A Sequel to “My Journey in Finding God”

By: Marierose Hoang, Vietnamese Catholic Community

The summer of 2017 is nothing but extraordinary to me. You can have a plan, but at the end it is God who has the final say.

It began on July 1st, when I had the privilege of being part of the delegation led by Bishop Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington, VA at The Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel, a gathering convened by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Following this conference, with a more in-depth understanding of what it means to be a missionary disciple, I embarked on my 3rd year mission back to a Danang, Vietnam.

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What a surprise: Welcoming banner to the participants of the 2017 Montessori Education training session.

At my first training session, I was met by 75 eager and enthusiastic sisters of St. Paul de Chartres, who are mostly from southern Vietnam. In the first two days, my daily prayers consisted of: “God, please help me in fulfilling what you have planned for me, allow me

Marierose Teaching in Vietnam

First day of training

to completely surrender to your will and let the Holy Spirit dwell in me for the next 8 days.” And yes, He was always by my side and the training was received with much joy and appreciation. And I cannot do this alone. There is a whole community supporting me from behind and they are the hosting sisters of Thanh Tam congregation in Danang (only 8 of them), with the mission of showing “compassion for suffering people – above all to women and the poorest of the poor – by sharing in the teaching and health care mission of the Church”. They have contributed greatly to this success.

I was unknowingly provided with the means to respond to the radical call to missionary discipleship. Vietnam is a communist country of which there is no God. Trying to reinstate the core values of the Catholic faith there on your own, will only bring headache, disappointment and risk of being expelled.

The sisters of St. Paul de Chartres at Thanh Tam are an evangelizing community and truly embody “a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice.” An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19) and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed.

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The Lord sent me to this community and step by step has unveiled his intentions. Many times I have asked myself what is the purpose of my earthly existence. I have learned that the purpose is to collaborate with the sisters in their teaching mission of the Church, a church that goes forth to everyone without exception (E.G. 48). If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go to first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbors, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, “those who cannot repay you” (Lk 14:14). In Vietnam, the handicapped children, especially from poor families have been on the margins of society. They are considered the outcasts, the parasites of society. And if they were lucky enough to have some care, it is only for the benefits of certain people taking advantage of their situation.

Children playing in Vietnam - Marierose

Hearing impaired children learning about the continent of Asia

Going to the peripheries: E.G. 20

  1. The word of God constantly shows us how the Lord challenges those who believe in him “to go forth.” Abraham received the call to set out for a new land (cf. Gen 12:1-3). Moses heard God’s call: “Go, I send you” (Ex 3:10) and led the people towards the promised land (cf. Ex 3:17). To Jeremiah God says: “To all whom I send you, you shall go” (Jer 1:7). In our day, Jesus’s command to “go and make disciples” echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges of the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new mission of “going forth.”Each Christian and community must discern their own path, but all of us are asked to obey the Lord’s call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all of the “peripheries” in the light of the Gospel. For most of the Vietnamese Americans who have left the country when the war ended, the hope of going back is very remote. It is remote not because they are not allowed to come back, but more due to resentment and mistrust of a government thriving on corruption and in a “throwaway culture.” Sandwiched between a generation of boat people who have risked their lives and vowed  never to come back and a new generation totally American unable to make sense out of this fierce conviction, the call to come back to lend a hand is not an easy answer. Many times my husband and I have been accused of being pro communist.The Lord has led me to the sisters of St. Paul de Chartres. By his Will, I was able to humbly  assist the sisters in providing a new insight to the educational system for these less fortunate children. With constant prayers and guided by the Holy Spirit, we have started slowly re-instituting  the core values of Catholic teaching in their daily school activities. The training of the teacher is far more than learning ideas. It includes the training of character. It is a preparation of the spirit. Just as Saint Pope John XXI said:

“It is possible to see a clear analogy between the Shepherd in the Church and that of the prudent and generous educator in the Montessori method, who with tenderness, with love and with a wise evaluation of gifts, knows how to discover and bring to light the most hidden virtues and capacities of the child.”

From the start in summer of 2015 at Thanh Tâm Special Education Center to this summer of 2017, it has been quite a journey filled with Joy and Gratitude. The seed of spreading the Montessori Education to the less fortunate children in Vietnam has started to grow. It takes good soil, with good seed that is well tended by an attentive gardener. Without these we cannot expect a crop to grow and produce abundant fruit. (Matthew 13:2)

It is still a continuing journey in which I hope the call to be a missionary disciple will stay in me for the remainder of my life on earth.

Sisters in Vietnam - Marierose

Presenting an original peace ceremony activity: one special component of the Montessori curriculum: Peace Education

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Sending Scholarships to the Philippines

By Chiqui P. Sanchez, Filipino-American Catholic Community

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One of our diocesan Filipino/American Catholic Communities is based at Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC) Catholic Church in Vienna, Virginia. As a Fil/Am Catholic ministry, one of our goals is to reach out to the Fil/Am community at OLGC, its neighboring parishes and to our fellow countrymen and women in the Philippines. Since its inception 10 years ago, we have been blessed with opportunities to reach this goal. We have financially contributed to the assistance of major disaster victims in the Philippines through collaboration with major organizations in the Washington DC Metropolitan area such as Feed the Hungry, Inc. and through partnership with the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  We have reached out to families in the areas who have suffered financial setbacks because of illness. We have also extended support to the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation, Inc. (Mowelfund) which is a leading film and resource center that contributes to the overall improvement of the Philippine Film Industry and whose major objective is to address the needs of the movie workers behind the scenes and their families. Through our community outreach program, another goal that the Fil/Am Catholic ministry of Our Lady of Good Counsel has been aiming for is to provide a Filipino student a college scholarship.  College costs for many of those living in poverty in the Philippines are extremely out of reach.   For just a few hundred US dollars a year, we can provide the opportunity for impoverished youth of the Philippines to access a college education.

In March of 2016, we met with Father Posey, Pastor of St. James, Mr. Mike Mele, who travels with Father Posey on behalf of the Pontifical Mission Society and Mrs. Corinne Monogue from the Diocesan Office of Multicultural Ministries about scholarships through YSLEP (Youth Servant Leadership and Education Program) under Caritas Manila (a Catholic organization). Father Posey, Mike and Corinne were in the Philippines in February 2016 to see for themselves what YSLEP is and all three were able to convince those of us in attendance from the OLGC ministry that this scholarship program is a worthy endeavor for our ministry to take on. This meeting concretized our long-time goal to be able to support students in the Philippines.

Through our contact with Caritas Manila, our OLGC-based Fil/Am Community Ministry now has an YSLEP scholar. Leobert Francisco from Basilan, Isabela is in his 2nd year of studies in Education at the Claret College, and we will see him through until he gets his degree in 2019. With our fundraising initiatives that we continue to pursue, with the unfailing moral and spiritual support from our Pastor and staff at OLGC, and the untiring effort from the members of our ministry, God willing, we will be able to sponsor more students who are in need through Caritas Manila. We feel blessed that we have been given yet another opportunity to serve and we are deeply grateful that we are able to make a difference in the life of one of our own brothers and sisters in Christ.  Please keep Leobert Franciso in your prayers for his educational opportunities and future success.