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Young Hmong mothers attend Mass with their children

Priest counsels Hmong couples marrying early reporter, Yen Bai

August 17 2010

A northern Vietnam parish is providing pastoral care for Hmong ethnic couples, many of whom still marry between the ages of 13 and 16.

"Over the past two years, 50 Hmong couples have been married in our church and their children were also baptized here," said Father Peter Nguyen Dinh Den, pastor of My Hung parish in Yen Bai province. Another 20 couples are presently attending a marriage preparation course.

Hmong people traditionally marry very early, said Father Den although the legal age for marriage in Vietnam is 18.

Father Den, 37, said he respects the Hmong tradition of early marriage but tries to raise awareness of the legal marriage age through summer catechism courses for children.

He also urges local Catholics to attend marriage preparation courses and advises them to avoid lavish wedding feasts which could last for days. The bride’s family should also not ask the groom's family for too many gifts such as money and livestock, he said.

Teresa Sung Thi Ca said she got married last year at the age of 15. She now has a child and plans to celebrate her wedding in church when she and her husband turn 18.

My Hung parish serves 2,100 Hmong and 1,100 Kinh, the dominant ethnic group in Vietnam.

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