong, like he did last year. He too donated the money saved to help typhoon survivors.

Typhoon Durian struck Vietnam on Dec. 5, wreaking havoc in 12 southern cities and provinces under Ho Chi Minh City archdiocese and the dioceses of Ba Ria, Can Tho, Long Xuyen, My Tho, Phan Thiet, Vinh Long and Xuan Loc. Bishops in the affected dioceses have appealed for help.

According to the National Flood and Storm Control Committee, the typhoon claimed 73 lives with 16 more people still missing, injured 1,370 people and destroyed 216,000 houses and 813 fishing boats.

Father Joseph Nguyen Ngoc Thich, pastor of Cai Mon, celebrated a special Mass on Dec. 24 that drew 1,000 people affected by the typhoon. He told UCA News that in the past, he would spend about 5 million dong on a party for parish workers after the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve. This year he did not hold the party but used the money to help typhoon survivors instead.

Father Thich said he also urged parishioners to reduce their expenditures during Christmas in order to share more with the poor. He and four assistant pastors serve the parish´s 20,000 Catholics.

According to village authorities, the typhoon destroyed 45 houses and left another 1,023 houses roofless. It also uprooted 6,000 fruit trees and destroyed countless bonsai and flowers prepared for the coming Tet (Lunar New Year) holidays in February. The damage is estimated at 8 billion dong.

Vinh Thanh is well known for its fruit, fruit-tree saplings and various kinds of flowers. Father Thich said it takes the saplings years to produce their first fruit, so local people will face harsh times in the coming years.

In a special appeal, Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City and the bishops of the other seven dioceses where Typhoon Durian left a trail of destruction reported on the extent of damage and asked for help.

"We would like to ask international organizations and Catholics inside and outside the country to actively help victims restore their normal life," read the joint appeal issued after the Church leaders met on Dec. 19 at the archbishop´s house in Ho Chi Minh City, 90 kilometers north of Vinh Thanh.

The appeal reported that hundreds of churches, parish houses, Church facilities and buildings belonging to Religious congregations either collapsed or were damaged by the typhoon. Thousands of poor Catholic families also lost their homes in the disaster, the appeal added.

It noted that the Vietnam Catholic bishops´ Episcopal Commission for Social and Charitable Affairs offered the affected dioceses emergency aid of 800 million dong, even as it acknowledged that this amount "is too small to console victims who suffered much loss."

Cardinal Man, in his own Christmas and New Year message sent to all parishes in his archdiocese, urged Catholics "to cut down on unnecessary expenditures for Christmas and New Year so that we can share with poor people." He directed parish priests to read his message during Sunday Masses until Jan. 7, the Feast of the Epiphany, which ends the Christmas season.

The National Flood and Storm Control Committee reported on Jan. 3 that last year´s losses to the country caused by natural disasters came to an estimated 18.6 trillion dong, the largest economic loss in 25 years.

END

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