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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Vietnam diocese gets building for seminary"

From the Indian Catholic

XUAN LOC, Vietnam (UCAN) -- Catholics in the most populous Vietnamese diocese hope new seminary buildings and a pastoral center will help meet the local Church's needs for priestly formation and pastoral activities.

Father Joseph Nguyen Nang, rector of the Xuan Loc branch of Ho Chi Minh City-based St. Joseph Major Seminary, hopes it will train enough priests to serve more than 800,000 Catholics in his diocese's 300 parishes. It also serves the neighboring dioceses of Ba Ria, Da Lat and Phan Thiet.

The seminary's new, two-building facilities were inaugurated on Sept. 26 in this town 80 kilometers north of Ho Chi Minh City and 1,630 kilometers south of Ha Noi. They are in the same five-hectare compound as Xuan Loc diocese's new pastoral center and bishop's house.

Bishop Dominic Nguyen Chu Trinh of Xuan Loc blessed them all during the inaugural ceremony on the last day of the Vietnamese bishop's biannual assembly, which began Sept. 22 at the new bishop's house.

Twenty-seven archbishops and bishops joined 500 priests in concelebrating the Mass. The 12,000 people present included benefactors, Religious and seminarians.

Father Nang told UCA News recently that 265 students, 45 of whom just started on Oct. 2, are now studying at the seminary's new facilities, which comprise two three-story buildings with 190 rooms, a chapel and a kitchen. The staff of 30 professors includes some who teach at the St. Joseph campus in Ho Chi Minh City.

It will accept new students annually, the rector said, noting that previously the seminary in Ho Chi Minh City accepted only 20 local seminarians every other year. The government is now allowing all six major seminaries in the country to recruit on a yearly basis.

Father Nang also said the new bishop's house and pastoral center, both four-story buildings, which house a chapel, hall and guestrooms, will be used for pastoral activities and training for youths, parents, catechists, lay leaders and choir conductors. In the past, diocesan training courses were held in parishes, which could not handle many people at a time, he noted.

Donations by local benefactors covered the cost of construction, which started in August 2006, he added.

Following the government's approval of the Xuan Loc branch in 2006, seminarians of the diocese began studies in old buildings on the compound that October. Fellow students from the other three dioceses joined them last year. Seminarians moved into completed parts of the new buildings as they were built, and the old buildings were destroyed.

A seminarian told UCA News they feel comfortable in the clean, new rooms with bathrooms after living and studying in small rooms with noise and dust. He added that four or five first- and second-year students share a room, while students in third year and above each have a smaller, 15-square-meter room.

Thomas Tran Van Tien, who donated to the seminary construction and other local Church activities, told UCA News he prays his son will continue his pursuit of a priestly vocation and enter the branch seminary.

Joseph Tran Du Dong, 17, one of Tien's nine children, is in 12th grade and serves as an altar boy at Go Xoai parish, 50 kilometers away. He said he hopes to perform well at school and college so the seminary will accept him.

Bishop Trinh, 68, head of the Episcopal Commission for Social and Charitable Actions of the Vietnam Bishops' Conference, asked Massgoers at the inaugural ceremony to work with the local Church in evangelization work and social activities to serve poor people, street children and migrant workers from other provinces.

Thomas Tran Van Han, head of the parish council in Go Xoai, told UCA News afterward that that he and 20 other representatives of their 700-member parish thanked God for the new, better seminary facilities.

"I am very happy that the construction has been completed and the new branch will meet the local Church's needs for priests," said Han, whose son is a third-year seminarian at the Xuan Loc campus.

According to 2007 Church records, Xuan Loc diocese, which covers Dong Nai province and part of Binh Duong province, had 366 priests, 1,830 Religious and 8,821 catechists working in its territory. It also had 180 major seminarians.

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