A congregation of nuns in central Vietnam has started a jubilee year to mark its efforts in bearing witness to Catholicism and serving the poor for 300 years.
Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh of Hue celebrated at the opening Mass on March 21 to mark the 300th anniversary of the establishment of Lovers of the Holy Cross congregation in Hue. Seventy priests concelebrated the Mass attended by 400 sisters.
Archbishop Linh praised those nuns who bravely sacrificed themselves to build the congregation despite persecution in the 18th and 19th centuries. He also thanked benefactors who help the congregation become what it is today.
Sister Teresa Tran Thi Tuy, the congregation’s general superior, said the long-year event “aims to remind sisters of revisiting past difficult times and expressing gratitude to those who helped build the congregation.”
Father Pierre de Sennemand founded the community in Hue in 1719. Sisters taught catechism and basic education to children and women and took care of patients. Local people admired their service and many young women joined the convent.
From the late 18th century, nuns suffered severe persecution from local authorities. Many convents were dissolved, while sisters had to return to their homes, were forced to live among non-Catholics or joined other convents far away from Hue, the capital of the Nguyen dynasty.
Many Catholics including sisters were killed for their faith. Some 58 nuns from Nhu Ly convent were murdered or burned alive together with 2,000 laypeople in 1885.
In 1954, three convents in Quang Binh province moved to the south to avoid communist persecution.
In 1962, Archbishop Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc of Hue united separate convents as the Lovers of the Holy Cross of Hue.
Many convents moved to southern provinces to avoid the Vietnam War during 1972-75.
The congregation has founded communities in France, Italy and the United States.
Lovers of the Holy Cross in Hue now has 447 nuns serving people with physical disabilities, orphans and ethnic minority groups. It also runs day care centers.