Nha Trang – ucanews.com reporter
A major seminary established 25 years ago in central Vietnam has produced hundreds of priests to meet the needs of the country’s Catholics even as the communist government suppressed their faith.
Father John Baptist Ngo Dinh Tien, rector of Stella Maris Major Seminary in Nha Trang, capital of Khanh Hoa province, said that the seminary trained some 500 priests for nine dioceses over the past 25 years. He said that the priests satisfied the need for clergy that dioceses had after the country was reunified under communist rule in 1975.
But it has not been an easy process.
A senior priest said, under condition of anonymity, that Nha Trang Diocese said the previous Stella Maris Major Seminary — and 60 other church facilities — were confiscated by the government in 1979. He said no priests were ordained from 1976 to 1990 and other priests were banned from pastoral work.
After the government enacted their “open door” policy in the late 1980s and allowed six major seminaries to be reopened, the late Bishop Paul Nguyen Van Hoa of Nha Trang decided to re-establish the Stella Maris Major Seminary in 1991.
The government granted the diocese a former elementary school to use for the seminary. In 1992, the seminary ran its first course attended by 30 students from three dioceses.
Father Tien said, at first, the government allowed the seminary to recruit only 30 students every two years; they attended courses lasting six years.
However, since 2010, the seminary has annually admitted 50 students for eight years of courses before ordination.
He said that the seminary also conducted refresher courses in theology for old seminarians who had trained unofficially during the underground period, at parishes and study houses. They are from nine dioceses throughout the country.