Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sister Goretti January 31, 2011

Before breakfast a dear friend of Fr. Binh’s showed up at the Quang house, Sr. Goretti. She is originally from South Vietnam. By “originally” I mean that she and her family already lived in the south before the country was divided in 1954. At that time many in the North moved to the South if they preferred to live in a democracy. Fr. Binh’s family, for instance, moved to DaNang from the North in 1954. It is a very important year in the story of Vietnam.

Sr. Goretti joined the Good Shepherd sisters during the war. She happened to be working at a refugee camp in Hong Kong when Fr. Binh, as a 16 year old, came through the camp there.

Sr. Goretti has had a remarkable life and ministry. They are an international order and have sisters in Portland. They are best known for there work helping women escape the chains of prostitution. But the sisters are involved in many other works assisting the poor and we visited two locations in Saigon and gave a red envelope (with financial support from our parishes) for each of those works.

The first place we visited was a school for children who drop out of, or are kicked out of the public school system. Then we went to visit a home for unwed mothers. Those we met and their babies are from the North, are all Catholic, and were sent away from their families to give birth to their babies, often due to a lack of financial means. These women were happy to meet us and have us hold and bless their babies. They seemed so proud of their children. There are few things more delightful than playing with babies. Fr. Binh and I had a great time there.

After lunch at the Quang family home we went to the Airport to pick up Marty Quandt from St. Juan Diego Parish who will be traveling with us for a week in Vietnam. These coming days will be more “vacation” in nature. But I have to say that I am feeling very rested and inspired by the amazing Catholics I am meeting here.

We spent the evening on the opening night of Lunar New Year festivities downtown all gearing up for February 3 to usher in the “Year of the Cat”.

Meet the Quang Family, who have been my hosts this past week. From left to right: Phong (Fowm) 19, Ngoc (GNowc) 15, Hong (Howm) mother, Quang father, and Phu, 21. The children have done their best to speak English to me and Hong and I have been teaching each other simple expressions in each other’s language and laughing at our poor pronunciations. The shrine above our heads is very common in Catholic homes in Vietnam.

Fr. Binh and I at the school run by the Good Shepherd Sisters for children who had to leave the public schools. Behind us is a bulletin board of photos from all the school activities.

Sr. Goretti showing me one of the Classrooms at the Good Shepherd school.

Sr. Goretti introduced us to a woman from the North who came to their school to learn the seamstress trade.

Every school needs a computer room.

Fr. John, Sr. Goretti, Sr. Elizabeth, a novice from Myanmar assigned to the school for a practicum, and another sister whose name I cannot recall.

Scenes from various markets.

More markets...

and more markets! (see below)

Women and their children from the home for unwed mothers standing with Fr. Binh. On the far right is one of the Good Shepherd sisters who works at the home helping the young mothers and their children.

Offering a blessing for the babies and their mothers.

We thoroughly enjoyed meeting these mothers and their beautiful children.

Marty Quandt of St. Juan Diego Parish arrives in Saigon in time for Lunar New Year festivities.

A new dragon is made out of flowers each year. In Asian mythology a dragon is a source of good to fight evil.

The Lunar New Year is all about flowers! These are from a bonsai tree exhibition.

The Year of the Cat.

Happy New Year in many languages.

Everyone wants to be in downtown Saigon for the festivities which culminate on February 3.

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