Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Lunar New Year (Tết) celebrations, which this year fall during Lent, are for Vietnamese Catholics an opportunity to engage in social outreach and charity in favor of the downtrodden.
Saint Paul’s Parish, in the Diocese of Phan Thiết (suffragan of Ho Chi Minh City), has organized a program called ‘Lunar New Year of Love’, caring for poor families, children, lonely elderly and the sick, regardless of their religion.
Thanks to the help of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the vicar and Saint Paul’s pastoral committee are helping the neediest in their community, both inside and outside the parish.
Also in the Diocese of Phan Thiết, members of the church of Điền Thôn (Hữu Lễ district) set up the parish building for the ‘Tết for the poor’ initiative, for both Catholic and non-Catholic families.
“Vicar Joseph Nguyễn Văn Hiệu and the faithful support people who live in very difficult circumstances, in densely forested and remote areas, helping them to pass a cheerful Tết,” said a volunteer from the parish Caritas. “Our hope is that this is a means to bring Jesus’ love to everyone,” he told AsiaNews.
On February 15, at the pastoral center in Huế (Central Vietnam), Monsignor Joseph Nguyễn Chí Linh and the archdiocesan Caritas presented gifts to local poor families. Catholics are a very small minority in the area, slightly more than 4 percent.
Mr. Liên, a practicing Buddhist, expressed his joy at receiving a gift. “My children and I are very happy to receive these gifts for the New Year,” he said. “These are gestures of love and compassion, actions that encourage us in life.”
Monsignor Nguyễn Chí Linh illustrated some aspects of Christianity to the audience and the reason for the meeting, saying: “Jesus taught us that we must know how to love everyone.”
Throughout the country thousands of poor families live on the outskirts of the cities, engaged in “miếng cơm manh áo” (searching for food and clothes for children).
According to a study by the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), Vietnam had two million poor families, or 11% of the population, in 2016. These households earn at most $15 a month.