The Spiritan mission to Vietnam began in September 2007 with the arrival in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) of three Spiritan missionaries. They were sent by the General Council of the Congregation to carry out missionary work there but also to establish a foundation of the Congregation. Because of the special political situation of the country it was and is not possible to carry out missionary work in the traditional sense so the three men had to adapt their approach, and had to work, as it were, under the radar.
Spiritans in Vietnam
Vietnam is a country of close to 90 million people of whom about 10% is Catholic. It is a Buddhist culture though not many people actually attend the pagodas. It is a country of young, energetic people who have left the war behind, who look to the future not to the past. The Church functions openly; there is no underground Church as in China. The dioceses and parishes are 100% Vietnamese run; the seminaries are full and with waiting lists and the religious institutions also attract large numbers of young men and women.
The first three Spiritans to arrive in Vietnam came from very different background. Fr. Anthony Le Trinh Quang was born and raised in Vietnam but moved to the US in the 1980’s. He joined the Spiritans of the US Province in Houston Texas, was ordained in 2007 and then returned to his homeland. Fr.Trinh is in charge of the aspirancy program and also helps out, on an informal basis, in his local parish.
Fr.Frederic Rossignol is from Belgium and was ordained in 2005. He is director of the 1st cycle program, helps out in his local parish and also assists in the pastoral to the french speaking Catholics in the city.
Fr.Pat Palmer is from Ireland and had previously worked in Sierra Leone, Ghana and Ireland. He is superior of the circumscription, teaches english and helps in the pastoral to the english speaking Catholics in the city. In 2010 the group was joined by Fr.Joseph Quoc Le. Fr Joseph was born and raised in Vietnam but left it as a young boy. He joined the Congregation in Houston and was ordained in 2010. He is the bursar of the group and helps out in the local parish.
As can be seen, the main work of the group is the formation and training of young men as future Spiritan missionaries. To date 6 people have been professed and are now in the Philippines to study theology, 7 are in the novitiate and 15 are at various stages of the aspirancy. But the group is also involved in charity work, visiting and helping out in the many orphanages in the city and setting up a sponsorship program to allow poor children to go to school.