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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

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


Very Rev. George Mockel

April 7, 2014
Visit with seminarians

We have all heard and perhaps used the phrase: "The youth are the future of the church." Blessed John Paul II once responded: "They are the present church as well." I liked that. As I have commented in blogs about past trips, I am optimistic about youth today. Yes, they have their problems, but the young have no corner on that market!

Many of the young people in Vietnam are responding to the Lord's perennial invitation: "Come follow me." My visit to the Pre-Seminary of the Diocese of Hai Phong is one example, among many, that I have experienced on this trip.

Through the contributions of generous benefactors to the Oakland office of the Propagation of the Faith, a Pre-Seminary was recently constructed in Hai Phong. The bishop invited me to visit the seminary and spend some time with the students.

Seminary education and formation is more extensive in this country than what we are used to. The Pre-Seminary is for students who have completed college and now wish to begin a process of further education, formation and discernment about a possible vocation to the priesthood. They must first be "sponsored" by their pastors. They live in community and learn about the life of a priest both from the classroom as well as lived experience in the parishes. They take courses in philosophy, Scripture etc.

In fact the Bishop of Hai Phong himself teaches a weekly Scripture course at the seminary. The program of formation takes at least four years. At the end of this phase, those considered ready are chosen to begin their theological studies at the Major seminary in Hanoi.

As in our country the major seminary program lasts four years before ordination. Another interesting variation from the practice in our country is that ordinations take place in March (feast of Saint Joseph, protector of the universal church) and the newly ordained move into the bishop's house and live with him for several months before receiving their assignments.

The energy and the enthusiasm of these young men is contagious. They all have studied English and many of them are quite proficient. We had an opportunity for a dialogue toward the end of our meeting.
Once again — like the meeting with the priests — their questions centered on curiosity about the life of a priest in America and their genuine concern about their own spiritual growth.

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

Through the contributions of generous benefactors to the Oakland office of the Propagation of the Faith, a Pre-Seminary was recently constructed in Hai Phong.
Courtesy photos

The seminary rector meets with Most Rev. Joseph Vu Van Thien, bishop of Hai Phong; Most Rev. George Mockel; and Rev. Quang Minh Dong.

Small motorcycles are the ubiquitous form of transportation.

Father Mockel, Bishop Thien, and the seminary rector look over the Pre-Seminary courtyard.

Fathers Mockel and Quang and Bishop Thien on the rooftop of the seminary.

There are no mattresses in the seminary dorm room beds.

Father Mockel and Bishop Thien pray in the seminary chapel.

Father Mockel says goodbye to the seminarians.

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