Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hospitality in Ho Chi Minh City

I arrived at the theologate a few weeks ago and was welcomed with the same warmth and hospitality that I had previously discovered in Da Lat.  I haven't figured out if this practice is peculiar to the Salesians, the Vietnamese people, or if they complement each other to form a perfect combination.  In any case, I am happy to begin my new assignment as part of the Salesian Community in Ho Chi Minh City.

My new roommate. I've named him Ivan the "indestructible".
He just doesn't stop moving after a good stomping.

There was another special display of hospitality as the community greeted the Rector Major, Very Reverend Father Angel Fernandez Artime.  He is the global head of the Salesian Congregation and is considered to be the 10th successor of Don Bosco.  As you would expect with any guest of honor, there was all the customary fanfare, but with an especially Asian flare.  Over 1,200 local youths attended the celebration.  All were entertained by traditional songs, dances and performances that lasted late into the night.

On a more somber note, I received some troubling news Stateside.  I was informed that my 4 month old nephew, Cameron Homan, began having seizures and was rushed to the emergency room.  He was born on the same day I flew to Vietnam.  Please keep him and my sister's family in your prayers at this time. One confrere suggested that we pray for Cameron's healing through the intercession of Don Andrej Macjen, the founder of the Salesian Mission in Vietnam.  

Today's Gospel reading Mark 10:27: With men it is impossible; but not with God: for all things are possible with God.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The End is the Beginning is the End

Brother Luke posing with some of the kids.
The end of the lunar calendar was marked with a weekend camp attended by about 300 parish children.  This event combined catechesis and something reminiscent of the Dazed and Confused rite of passage for incoming freshman.  It was a holy hazing of sorts.  Each sloppy station pertained to a particular saint.  After a long journey with Abraham rolling through foreign lands of fish sauce, the kids were dusted with manna (flour) by Moses before being baptized by John in a Jordan of paint.  These days were alive with laughter.
French volunteer, Alexandra, starting the flour dump.
Sorry, I'm inept at posting videos.  Please tilt head 90 degrees to the right.
Aspirant John with some of the students.
I love the smell of fermented fish in the morning...

Following camp, a multi-week break began to celebrate the lunar new year in Vietnam, also known as Tet.  This is the biggest holiday here.  Work shuts down, students return home and families gather to eat, pray, rest, and relax.  I spent most of this time traveling with the Brothers of the community and visiting local sites of interest.  Experiencing daily life in both the urban and rural regions of the country was especially enriching.  I enjoyed staying at a number of their childhood homes and sharing stories with friends and family over many wonderful meals. 
Brother Gregory spending time with his niece.
Making traditional rice cakes with Bro. Anthony's Uncle
Taking a break after hiking the mountains with Brother Vu
Hiking the waterfalls with Brother John
Dinner with Br. Mao's family

There is a lot of drinking during this time, which makes quickly buzzing down crowded streets on a motorbike an extra special adventure.  The constant battle cry heard throughout Vietnam during Tet is MOT, HAI, BA, VO! (Which means ONE, TWO, THREE, CHEERS!)  I tried to institute a new slogan relating to the number of alcoholic drinks consumed.  MOT, HAI, BA, TAXI!  It didn’t gain much popularity.

Notre Dame Cathedral, HCMC
I recently found out that I have been reassigned to the school of theology in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).  I spent a couple of days in Ho Chi Minh City during Tet.  It feels a lot like New York City (there are just as many people), but it seems more sprawling and less filled with skyscrapers.  There are 12 Districts in HCMC.   I leave for the theologate next week, where I will live in District 1.  I’m pretty sure Katniss and Peeta live in 12.  District 13 may have been destroyed by the Capitol during the rebellion, but you might not want to take my word on that.  My Vietnamese history is a bit shaky. 

Driving around HCMC with  Bro. Joseph

It was an absolute pleasure to share in the life of the Salesian Community of Da Lat.  It was a blessing to witness firsthand their dedication to the service of the youth and the poor.  I have met some remarkable Priests, Brothers, teachers, volunteers, and parishioners.  I hope the opportunity will arise for our paths to cross in the future.