The following is the reflection written by our Provincial after he attended the Dedication of our New Postulant House in Cu Chi Vietnam, along with our Order’s General and Assistant General.
I write my reflections of last night’s dedication with a joyous and grateful heart. The Friars worked up to two hours before the ceremony to make all ready. After a quick and refreshing change, they began to receive the guests.
As the time to begin approached, the dignitaries, the visiting priests and religious, the families and donors gathered with the Friars in front of the new formation house. After a wonderful greeting, offered in both Vietnamese and English by a Friar, Bishop Joseph Nguyen, Father General and I approached the remarkable red ribbon, held by four Friars. The ribbon blocked the expansive front door of the house. Simultaneously, the three of us cut the eight-inch wide ribbon allowing access to the massive double doors.
Bishop Joseph then uncovered the cornerstone near the entryway, which records his blessing of the house on March 2nd. Father General brought forward a tray on which rested the key to the front door. Father Marco presented the key to Father Luke, who opened the door with some effort. The vested clergy processed up to the first floor, allowing about one hundred Friars and guests to pass before us to the chapel on the top floor.
Friar Stephen had worked with the Friars for several weeks to prepare the outstanding music. The glorious, polyphonic entrance hymn brought all of us into the A-framed, high-ceilinged chapel. God blessed us with a cool day and a stiff breeze, which wafted continually through the well-lit chapel.
Bishop Joseph greeted the people and proceeded directly to the blessing of the chapel and house. After the blessing of the water, the Bishop sprinkled the top floor, while Friars Jude Winkler and Benedict Baek sprinkled the two lower floors. Returning to the chapel, the Bishop sprinkled the altar, which was a stone mensa sitting on two stone columns.
After the general intercessions, the altar was covered with its cloth and specific family and donors brought the candles, the offerings and the traditional flower arrangements to the Bishop. The liturgy was celebrated in an appropriate Franciscan style–both simple and elegant. Before leaving the chapel, the Bishop received the traditional bouquet of flowers, which were also put in front of the altar. Then Father Luke offered his thanks and appreciation to the assembled community in both Vietnamese and English. Next Father General addressed the assembly in Italian, ably translated by Jude into English and then Luke into Vietnamese. At the conclusion of the Mass, many pictures were taken.
The congregation proceeded to the dining room on the ground floor. Since the windows were not yet installed, the delicious meal offered us an open air experience with a great breeze reminiscent of the famous capitals of Europe. The Bishop’s table included the Minister Provincial of the Vietnamese O.F.M. community and the priests’ table brought together several of the pastors of the parishes, where the Friars assist in ministry.
During the meal, a collage of slides and videos was presented. The collage showed the stages of construction of the building and the faces of many Friars who worked alongside the construction workers. The background music was in English (Glory and Praise to Our God and the theme music from Brother Sun, Sister Moon–one by one… stone by stone).
I wish to re-emphasize that the celebration, the new Friary and the small family experience were truly Franciscan–simple and elegant. The Friars are to be congratulated on the way in which they came together through these months of construction and celebration.
Finally, there was one thing that was not reflected upon throughout. I have been speaking with Friars from other jurisdictions and from the General Curia. In our Province I know how inspired we have been by our Vietnamese Friars–Luke, Tammylee, Tuan and James–for the work that they have offered over less than a decade. We have been inspired by the dedication of our many new Vietnamese Friars. But we are not alone in this. There are many Friars throughout the world, who have followed quietly and admiringly the commitment and explosion of energy, which has marked this new foundation in less than two decades. The Australian Friars had a vision at the beginning and put in ground-breaking effort and financing to get us to the current state of the delegation. They have a true right to be proud of what they started and to share in the achievements that we are celebrating. But I am overwhelmed by the support and encouragement that have come from outside the Province. Other Friars are watching and admiring the great progress.
I am grateful for the many Friars and benefactors around the world who have made our efforts possible. But while we celebrate, eyes are already turned to the future. There is a small amount of land that is now in the name of the Friars. It is there that a Shrine in honor of Saint Anthony of Padua will be constructed. This is very much only in the planning stages. The delegation is not stopping to spend much time enjoying its remarkable achievements to date. The future is a dream yet to be fulfilled.
Blessings on you all. Remember us in prayer as we travel to Van Mon.