Faithful share their apostolic experiences during the national congress for the laity
People attend the national congress for laity at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang on Sept. 20. (Photo: UCA News)
Laypeople across Vietnam have shared practical experiences in bringing God’s love to other people at a national lay congress.
Over 500 people including 60 priests and religious attended the national congress for the laity on Sept. 19-22 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang in Quang Tri province.
The congress with the theme ‘Laypeople in the Synodal Church’ was organized by the Episcopal Commission for the Laity of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam.
Peter Da Cat Ha Duong, a lay leader from Da Long Mission Station in Lam Dong province, said five laypeople including himself regularly traveled 130 kilometers through forests to receive the Eucharist from Lang Biang parish and then administered it to local people for two decades.
Duong, an ethnic K’hor who embraced Catholicism in 1987, said he used was detained for “illegal evangelization,” but “I remain resolutely determined to be true to my apostolate mission that is to bring the Good News to my people.”
Since a new tarmac road connecting his area with other places in 2017, he said, many local people use tractors to carry others to Da Tong Church to attend Sunday Mass. Old people and children gather to pray at their homes.
“We wish priests from other places pay pastoral visits to us in the future,” Duong said, adding that the mission station is home to 500 K’hor Catholics.
Teresa Nguyen Thi Ngoc Lan from Ban Me Thuot diocese sells food and clothes to villagers in remote areas in Dak Lak province to support her family. Local people have no access to education and healthcare.
Lan introduced Mary Queen of Peace nuns to offer basic education to illiterate children, give healthcare to patients, teach villagers how to cultivate crops and provide financial support for those in need. Local people appreciate the nuns’ services and asked them to teach the catechism to them.
To deal with the problems for the nuns caused by local authorities, she introduced their children who study in Buon Ma Thuot to get accommodation from Church-run facilities and Catholic families.
The sisters also provided food, medicine and money for local people during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As a result, local authorities changed their minds and now have a friendly relationship with Catholics. They also allow nuns to publicly work with local people and stay at people’s houses,” Lan said.
John Le Hoai Nghiem from Ha Tinh diocese said a local man left the church to join the Communist party and works as a village head.
“I often visit his family and have a good relationship with him although many other people keep away from him,” Nghiem said, adding that he hopes they will return to God soon.
He said six other communist members have returned to the fold and take an active part in Church activities.
Bishop Joseph Tran Van Toan, head of the episcopal commission, called on participants to have a deep sense of faith and feel God’s love so that they can meet and re-evangelize lapsed Catholics, help them feel divine love in their lives and rekindle their faith.
Bishop Toan said more and more laypeople are alive to their roles as lay apostles to build up local communities, re-evangelize those with lapsed faith and evangelize other people.
The bishop of Long Xuyen said the episcopal commission aims at helping laypeople to grow in faith, be aware of their roles and dignity in the Church and develop their abilities to cooperate with priests and religious in church activities.
During the four-day conference, participants from the country’s 27 dioceses shared their apostolic experiences, listened to talks on evangelization, recited the rosary, attended Masses and Eucharist adoration, carried a picture of their patroness Martyr Agnes Le Thi Thanh around the shrine and gave cultural performances.
They also discussed plans to draw up regulations, train laypeople and deepen their faith in the coming three years.
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