“With the consent of the members of the Council General, according to article 107.3 of our Constitions, on 28th February 2012, according to article 107.3 of our Constitutions, I erect the present Region into the Vice Province of Vietam, which will have all the rights and obligations of the Vice Provinces of the Congregation of the Mission, according to our Constitutions and Statures.”
With these words, the Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission, Fr Gregory Gay CM, announced last week at Dalat, Indonesia, the erection of the new Vice Province of Vietnam. The photo above shows Fr Nguyen Huu Gia CM, former Regional Superior, and now Vice Visitor of the new Vice Province, accepting the decree.
Historical Sketch of the Congregation of St Vincent de Paul in Vietnam (Courtesu of the Australian Province of the CM)
(As presented in Mass booklet at Vice Province Celebratory Mass )
“The Congregation of the Mission has existed in Vietnam for more than a century; quite some time, perhaps, compared to a man’s lifetime; yet just humble considering the long history of the Church evangelization. Despite this, each step of the Church was well cared for by God’s providence.
Since 1699, the early Vincentian missionaries had come to China from Italy. After Pope Clement the 14th dissolved the Company of Jesus in 1773 (the Jesuits had missioned in China since 1582) some of their missions was then transferred to French Vincentians since 1785. Since the Daughters of Charity of Vincent de Paul came to Vietnam in 1928, the Vincentians from China often came and worked in the place, for short term pastoral missions. It was not until 1936 when a French Vincentian, Jean Baptiste Bringer, was officially assigned the Provincial Director of the Daughters of Charity here.
In 1949 when China changed its political system, the Vincentian priests missioning in China had to return to France. On the ship bringing them back home, some stopped by Saigon, Vietnam for a break. Yet, it was the exactly God’s plan. They realized that Vietnam was a fertile land for evangelization. In spite of that, due to the rather complicated political situation of Vietnam, the priests quietly prayed for God’s plan. During this time they patiently did the pastoral service for the French and helped the Daughters of Charity. Quiet as they were, not at all did they neglect zealous longing to sow the first seeds of vocation.
The year 1955 saw the reaping time when the first house of the Congregation of the Mission in Dalat, Vietnam was canonically established at Yersin Street N.42 (now Tran Phu St. 40-Dalat); Father Rene Dulucq was appointed the first Superior. Within the same year, Dalat House was transferred to a new place at 11 Yet Kieu Street. The Yersin house at 42 became the “Sacred Heart Villa”, a Catholic Action Centre directed by Gerard Gagnon, a Canadian Redemptorist, on behalf of the Vietnam Bishops Conference. In the new residence the Vincentians opened a hostel to accommodate students coming to study in Dalat. Later a Chinese Vincentian leaving Italy for Vietnam built a Chinese elementary and secondary school for students of Chinese origin.
In 1959, priests were officially sent to distant parishes to care for the “Montagnards”, an ethnic minority in Lam Dong Province. In 1961 they took charge of the mission in Don Duong and Duc Trong districts, comprising a series of small villages of Churu ethnic minority.
The year 1963 saw the opening of an Apostolic school (minor seminary) for the training of native vocations; and by 1966, the Community opened the first Internal Seminary at the “Pavillon Saint Vincent” Yet Kieu street, Nr 11, with the first 8 novices (5 seminarians, 2 lay brothers and a secular priest) Since then, the Apostolic School (minor seminary) moved to Tam Hiep, Dong Nai Province, 30 kms North East of Saigon. In that place the director of the Minor Seminary, first Vietnamese Vincentian trained in France, Joseph Pham Tuan Trang, opened a secondary school, namely, Vinh Sang Tam Hiep High School.
In 1970 the Bishops Conference of Vietnam returned the Sacred Heart Villa in Dalat to the Congregation. Due to the transport problem during the War, the Catholic training Centre was almost inactive.
In 1975 political event had brought about drastic changes to the Congregation. Foreign priests left Vietnam for their home countries; most seminarians went home; just a few from Dalat remained. By 1989 the world’s as well as Vietnam’s situation underwent big changes.
The hardest time was gone. The Congregation had a new settlement in Tuc Trung—Dong Nai Province (where is currently located the internal seminary).
In 1970, the first group of aspirants was secretly recruited and trained after the 1975 event. This was the starting point for the journey of strong development later. Until now, the Congregation had graduated 9 promotions and conducted a series of priestly ordinations. Nowadays, almost sixty years after its existence in Vietnam, the Congregation has, to some extent, seen its growth with 61 priests, 10 incorporated members, 21 students in theology, 8 novices, 30 in philosophy and 30 aspirants.
Beside the Mother House situated at Tran Phu St 40-Dalat, the Congregation has the Dalat House at Yet Kieu Street 11; the Kadon-Pro’h; Tuc Trung;Phu Nhuan-Saigon; in total 5 canonical houses. The Training Centre consists of the Mother House in Dalat (for aspirants) the Philosophate (The Dalat Inner House), the Internal Seminary (Tuc Trung House) the Theologate (Saigon). Besides, the Congregation has smaller mission communities: Bung Ke (Ba Ria-Vung Tua Provinceak), Dak Song (diocese of Buon Me Thuot) Konum (diocese of Kontum) Nha Trang (Diocese of Nga Trang). At the request of some bishops, the Congregation has also sent confreres on mission to 6 dioceses; Dalat, Long Xuyen, Can Tho, Vinh, Hung Hoa, and Lang Son (the last 3 ones are dioceses in North Vietnam)…………………”