Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – “Following the spirit of Pope Francis, seminarians are called to meet the faithful and parish communities in order to establish deep relationships and engage in dialogue with them,” Fr Dennis Phạm Bùi Vượng told AsiaNews.
The clergyman is responsible for the pastoral programmes of Saint Joseph major seminary, in the archdiocese of Saigon. Since November 2017, the latter has organised group visits for seminarians among local Catholics.
“Through these pastoral journeys, seminarians have the opportunity to practise love and compassion,” he said. “They can also support the hồn tông đồ, the apostolic soul of the consecrated life, in order to become future priests capable of carrying out pastoral and social activities in the service of parish communities.”
On 5 November, seminary students from group three went to Thới Hòa parish, diocese of Phú Cường (in the north of the country). The church was founded in 2012 and is open to about 9,000 Catholic migrants amid many difficulties.
To welcome the seminarians, Vicar Fr Dominique Trạch Cao Xuân Khải led Sunday Mass. All the seminarians, 400 worshippers and almost a thousand children were present, praying for the parish and neighbouring communities.
During the visit, the students worked with the Thới Hòa pastoral committee and spoke with the vicar about the life of the local Church.
On 26 November, group one seminarians visited Hội Nghĩa parish, also in the diocese of Phú Cường, which has 710 members out of 25,000 local residents.
In this remote region, the students learnt about the parish priest’s pastoral outreach and the religious life of parishioners. A seminarian told us that “after Mass, we divided into small groups to visit the faithful”.
“Every family we visited was a story of the journey of faith of people far from home. In fact, most of those who live here are migrants who have had to leave their hometown to make a living. They shared with us the many difficulties they face.
“Nevertheless, the vicar, Fr Joseph Nguyễn Khắc Hoàiand, and his parishioners work together with love, as Jesus taught us, and are involved in various initiatives to support them and help their children to attend school.”
On 14 January, Fr Dennis and 57 seminarians travelled to Vĩnh Kim parish, in the diocese of Mỹ Tho (south of Ho Chi Minh City). Some of them spoke to AsiaNews about a conversion experience in the community.
“Affected by an illness, Ms Bich Liên went to the shrine in Đức Mẹ La Mã Bến Tre to pray to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. When she was healed, she and 29 of her relatives received the baptism in the parish.”