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GSME visit to the Province of St Francis of Assisi

Vietnam, April 15 to 19

01 May 2024

On April 15 to 19, Br Francisco Gomez Vargas and Br Dennis Tayo, respectively Secretary and Animator of the General Secretariat for Missions and Evangelization, visited Vietnam to meet the friars involved in “New Forms” as part of the preparation for the 2025 Conference Assembly for New Forms of Presence and Missionary Evangelization in Asia. Aware of this goal, Br John Nguyen Phuoc, Minister Provincial of St Francis of Vietnam, and Br Peter Binh accompanied them to these presences. Br John Phuoc explained that “as a Provincial Chapter decision, friars are to assist ethnic groups and indigents in the aspects of education, basic health services and the promotion of culture.” Hence, their first destination was the mountainous Province of Lang Son in North Vietnam. Headed towards the borders of China, they met the four friars ministering to ethnic groups in this region for their sacramental needs and other pastoral assistance in providing water systems and the like. They then went to Hanoi Friary to meet the five brothers, who shared their work in caring for the poor ethnic peoples who migrated to Hanoi City for better opportunities in life.

They next flew to the central highlands in Vietnam where most vulnerable and disadvantaged ethnic groups live.  In the "Mit Garden" Community in Pleiku Province, they met the 21 brothers ministering to these ethnic groups who shared their experiences and aspirations. The friars were affirmed and encouraged to know that the Order advocates opening “new forms” such as these presences, as concrete expressions of our charism.  Br Peter Phat, the community guardian, thereafter, accompanied them to visit the villages of O, Nú, Bang Ut, and Dunde to meet the ethnic people.  The friars established 3 parishes and assisted them with their educational, economic, and health needs while safeguarding their culture.  The day culminated at Bo village with a community dinner and festive cultural performances.  The next day, they toured the girls’ boarding houses, to meet 80 ethnic high school and college students; the boys’ vocational training and boarding facility established 17 years ago to meet 54 high school students who played traditional music; to Phan Sinh Community Clinic serving for the past 5 years the health care needs of poor ethnic patients for free; and finally the ethnic kindergarten in Kutong village. In the afternoon, they visited the parish of the Xo Dang people operating an ethnic weaving house, a kindergarten, and daily feeding projects for 200 ethnic children; the leper village "Gol" with a clinic that operated for 10 years; met the local monks collaborators carrying out missionary work with the Bana "Bla" people; headed to final destination at the village "Groi" where they were welcomed by traditional dances and musical instruments, to end the day with a mass and joyful community dinner. Finally, they went to Kontum province to celebrate mass with 7 friars in a Parish community; visited two boarding houses for ethnic boys and girls; and two other parishes, to culminate the day's visit with loving fraternal sharing.

Carrying the warm welcome and generosity of the ethnic peoples and the inspiring works of the friars in the highlands, they finally headed to the south, in Ho Chi Minh City, advancing the prophetic message of these presences to the 78 young friars and 30 aspirants in Thu Duc Seminary during their plenary meeting as well as with the Poor Clare’s sisters on their fraternal visit.  By 2025, the Vietnam Province will celebrate its 20th year of presence in the highlands of Vietnam. It is fitting to pay tribute to our Vietnamese brothers who work selflessly to offer the joys and gifts of the Gospel to the many impoverished ethnic groups in this region, striving to defend and respect their culture, in the process of enculturation, with their stories worthy of telling to the greater fraternity of the Order. 

Congratulations brothers and may the sound of the Cồng Chiêng (ethnic gong) reverberates more in your hearts!

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