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Catholic Voice

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


Lunch at a fish farm on Halong Bay.
Courtesy photos

Very Rev. George Mockel

April 6, 2014
Cat Ba Island
Mass like the early Church

The Bishop of Hai Phong invited me and some others to join him on a pastoral visit to the island of Cat Ba in Halong Bay. Located about one hour away by motorboat from Hai Phong, it is a beautiful island surrounded by more than 300 tiny islands with steep cliffs, diamond shape peaks and covered with beautiful jungle like growth. The island forms protected bays where locals literally live on the water and work their fish farms. We visited one such farm where we were treated to some warm hospitality and the freshest fish one could ever find.

There is no church building on the island of Cat Ba. And the authorities are not inclined to allow the construction of one. The Catholic community is very small, but fervent.

A catechist lives on the island and provides religious education. A priest comes twice a month for Mass. The second floor of the home of the catechist has a small chapel where locals gather for daily prayer.

The bishop was to celebrate Mass at 6 p.m. The word spread and when we arrived, the crowd was already spilling out from the little home on to the street.

I was struck by the number of young people and their enthusiasm. Families were there as well, but also quite a few young fishermen who had come from the local fish farms to celebrate Mass with us.

During the Mass, I thought of the descriptions of the early church; a tiny persecuted minority community gathering in the homes of fellow Christians, sometimes at the risk of "life and limb" to be strengthened by the bread of life and to "do this in memory of me."

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

Recycling in the middle of the sea.

A fish farm.

Mass at the home of a catechist on Cat Ba island.

Preaching in my most fluent Vietnamese.
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