Oct 19, 2018 Last Updated 10:01 PM, Oct 17, 2018

In Saigon, seminarians help the marginalised, inspired by Evangelii Gaudium

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Caritas got 30 seminarians involved in its initiatives. The Church has 22 mission centres, whose activities are aimed at assisting and supporting poor families and abandoned children in the hardest-to-reach areas of the city.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Saint Joseph Major Seminary in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) has dedicated this year’s summer pastoral programme to disabled people, abandoned children, orphans, senior citizens and migrant families.

The event is organised in cooperation with the archdiocesan Caritas. "We try to put into practice the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis", some of the students told AsiaNews.

The diocese has 336 diocesan priests and 288 religious priests who serve about 640,000 people, almost 8 per cent of the local population.

According to 2016 statistics, Ho Chi Minh City has 8.3 million residents, plus another 4.5 million migrants. The latter include some 300,000 Catholics.

The city is one of Vietnam’s most important economic hubs. However, there are many social problems that the Church has to cope with in her mission.

The Archdiocese of Saigon has 22 mission centres, whose activities are aimed at assisting and supporting poor families and abandoned children in the hardest-to-reach areas of the city.

At a difficult time for the Vietnamese economy, many parishes are also engaged in pastoral outreach towards all those in need, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Since 2 July, Caritas Saigon has involved 30 seminarians in its initiatives. This gives the students an opportunity to improve their approach to the care of the poor, as well as orphaned or disabled children. At the same time, the future priests can help the elderly and sick people.

Through the programme, they come into contact with the spirituality, the method and the communication skills deployed by Caritas in the archdiocese’s parishes and communities, planning and implementing social and charity work.

"After taking part in the social project, I felt God’s love through the poor, the disabled and the children who live in situations of great poverty. I learnt to listen to them," said Brother John Thái, speaking about his experience in the training course.

For his part, Vincent Khánh said “I worked with the Bình Triu Social Centre, dedicating myself to teaching. From the children I learnt their spirit of optimism and their innocence."

Joseph Martino Vinh took part in the activities of the Thiên Phước Social Centre, home to hundreds of disabled children.

"They have great difficulty speaking and expressing their thoughts,” the seminarian explained. “However, through fun games and practical stories, our group has taught them 'basic humanity and the Gospel'. I must learn from my experience to bring the Good News to these disadvantaged children."

Joseph Dũng also worked with disabled children at the Hoàng Mai Warm Shelter. "These children are limited in intellect and communication. So, I tried to teach some of them some music and how to play the organ."

Peter Khoa "followed Sister Elisabeth Maria Tuyết for a week". The nun is responsible for helping the disabled in the archdiocese. "We visited families and children with cerebral palsy who live in some parishes in the city," the student said.

"We have admired the volunteers, simple parishioners who engage in these apostolates,” said Dominique Nguyên. “We have admired the parents, who silently sacrifice everything to help their children. They have prayed, worked with social workers, with Caritas staff to take care of unfortunate children with true love."

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