|Day 1 - |
We are finally here and able to get sporadic Wi-Fi access. Today, we met with the Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Saigon. He sat next to Cardinal Ratzinger during the election for Pope. We also went to a Buddhist Temple, and had a private meeting with the abbot. There is a great deal of collaboration between the Buddhists & the Catholics, as religious expression is monitored by the communist government. The Cardinal spoke of “not registering parishes, fundraisers, numbers of people that the church helps, etc” due to potential government interference. The Buddhist Abbot said the monks are no longer allowed to walk the streets asking for food, etc. We met with a parish yesterday that has a huge youth and young adult vibrancy. The parishes are very welcoming and hospitable. The Buddhist monks offered us iced coffee, water, and tea; and then served it to us! The Vietnamese people are very friendly.
|Day 2 - |
I’m having sporadic access to the Internet. We visited Sacred Heart Parish today. The parish is progressive and welcoming. After Mass, we had a wonderful visit with the priest, some parish council members, youth, and members of Christian Mothers.
|Day 3 - |We visited the Ha Dua parish today. They were very friendly and hospitable. After about an hour long meeting with the pastor, several members of parish council, religious education team members, youth catechists and choir members, we were served a delicious lunch of shrimp, duck, frog legs, bun (a type of noodle) and lychees for dessert. The Vietnamese people are very warm, caring and welcoming. Although we speak different languages, there was a lot of fellowship and laughter (Thanks to the hard-working translators!).
|Day 4 - |
Today, we visited the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. The parish runs a daycare for children living with down syndrome and autism. They also run a free and reduced clinic for the local townspeople. The clinic provides acupuncture, physical therapy, and other simple therapies. Sisters provide the services for the patients and the children.
|Youth Group at Nam Hoa Parish - |This is a photo of the youth group which are all age 20 & up at Nam Hoa Parish. The students are very active in this rather small parish. Many are in the choir or support economically disabled students to go to school (helping them study for tests, set up living quarters at the Church, etc). They feel like Church is a privilege and an honor. They talked with us and sang to us, including a simple song they learned in English. We all got a bottle of water. They were very excited to have a Snickers bar that we brought. We gave the holy cards to the parish priest, who is very fun.
|Cardinal Do in Ho Chi Minh City - |
This is a picture of the Cardinal Do in Ho Chi Minh City, called Archbishop Jean Baptists Pham Minh Man, presenting a statue of Mary in cultural Vietnamese style. We were able to meet with him for a little over an hour. He really enjoyed the St. Max holy cards.
|IHM Church and Altar - |The photos are of the IHM church and altar. The church shows some signs of oriental influence. The inside is beautiful too! The details are very ornate. The altar is for private intentions and incense is used.
|Bell Tower of IHM - |
|St. Joseph Seminary - |The pastor of IHM gave us a tour of the St. Joseph Seminary. There are beautiful carved cement statues throughout. It is like an oasis in the desert, as it surrounded by very rundown areas. Seminarians can join, with permission of the government, after graduating high school. In the past (pre-1975), boys would be sent to the seminary at age 10 and receive their schooling and training at the seminary.
|Carvings at St. Joseph Seminary - |This photo shows one of the many beautiful cement carvings at the St. Joseph Seminary. An older gentleman/artisan makes them all from white cement. The stations of the cross were also carved of this material and displayed in the yard. The artisan is particularly fond of this portrayal of a happy, playful Jesus. The depiction of Mary is uniquely Vietnamese.
|Bishop of Nha Trang - |This is Bishop Vo Duc Minh, Bishop of Nha Trang, with our group. Bishop Minh was very open and welcoming. There is restraint regarding the government, but the Bishop was very open to further communications with our parish. He has spent some time in the United States and Europe, and is very well educated. He encourages multi-national communication, and frequently assigns his seminarians abroad. He has asked us to pray for them and his archdiocese will pray for us. He would like to hear more from us.
|Letter from our Vietnam traveler - Kate Szczap - |
Today has been a busy day, but somehow not as hectic. Maybe we are all starting to relax a bit. I accidentally got squid soup this morning, but saved breakfast with fresh papaya in crepes. Yum, yum. Also, coffee and passion fruit juice. Every restaurant we go to has a house drink, always some tropical fruit juice. I have seen street vendors juicing fruit on the sidewalk, so I have been reluctant to order it, but here I saw the cartons in the trash so I know its okay!
Mary and I went out shopping on our own since we didn't have to meet the bus till 9.30. Everything was open, even the bank. We crossed the street by ourselves about 4 or 5 times, which is a huge feat around here. You can just not imagine the traffic. We visited and toured a parish and a seminary. The parish had an acupuncture clinic and day care for children with autism and Downs syndrome. The kids were so excited to see us and take their pictures. We saw them sticking needles in a few patients, but it felt really intrusive to me, so I spent some time looking around the grounds. They had star fruit trees, hibiscus, and poinsettia. Beautiful stuff. The seminary was the same order as Fr. Chau, which was nice. The pastor from the parish was SVD too, and came along to show us around the seminary. He gave Fr. Phil a ride on the back of his motorbike!! Lunch today was just okay. Lots of squid again, fish, a kind of sour, cold veggie dish with shrimp and fermented something, 2 soups, fried rice, and what looked like chicken nuggets, only bright green. They were actually minced, firmed fish coated in crispy rice colored with asparagus juice and fried! Really tasty, I loved the crunch. Our sick friends ate this porridge which is like cream of wheat (only rice, of course) with pork. Vietnamese chicken soup, I guess. :-)
Two of our group are currently under the weather. Stomach issues. Both Vietnamese!! We are taking a little break now, then an optional shopping trip, visit with the bishop, followed by mass, and dinner on our own. There is a pho place next door to the hotel, so that is our current plan.
Tomorrow we were supposed to leave here and move to Da Lat, but we are now going to take the day off tomorrow. We are going to take a boat to the island here and spend the day on the beach there. Apparently, it’s what all the tourists do. Maybe our sick friends will recover faster if we slow down a bit. Four hours on a bumpy bus probably would be miserable for them.
I talked to Steve this morning just for a moment and he showed me the kitchen. It looks amazing. I cannot wait to see it all put together.
Off to the market!
|Letter from our Vietnam travelers - Giao and Thom Bui - |
So far we have been to three different parishes where we actually meet with people of the parish and had conversations with them. It seems like the more we do it, the better we were at communicating our mission across. Also we were getting better at asking the right questions.
1. Parish Nam Hoa- Here we met with their young adult group. This parish is very large and their young adults have a very high participation in different organization within the church, such as they have many people sing in their choir. They also have large amounts of their youth doing community service where they help the poor students from the country side by providing transportation and a place to stay while high school graduates come to the city to taking the college entrance exams.
1. Parish Nghia Hoa- This is also another large church within HO Chi MInh City. The strange part about it is this church is not out on a big road like the other ones but is located in the mist of their community hidden way from the hustle and bustle areas of this large city. The members of this community is also very active. At the meeting we had a chance of meet with a group of mothers. They do many things for the parish such as having their own choir, talking with the young members of the church about issue of abortion, they help with fundraising and other stuff. The youth catechists here are very dedicated in teaching religion classes to their younger members.
2. Parish Ha Dua- This parish is located in Nha Trang. Compared to the other 2 parishes, it is a lot more smaller. Despite of a smaller community, they welcomed us most generously. We met with them for an hour and they invite us to lunch at the church. The members of this parish spoke to us very openly about their parish and very much love to exchange activities as well as culture with us. Perhaps it was the lunch that gave us the opportunity to communicate one on one that the conversions are much better and more personal. I did notice a difference with this church is that the catechists and director of the choirs are much older people. They are perhaps in their 50s or more. I fear that with this older age group that communications through the internet might be a little difficult bc they are not computer literate like the younger folks. But there are a few younger members who we met at lunch. I could also be wrong b/c we only met a few members of their community and it was in the middle of a week day that the younger folks couldn't come. Surprisingly one of the member of the parish has already contacted me through email. I was completely surprised.
Overall these parishes have been very welcoming to all of us who are foreigners here. All the vietnamese people here are very religious and their faith are very strong. One can see that at the meeting bc of their large participation with in the church as well as seeing the amounts of people going to church. I am just deeply impressed by all that. They love to speak to us and meet us. The younger members are totally into exchanging emails but we will have to see which ones will really stay in touch with us and continue this friendship over time.
In addition to meeting the different parishes, we have also been doing some other extra things such as meeting with the cardinal and bishop. I have never met any of the higher people other than priests withing our catholic church. During this trip not only did I to see them but were also able to listen to them talk and learn. Both the bishop and cardinal are very exception people. The way they talk and carry themselves, one can tell that they are not just some commoners. Then again they are the leaders of our church under the Pope supervision. They have to be exception people in order to be appointed to such high ranks.
We have been quite busy waking up at 7 am and not getting home until 9 pm everyday but since coming to Da Lat we have had much more free time.
We drove from Nha Trang to Da Lat a city up in the mountains. Our tour guide Bac Tho said Da Lat is 1500 km up in the mountains. My ears popped as we made our way up the winding roads up the mountain side. The land here is beautiful. I can not believe how green it is and there are also pine trees! We will be meeting with the bishop of Da Lat today at 2 pm but Cha Chau says he might not be able to meet us because he's returning from a trip to the US today. (I don't blame him honestly I wouldn't make us a priority either if I just endured a 27 hour flight back to Vietnam.)
I've been told Da Lat is known for its tea and coffee because it's grown locally here. The waterfalls are also suppose to be really gorgeous and we will be going on a tour shortly to visit some. The climate here is wonderful! There is no humidity and it is much cooler. You can actually walk around without dripping sweat. The locals here wear winter coats and scarfs! As I walked the market yesturday in my shorts I realized how foreign I must look to the locals.
Well that is all I have to report as of now. We only arrived yesturday. I hope this provides some insight to our stay here at Da Lat.
Have a blessed day!
|Letter from our Vietnam traveler - Kate Szczap - |
Sorry i didnt email last night. We got in really late and had to leave really early this morning. We drove to vung tau which took about 3 hours. We stopped at a rest stop along the way. It had a whole pavillion full of hammocks for resting! You rent them by the hour, i guess. Also, a huge fruit market for snacks. Much better for you than chips or junk food. I ate dragon fruit, jack fruit, some others. Very good stuff. My vietnamese friends say you can get it all at jungle jims. Ill have to teach you how to eat it.
Lunch today had my favorite pork dish as well as my new favorite veggie, morning glories. I also ate snails with bananas and baby squid. Are you proud of me or what?!
We just checked into our resort and are about to head to the beach. We have coupons to rent umbrellas and beach chairs. We are having an awesome time. Last nights church meeting went really well and we are seeing some real possibilities for future relationships. I got fitted for my ai dai, and i am going to try to fing some fabric to sew them for Julie and Mckenna.
In 2009, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Mission Office and many local Asian Catholic Communities together began a solidarity project. The basic goals of the project are to create a climate of awareness, education and advocacy on Asia in our archdiocesan parishes, schools and institutions; to better appreciate the spiritual and cultural gifts Asian Catholics bring to the local and global church as well as the challenges they face; to develop more networking, friendships and solidarity among our Asian Catholics and Catholics of all cultures; and to help Asian Catholics feel more welcomed and integrated in our parishes.
6 St. Max parishioners - Mary Montour, Kate Szczap, Giao Bui, Thom Bui, Mai Nguyen and Tam Cao, along with 15 other pilgrims from parishes and schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati - will be travelling to Vietnam from June 11 to June 29th. Your prayers are requested for their safe travels.
“Let us entrust our pilgrims to the hands of the Lord. Let us pray that He will give them a prosperous journey and that as they travel they will praise Him in all His creatures; that they will experience God's own goodness in the hospitality they receive and bring the Good News of salvation to all those they meet; that they will be courteous toward all; that they will greet the poor and afflicted with kindness and know how to comfort and help them.”
Depending upon the social networking infrastructure in Vietnam, our St. Max travelers will attempt to blog, video blog and SKYPE during their journey. Stay tuned to our website and Facebook page for their updates!
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St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish
5720 Hamilton Mason Rd
Liberty Township, OH 45011