I found this story to be encouraging and surely good news for the Church! Let's pray for the end to these restrictions that more and more young people might have the chance to follow God's will and their vocations! It comes from the Aid to the Church in Need site.
“Because we have so many vocations – and the number of seminarians we can take is limited by the government – people have to wait for a long time before entering seminary.” - Archbishop Kiet of Hanoi
According to a leading bishop, vocations are flourishing in Vietnam despite government restrictions.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, described how a growing number of seminarians started their studies this year. He said, “We have many vocations, this year our seminary received 300 seminarians, in two years time the number will be 400.”
Most senior seminaries are only allowed to accept new students once every two years, due to the communist government’s restrictions on the training and ordination of priests. Archbishop Kiet added, “Because we have so many vocations – and the number of seminarians we can take is limited by the government – people have to wait for a long time before entering seminary.”
Due to governmental controls on the numbers in seminaries, the Church cannot accept all the applicants they would like for priestly training. Asked the reason for the high number of vocations, Archbishop Kiet told ACN: “There is a tradition with Vietnamese Catholics – they have a strong sense of vision, in families parents like their children to become priests or to serve God.”
Although Vietnam’s constitution provides for freedom of worship, restrictions still remain, and the Church must obtain special permission before building new seminaries or places of worship. The government’s 2004 Ordinance on Religion and Belief has meant an easing of restrictions, and in 2006 the authorities gave permission for the expansion of St. Joseph Major Seminary in Xuan Loc Diocese. The new building will accommodate students from four dioceses.
In response to a number of urgent and important requests for help, ACN last year offered more than $1,800,000 in aid to the country, and ACN’s Asia section’s largest number of grants for the formation of priests and religious went to Vietnam. Archbishop Kiet also told ACN that religious congregations are growing, and that there are “many conversions, and many catechumens in cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi” with catechesis classes and adult formation held all year round.
The situation of the Church in Vietnam has improved, in part thanks to the efforts of the Vatican to maintain official dialogue with the authorities, despite the lack of formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See since the country was unified under communist rule in 1975. Relations have been improved by a more or less annual visit to the country from the Holy See – this year a Vatican delegation is due to arrive in June.
Up to 8.7 percent of the population in Vietnam is Catholic and reports suggest that there are 2,228 parishes and 2,668 priests.