The Vision Statement of the Vietnam Mission includes the line,”we live with mutual respect and care, creating a safe place for personal growth and healing, and the nurturing of community relationships.” These words describe well the activities of this past week in the Vietnam Mission. We focused on the words of our founder, St. Gaspar, who said, “For what purpose are we in the Community? To cooperate with the great designs of divine Providence in the sanctification of ourselves and others; to be united in the bond of charity, and to imitate more closely the life of Jesus Christ. We should examine ourselves in the love that we are to show to our Community and toward one another.” St. Gaspar’s Eleventh Circular Letter in all it’s wisdom served us well in reflection as we spent time together.
Our spending time with each other in Community began with a gathering at our new site for rural ministry, Tan Thanh Mission. We gathered there for the purpose of celebrating all the hard work of our candidates in formation in literally building up the mission. Their summer ministry was totally devoted to renovating the buildings and the surrounding property of our mission there as well as helping out at the local parish. We had the pastor of the local parish, Fr. Dominic Minh, come to our new mission and do a blessing through a special prayer service. Many of our local neighbors were invited for an open house celebration which included a wonderful meal. We truly enjoyed one another’s hospitality and appreciated in a formal way our new presence in this remote area of Vietnam near the Cambodia border.
On the Birthday of our Community, August 15th, we gathered at St. Gaspar House of Discernment in Saigon. The gathering had many purposes. Primarily it was for getting together to discuss the newly written document of the “Community Life Symposium” that was written in Rome last month. It was also an opportunity to share annual reports in a similar fashion as the Provincial Annual Assembly. These reports talked about information such as vocations, formation and finances as well as a review of the past year and hopes for the future. I believe these presentations were informative for both our members and our candidates in formation. Finally, it was an opportune time to invite our inquirers, Tinh, Khuong, Blir, Dat, Ba and Hoang to get a fuller look at our Community by hearing about some of our official business.It was good to celebrate Eucharist together in chapel as well as engage in other prayers throughout the day. We enjoyed going out to lunch together at a seafood restaurant and having some Birthday cake afterwards.
Overall, it proved to be very worthwhile to make our way through the new document from Rome on Community life. The translation of it into Vietnamese was difficult but possible. Nhan and Tam were helpful in this regard especially as we broke into small groups and further reflected on the words. We will give the document over to our professional translator we use here in Saigon to have it translated more thoroughly. Fortunately, we were able to see common threads in both the Community Life Document and the Vietnam Mission Vision Statement. It seemed to us to be very practical as we now strive to develop a praxis of good community life in our unit.
There were a few struggles as we moved through our discussion of the document. The part about valuing equality proved to be challenging. The hierarchical structure of the Vietnam Catholic Church currently does not reflect an equality among brothers and priests. This is a new concept that our Precious Blood Community will try to live internally knowing that the greater Catholic community would struggle accepting it. Another statement that appears to be foreign given the current status of the Vietnam Mission is the one about lay associates. We currently do not have lay associates in our lived reality in Vietnam. This is something we may consider in the future upon building a stronger membership. Our conversation finished strong as we talked about committing ourselves to a simple lifestyle by living in solidarity with others and putting their needs before our own. Vietnam Mission truly values an option for the poor and living simply among them. It is something we strive to practice. Another strong conviction seen in the document that is reflected in the Vietnam Mission is living together and sharing daily in prayer, meals, and activities as essential elements of a good community life.