ASIA/VIETNAM – Vocations to priesthood and consecrated life shine among the darkness marked by Covid

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Hanoi – 78 new priests were ordained, and about 250 men and women religious professed their perpetual vows during the summer of 2021: these vocations are good news and a sign of hope for the Church of Vietnam, in the midst of a difficult time for the nation, marked by the fourth wave of Covid-19. In the diocesan territories affected by the virus, classified as “green areas”, the local communities were able to celebrate solemn masses, in simplicity and often outdoors; in South Vietnam, where the Coronavirus infection with the Delta variant is more widespread , the liturgies of priestly ordination and religious profession have been postponed for now. Those celebrated in the permitted areas took place following strict precautionary anti-Covid protocols, inside seminaries or convents with only the candidates present, and with a limited number of faithful. Without the massive crowds, without the feasts organized in the past, the new priests and religious lived their ordination in profound intimacy with God, aware of their important ministry.
In a letter sent to priests about to be ordained on August 25, 2021, Mgr. Joseph Nguyen Nang, Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh who is also Administrator of the diocese of Phat Diem, in North Vietnam, underlined: “The presbyteral ordination mass was celebrated with a limited number of participants, even without the presence of relatives of the candidates. The new priests or religious who professed their vows, and in this climate of recollection, were able to concentrate absolutely on the essential, totally turned to God, intensely experiencing his gift of grace in the Sacrament”.
Vu Hien, a nun of the Dominican Order who has just taken vows in the diocese of Bac Ninh, in northern Vietnam, said: “I was well prepared for the greatest exultation in my religious life, this year’s celebration was special: with the grace of God, I abandon my whole life in the loving hands of God and continue to pray in silence, whatever the circumstances”.
A nun of the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus in the diocese of Quy Nhon, which covers three provinces of central Vietnam, reports: “We give thanks to God: among the precariousness and instability caused by the pandemic, God loves us and keeps us safe. God embraces us, makes himself present in the climate of silence and prayer, which allow us to gather to pray”.
Also in central Vietnam, at the beginning of the perpetual vows ceremony professed by the religious of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart in Hue, Mgr. Nguyen Chi Linh, Archbishop of Hue said: “The religious who professes vows throughout his life is the one who gives God his love for him and is willing to overcome difficulties such as the journey of the Cross; he is the one who is inspired by the Crucifix in order to enter a brighter life”.
Mgr. Linh also invited everyone, especially the religious, to bear witness to faith in consecrated life, conscientiously exercising the ministries of love and charity, especially in the context of this serious crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This love which becomes service to neighbor, he said, “should be deeply rooted in every individual, develop widely in the social community: it is carried out intimately in communion with the Trinity, and is addressed to all, without distinction of religion, culture, ethnicity, politics or social classes, but living in relationships of compassion towards human beings”. The Archbishop added: “In a world full of turbulence, academic qualifications are no longer indispensable for the religious, while it is more important to lead a righteous life, an exemplary life of faith, with a passion for missionary and apostolic work and the practice of charitable work”. While, given the pandemic emergency, millions of families remain destitute, or suffer from hunger due to unemployment and disease, Archbishop Nguyen Chi Linh concluded, “we hope that the enthusiasm of the new priests and religious will help us go and meet the needy in severely infected areas to provide the poor with material and spiritual assistance, to comfort and consolidate the faith of those who have been shaken by this crisis, witnessing the Good News to the world”.