BEC members go on pilgrimage to Vietnam

Thirty members of BEC St Teresa of Calcutta, Taman Indah Jaya, embarked on a fiveday spiritual pilgrimage to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from Sept 11 to 16 with Sr Appollonia Gumpu, FSIC as the Spiritual Advisor.

Oct 12, 2018

SANDAKAN: Thirty members of BEC St Teresa of Calcutta, Taman Indah Jaya, embarked on a fiveday spiritual pilgrimage to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from Sept 11 to 16 with Sr Appollonia Gumpu, FSIC as the Spiritual Advisor. Prior to their departure to Vietnam, members prepared themselves spiritually through a three-day novena prayer.

The BEC of St Teresa of Calcutta, Sandakan was formed in 2010 with some 30 active families. Since its inception, the members have made two local pilgrimages (Diocese of Keningau and St Anne, Bukit Mertajam, Penang) and an overseas pilgrimage to Manila, the Philippines. This year, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam was selected as their destination through the assistance from the Vietnam IFFAsia alumni (Institute of Formation Fondacio). IFFAsia is based in the Philippines, an international Catholic Institution committed to training Christian youth leaders from across Asia on pastoral work.

Over the course of the five days, we visited seven Catholic pilgrimage sites: Churches, Saigon Archbishop’s Residence and Pastoral Centres with significant historical and architectural values. We visited the famous iconic statue of Christ the King standing on Mount Nho in V?ng Tàu, Bà R?a–V?ng Tàu Province, ?ông Nam B?, about a two and a half hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City. The Vietnam Catholic Association built the statue in 1974 and it was completed in 1993; stands 170 metres above sea level. The statue itself is 32-metres high, and has 18.4-metre arms. As for the Catholic Churches, we visited the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon, Parish Church of Son Loc, Parish of Thanh Le (Fatima Binh Trieu), Parish Church of Hanh Tong Tay, the Archbishop’s Residence where the oldest chapel with its unique traditional architecture is located and the Saigon Pastoral and Seminary Centre.

We were particularly impressed by the Catholics in Vietnam for their effort in faith upbringing of their young. On one particular visit, we attended Mass specifically catered for the children. Their teachers were all from the Eucharistic Youth Movement and each time the children attended Mass or activity, they would be awarded with a point in the form of coupons. The coupons collected could be redeemed with tokens as a kind of incentive and appreciation for their participation. In another parish, we witnessed how the International Young Catholic Students organised the children’s faith formation not only with catechesis but with activities. During the encounter with the youth, we had the opportunity to participate in their programme with a ‘Bungkau’ performance and our Sabah popular dance, Sumazau where the youth and kids joined us on the floor. In our response to their warm reception and hospitality, souvenirs were given by our BEC Chairman John Tan as a sign of appreciation.

The faith and religious practice among the Vietnamese believers is very much alive. This could be seen from the attendance of the faithful during the morning mass in Notre Dame Cathedral. We were impressed by the great devotion of the local Catholics when we joined in their sunset Mass in Fatima Binh Trieu Church. It is a huge two-storey building which can easily accommodate 3,000 parishioners and it was fully packed.

The group had the opportunity to visit the orphanage in Mai Tam House of Hope in Saigon, a HIV/ AIDS Pastoral Care Center, the only facility of its kind in Ho Chi Minh City run by a Catholic Priest and volunteers. Fr John Toai, the founder, briefed us on the pastoral work of the centre which at present houses 80 HIV infected children.

Mai Tam House of Hope is a nongovernmental organisation that receives no funding from the government. However, since its founding in 2005, the centre has received international recognition for its work of love and compassion. Despite getting grants and donations from overseas, the centre remains underfunded and without self-sustaining income. Apart from the spiritual pilgrimage, we also took the opportunity to understand the Vietnamese way of life, their culture and their history by visiting places like the Mekong Delta, War Remnant Museum and the Presidential Palace.

For many of us, we knew little about Vietnam. We used to know Vietnam as a war-torn country but after setting foot here, we realised that Vietnam is fast developing. Coming to Vietnam, we saw it as a place where the Christian faith is flourishing, as can be seen in their effort in nurturing a strong faith among the young.

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