When Spring arrives, the Vietnamese people, wherever they maybe, are full of immense nostalgia. Officially it is a 3-day celebration with every effort made to indulge in eating, drinking and enjoying being in each other’s company. It is also a time for family reunions, paying respect to the elders and ancestors and visiting friends and neighbours (sharing stories and food). It is also an opportunity to invite and welcome deceased ancestors to join the celebration. This custom or tradition has become so sacred and secular that, no matter the circumstances, families will find a way to meet each other. They spend time visiting churches, pagodas, cemeteries and eat traditional foods like banh chung, banh tet, mang, xoi gac, boiled chicken and others.
TET Holiday is also a great opportunity for the Daughters of Divine Zeal to visit the houses of our students and applicants who have gone home for this special celebration. This year we went to Daknom and Daklak where most of our students come from. Sometimes we went together with the Rogationist Fathers who were also visiting their students in the same location. The visits were a wonderful experience for us because they helped us deepen our understanding of the Vietnamese traditions, customs, practices and lifestyle.
The families were so welcoming to us religious sisters. In Vietnam the Catholic people have a high respect for the religious of the Church. While listening to their stories we learned a lot about their values and deep faith in God. They really believe in the intervention of God in their journey – God really works all the time and God is so good. You could sense in them that their faith and belief in God was so strong and very pure as they shared their faith experience with us.
For me this is also a good time to deepen my understanding of why most of the Vietnamese attend dawn mass everyday – the churches are always full because they pray hard for their personal needs and for their country together. They are so grateful for us welcoming their daughters into our religious community, and for helping and guiding them. I really appreciate the Vietnamese families’ openness and willingness to support their daughters. There are many choices before the young generation, and perhaps due to the demands of the world, these choices often result in so much materialism and individualism around the world.
On our visits, we can see that most of our students come from a simple family life and this helps me to understand our students so much more, especially when they decide to stay with us. Their backgrounds and practices influence the way they live in our community. We also have the opportunity to meet their parish priest who warmly welcome and support vocations to the religious life from the young ladies in their parish. During these visits we meet more young ladies – some of them are at the stage of discerning their vocation. Our being with them at this time has such an impact on them and their families. We spend some time to share the importance of Rogate and about our charism – it helps them to understand our mission and goal in life as religious sisters living in a community and always in the service of God for his greater glory.
With grateful hearts, let us continue to pray for all of our students and applicants in Vietnam and also for their families who do believe that many are willing to respond to the religious and priestly life in this part of the world. We need to pray more, be good examples to them and above all allow them to experience God’s love and goodness through our living witness with the spirit of Rogate. Please pray also for all the Catholic leaders of Vietnam especially the bishops, priests, religious and the faithful. Their leadership is so important to the growing Catholics in Vietnam.
Sr M Elmie fdz