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April 1: Research
and preparation

April 2: What a drive!

April 3: Heroes
suffering for the faith

April 4: Why go
to Vietnam?

April 5: The Church
triumphant!

April 5: Cemetery prayers

April 6: Cat Ba
Island Mass like
the early Church

April 7: Visit with seminarians

April 8: Meeting the Sisters

April 8: Reflections

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Clergy from the Diocese of Hai Phong, above and below, meet with the Oakland diocese’s Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ and Very Rev. George Mockel.
Courtesy photos

April 2, 2014
What a drive!

I arrived in Hanoi and was warmly greeted by several seminarians and priests of the Diocese of Hai Phong which is my ultimate destination for this leg of my journey. We traveled by car from Hanoi to Hai Phong.

It is about a 2½ hour drive — and what a drive it was! The horn is used here about as much as the gas pedal! I suspect we spent almost as much time in the lane of the on-coming traffic passing other cars as we did in the forward moving lane. Some of my fellow riders slept on the way — or so they claimed. I suspect they have learned it is better to keep your eyes closed than the hazard of watching what happens all around you on the roads.

I arrived and was greeted by the Bishop of Hai Phong, Bishop Joseph Vu Van Thien and our own Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ. Bishop Barber arrived a few days earlier so he could have the opportunity to thank Bishop Thien for sending some seminarians to study at St. Patrick’s Seminary, do pastoral work in our diocese and thus enrich us with their culture and spirituality. The bishop had the opportunity to personally meet and greet their families as well.

On April 1, the priests of the diocese of Hai Phong gathered to meet the bishop and myself as well as listen to a talk by our bishop on the priesthood. The bishop began his talk by expressing his admiration for the priests of Vietnam as they continue to give witness to the faith in very challenging and difficult circumstances. He thanked them for encouraging vocations to the priesthood and for their support and encouragement of family life. He noted that the family structure is very strong in Vietnam and this explains in many ways the strength and vitality of the church in this country.

After the talk there was an opportunity for questions and dialogue. The questions centered around the impact of the church on the young in the United States as well as how the popular culture and the media are affecting young peoples’ attitudes toward the faith in our country. One questioner asked about what appeared to be the beginning s of religious persecution in the United States.

The bishop commented about the mandates related to the Affordable Care Act as well as a general disdain for the church in some segments of the media. It struck me how in some ways the tables were turned. Although the church in Vietnam is obviously a suffering church, they are nevertheless concerned about some of the warning signs of possible difficult times for the Church in America.

(Father Mockel is vicar general of the Diocese of Oakland and pastor at Santa Maria Parish in Orinda.)

 
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