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Ho Chi Minh city – “As missionaries of the love that flows from the heart of Jesus, we adapt to every situation and overcome all difficulties so that our brothers and sisters receive a message of love and salvation. We work as caregivers, we spiritually support the sick to let them experience care, compassion and love. That is the true love of God, and we turn to God with a plea for grace, strength and enthusiasm: our only equipment is a loving heart and the strength of God”, said Father Joseph Dao Nguyen Vu, from the Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City, to Fides in a comment about the sending of Catholic volunteers from various parishes and religious orders to work with the health workers in the hospitals in order to be close to the sick, especially those affected by the coronavirus.
As part of the fourth wave of the pandemic due to the Delta variant, which is spreading rapidly and dangerously throughout Vietnam, especially in the city of Ho Chi Minh and the surrounding areas, there are about 10,000 new infections there every day. In response to the appeal of the Vietnamese bishops, the Vietnamese religious are helping Covid patients in field hospitals and in regions with a particularly high risk of infection. More than 500 religious men and women have already volunteered to help the staff “on the front line”, even if they have no medical knowledge or experience, and bring with them their greatest gift: love.
After a short training on the anti-Covid regulations to be observed, the religious are sent to various public hospitals that are subordinate to the local health authorities. When they approach seriously ill patients, the religious are heartbroken “when we see how weak they are gasping for air and struggle between life and death”. “These patients are all brothers and sisters, children of God. We take care of them, despite the difficulties and fear”, say the religious. “The patients certainly benefit greatly from the caring and enthusiastic efforts of the religious”, confirm the doctors.
The religious are valued by everyone in the hospitals. Other Catholic volunteers help keep the rooms and hallways clean and deliver the food. They work in silence, wrapped in their protective suits from head to toe. The only distinguishing feature is the cross on the chest of their white uniforms. “In the sick and dying we recognize the face of Jesus on the cross: we experience the presence of Jesus through the sick”, report the helpers.
Sometimes the sisters gather to pray the rosary or to read the gospel together and the patients ask curious questions about God and their faith. In some hospitals, religious priests have set up a small chapel with a makeshift small altar with the permission of the diocesan bishop and celebrate the Eucharist there. The volunteers are also happy to take part in the celebration of the mass, which is gladly accepted not only for the Catholic sick, but also for all Catholic employees in the hospitals during the period of isolation due to Covid-19.
“The religious not only take care of the Covid patients in the local hospitals and comfort them, but also win the hearts of the patients and the medical staff through their daily work”. The love of God reaches people in this way”, explains Father Joseph Dao Nguyen Vu. “We are trying not to get infected by the virus, but rather to infect the world with the love of Jesus”, say the religious people involved.