12 February 2023

The Franciscan presence in Vietnam

Friar John Wong is currently serving as one of the OFM General Definitors since 2021 and will end his term in 2027. He is overseeing and taking care of the friars in Asia and Oceania.

Br John Wong meets the new Definitory of the Province of St Francis in Vietnam.

On 9 February Br John Wong, General Definitor for the Conferences of Asia and Oceania, met the new Provincial Definitory of St Francis Province in Vietnam. The Provincial Chapter, in which the former Provincial Minister Br Inhaxiô Nguyễn Duy Lam and the Visitator General Br Rufino Lim Han-Wook took part, was held in Ho Chi Minh City and elected Br Gioan Thiên Chúa Nguyễn Phước as the new Provincial Minister.

At their special meeting on 9 February, the new provincial government affirmed their commitment to Fraternity, Formation (with special emphasis on the formation of future formators), Mission (in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and abroad), and to the continuous updating and implementation of their Province’s Security Plan for the Safeguarding of Minors and Vulnerable Adults.

Since 2019, the Province of St Francis has initiated 7 new local missionary communities, most of them initiated by the Province in response to invitations from local Bishops. All Franciscans live among the isolated poor and ethnic minority communities. 
The missionary presence in Vinh Chau began in 2021, has 3 friars and covers a 50 km stretch along the southern Mekong Delta; it is a 2,5 hour drive from the nearest friary, which is in An Phuc Can Tho. Most of the population in the area is ethnic Khmer and the prevailing culture is strongly Buddhist; the people are simple, kind and very friendly.
The main mission of the friars in Vinh Chau is to be with the people. There are about 250 Catholics in the whole area and most of them are Vietnamese.

Before the arrival of the friars three years ago, there were no priests, no other religious, and no chapel to pray in. A Vietnamese Catholic family that runs a small restaurant has built a small chapel on their property so that the friars can celebrate Mass with the locals. The brothers simply live among God’s people and witness to the Gospel with their life as lesser brothers among the poor. Besides celebrating daily Masses, they perform pastoral and social services, give music lessons to children and adults and help poor students: all freely, joyfully and without discrimination.

The An Phuc (‘Grace’) Social Service House, on the outskirts of Can Tho city in the Mekong Delta, is a Franciscan Conventual community and ministry located 160 km southwest of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Here, the fraternity was founded in 2013 to serve patients with mental illness. Today nine brothers live in this community and serve a residential facility of 50 male patients that is part of a foundation administered by the Bishop of Can Tho. The youngest patient is 16 years old and the oldest is 60.
The friars also provide free tuition to poor local students, and the convent grounds provide a safe environment for local youth to play sports. In addition, with the support of the local church, the friars run a small ‘supermarket’ that provides free food to the poor.
This presence and mission of the Franciscans is an opportunity for inter-religious dialogue and evangelisation through living the Gospel in daily life, through humble service and hospitality.

Most of the residents in the surrounding area are believers of a traditional religion of South Vietnam, but all are very supportive of the work of the friars, whom they recognise as serving today’s ‘lepers’ in the spirit of the Poverello of Assisi, who is the patron of the Province of St Francis in Vietnam.

The new Provincial Definitory is composed by:
Gioan Thiên Chúa (John of God) Nguyễn Phước (Provincial Minister)
Giuse (Joseph) Phạm Văn Bình (Provincial Vicar)
Gioan B. (John the Baptist) Trần Khắc Du
Vinh Sơn (Vincenzo) Trần Đức Hạnh
Đaminh (Damian) Phạm Văn Đổng
Giuse (Joseph) Ngô Ngọc Khanh
Gioan B. (John the Baptist) Đậu Quang Luật 


Source : ofm.org

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