by Fr. Joseph Rinaldo
Saigon – On March 24, Congregation Day, the Servants of Charity dedicated their first formation House in Vietnam. The choice of this day was extremely meaningful. On this day in 1908, St. Louis Guanella and ten of his religious companions professed their vows at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Como, Italy.
The red ribbon, as the local custom calls for, was cut by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Saigon, Paolo Bui Van Doc. In attendance were Fr. Soosai Rathinam, Provincial Superior of the Divine Providence Province (USA, Philippines, India and Vietnam), and Fr. Gustavo De Bonis, Secretary General. Besides the local pastor, many religious from other institutes, in a communion of faith, blessed the chapel, the sacred vessels and the living quarters. Mass was celebrated at the nearby local parish church.
The three story building, with 250 square feet on each floor, was built in a small area donated by two former Vietnamese sisters. It can house up to twenty young men discerning the Guanellian religious vocation. In the future, they would like to serve the poor in their country according to the charism and the tradition of St. Louis Guanella.
The facility is dedicated to Mary, Mother of Divine Providence. In her honor a large statue was placed at the entrance. Presently, it is not possible for us to open any activities of charity. It is necessary to wait for the young Vietnamese to be ready to take over and spread the Guanellian charism in their own society. The Guanellians have been working in Vietnam for the last four years. Fr. Felicks was the first Guanellian to enter Vietnam. The following year he was helped by Fr. Jerin. In the beginning they relied on the Salesian community until they rented a modest house where they lived with a group of young men. The difficulties in the beginning were overcome with prayer, sacrifices and an adjustment to the new culture. They had to learn the language and develop a relationship with the local youth as well as their neighbors who accepted them with generosity and friendship.
The young men’s formation and education is proceeding well. One of them is in Legazpi, Philippines for his Novitiate. Two others are getting ready for it. The faith in Vietnam is very strong. We hope that our Congregation will be enriched and increased by the love, enthusiasm and the work of these young men, the pioneers of the Guanellian Charism in Vietnam.