Indian Catholic News

Vietnamese community builds first church after 82 years

Dream comes true as Dong Lac subparish starts work on church costing $173,000.

Yen Bai: 

Catholics from a Vietnamese diocese with a lack of priests and churches expect to deepen their faith by building their subparish's first church.

On April 30, Father Peter Phung Van Ton, vicar general of Hung Hoa Diocese, presided at a special Mass starting the construction of a church at Dong Lac subparish in Yen Bai city. The ceremony was joined by 22 priests and attended by 1,000 Catholics.

Representatives of local authorities offered flowers and congratulations to the subparish.

Father Ton, who used to provide pastoral care to the subparish, said the construction of the church “is a special grace of Divine Mercy given to the area where local Catholics have had enormous difficulty in doing faith practices.”

Joseph Nguyen Van Dac, a former lay leader, told “Today we are very happy that our dream church comes true.”

Dac, 81, said that when the subparish was established in 1937 it had only six families comprising 20 Catholics who moved to the area to escape severe famine in Nam Dinh, Phu Tho and Thai Binh provinces. They had to attend Masses at other places until 1985 when they erected a wood-and-leaf chapel.

He said for decades they had no money to repair the dilapidated chapel, while a few people remained faithful because two other local churches were ruined during the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Many people moved to other places to avoid the fighting.

Dac, whose family was among the first Catholics who moved to the area, said that since 2000, when roads were built to connect the city with Hanoi and other places, people have had good businesses and improved their material life. People have also moved to the area. The subparish now serves 230 Catholics.

Dac said the new Gothic-styled church dedicated to Divine Mercy has an area of over 300 square meters based on a 3,000-square-meter hill offered by his parents.

He said the cross-shaped church would cost an estimated 4 billion dong (US$173,000). Local Catholics have donated 1 billion dong and will continue raising funds for the rest.

Many Catholics hope the new church, due to be completed in 2022, will be a Divine Mercy center for Catholics in the province and nearby areas to worship Divine Mercy because there is no such center in the area.

Joseph Nguyen Van Uoc said many people including his family have to travel to a Divine Mercy pilgrim center in Ho Chi Minh City. The father of 10 said many people could not afford to visit the center. Each trip costs 3-5 million dong.

Uoc, who runs a butcher’s shop, said he will encourage some of his children who have abandoned Catholicism to go to church again.

After the Mass, attendants were given pictures of Divine Mercy and copies of Divine Mercy prayers.

Peter Nguyen Ngoc Bang, head of the subparish council, said Dong Lac subparish is one of nine subparishes belonging to Yen Bai parish. Three priests serve the parish and two other parishes with 3,900 Catholics.

Hung Hoa Diocese has 240,000 Catholics in 115 parishes and 600 subparishes and mission stations served by 146 priests. Half of subparishes and mission stations have chapels in bad conditions or have no churches.

Source: UCAN

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