We were three priests those that we initiated this mission in 2007. Pat Palmer, Federico Rossignol, and Trinh Le, Vietnamese espiritano, member of the province of the United States. In 2010 we received a new appointment, the P. Quoc, also of the province of the United States and also Vietnamese.
Vietnam is officially a marxist-leninist, communist country. One of the few countries that still are called thus. Who visit the country has another impression. Vietnam follows the Chinese example, after the fall of the Comunism in Russia and Eastern Europe. It decided on a capitalist economic system. The economy is solid. The Vietnameses are enterprising by nature, good to make money. But it is not a free country; often somebody takes care of to remember it to us. There is an only party, a single political direction that does not allow no other. Facebook is blocked constantly, whenever the authority is not in agreement with the material contained in him. When President Obama visited the country, recently, some critics were locked up in their houses. There is freedom of religion, only until certain point.
The church in Vietnam is a minority (between 7/8% of the population). But it is a strong community, organized well and very safe, also until certain point. The dioceses, parishes, seminaries and religious congregations operate in light of the day. But there are no catholic schools, university residences nor catholic hospitals. Also theological magazines do not exist. Something is home to change due to the opening of some private university residences. The rural inhabitants are very few who have access to the education superior. The church tries to correct this absence. All the educative institutions were nationalized. The foreign priests cannot work in the parishes. For being a persecuted church, the Vietnamese church lies down to close itself, does not have projection missionary. One of the tasks of the foreign groups as we are to provoke and to fortify the side missionary of the church. The Vatican also is encouraging to the Vietnamese church so that it is more missionary establishing relations with the neighboring countries. We have received frequent visits of people of the Vatican, interested in the growth of the church in Vietnam.
The congregations arrivals to the country after 1975 are not recognized by the government. We, for example, cannot order to us of schools nor of parishes. Our work is the formation. Vietnam is rich in vocations; nobody knows until when this situation will last; but the truth is that the number of aspirings who come is increasing. At the diocese of Saig³n only in a year 43 arrived. At the moment the number of espiritanos students, of different levels, is of 40. (There are two communities of formation with 23 students. In addition twelve are realising the experience missionary in other countries or study theology in the Philippines. Also there is a espiritano novitiate with 5 Vietnamese young people and one of India). We are very careful in the discernment of the vocations. They are only accepted to the applicants who already have some course of university level, never to those of secondary. The discernment is a continuous process and has been dismissals. In Vietnam we have to those of the courses of philosophy and the novitiate. The theology courses take place in the Philippines.
Four Espiritanos priests also develop work pastoral, part-time and not recognized officially: they help the neighboring parishes, they teach English French and. We depend totally on the local authorities. If the parish priest has good relations with the authority, also we do not have problems. But there are discords among them, notice to us that we are not in a free country, since he happened three weeks ago to a group of volunteers.
To introduce brothers in Vietnam is a problem; it is almost impossible, at least for the African. Only if you are a student or a businessman. When our African brothers that work in Taiwan visit to us due to some meeting, we secured temporary visas for them, classifying to them of fishermen. This summer we have been going to have the visit of another brother coming from the United States, also of Vietnamese origin, ordered for 10 years and father Duc Luong, who works in Taiwan and the Philippines. Within 3 years we hoped to have the first brothers with perpetual votes, already ordered. It will be a new presence here: they will be original of Vietnam and not of the United States. We felt blessed to be here. It is a sign of hope for our congregation.
Pat Palmer CSSp.