Interview with Bro. John Baptist Trung
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 22 May 2018 -- Brother John Baptist Trung is familiar to many EAO Salesians. Indeed during his 25 years of Salesian consecrated apostolic life he was already 3 years a missionary in Mongolia, 3 years involved in Specific formation for Salesian Brother in Paranaque and in Vietnam he is familiar with all stages of initial formation from the Aspirants to the Theologians.
What makes you happy as Salesian Brother?
Working for the young fills my heart with joy, especially to live my life as a consecrated person.
How many years did you spent in formation houses?
This year I celebrate Silver Jubilee of religious life. I spent almost 15 years in formation houses, when I was assigned first to the Theologate (Rinaldi community for 9 years) and was in charge of the Aspirants program. Then I spent 3 years as economer in the postnovitiate (Dalat Don Rua community), followed by one year in another Aspirantate (Duc Huy) and another two years in the specific formation of Brothers (Parañaque, Sandor) and now for last two years in the Cau Bong prenovitiate as prefect of studies. I treasure also very much three years of missionary experience in Mongolia delegation.
What do you treasure from this experience with our candidates and young Salesians?
Working with and for the young confreres, who are very dynamic but their vocation motivations are not yet deeply rooted is a wonderful challenge. Especially our Vietnamese social and cultural environment makes them weaker in vocation fidelity and sometimes they live in the illusion world of the social media. This situation does challenge the formators task and attitudes.
In order to accompany closer our Aspirants now we need model formation guides, this is the first condition. Secondly as formators we need the virtue of patience. And thirdly each formator should be fully committed to formation, with a clear focus. These three key elements are valid 20 years ago as today. Although my profession is a music teacher, I have put aside all other request during that period and focused only on closer vocation accompaniment.
How do you help the candidates to discern two forms of one Salesian vocation – Brother and Priest?
In the Rinaldi Aspirants center we got many vocation for the Brotherhood, thanks to model formators. Wherever I was present, there were many who have chosen to follow the path of Salesian Brother. They were not only attracted by me, but by a simple life example of other Brothers. Of course in a personal dialogue or when requested we present honestly all advantages and challenges of Salesian Brother life.
What are the challenges sides we face in Vietnam?
One of the challenges comes from the society, when people aspire (only) for prestige, fame and special reputation. But all Salesian Brothers around the world witness our Salesian consecrated vocation for the young with humble attitude and without making much noise. Another challenge we meet even at the Salesian provincial community level, the lifestyle of our Salesian priests needs more care. It is very evident, that many young Salesian priests changed their ‘personality’ just after ordination.
Who is your Salesian model?
I was lucky to live together with the first generation of Vietnamese Salesian Brothers, one of them just recently passed away. And now I’m reading again the biography of Blessed Br. Zatti.
How do you explain the high number (60+) of solid Salesian Brother vocations in Vietnam?
Yes, we are proud of this! J It’s not easy to talk about this reason, but I have chosen this vocation and make a great effort to be a model. I left many things behind and sacrificed also my music teaching which is my main passion and profession. I put my heart in all this little things of formation accompaniment! And listening to the confession from other senior Brothers, we share the same conviction. Maybe some aspirants will imitate us and follow our example also today!
What about accompaniment or care in different initial formation stages?
The accompaniment now requires more trustworthy formation guides. Without this trust our effort would be in vain. Today the formation guides need to propose and inspire the young people. If they trust, they would share. And we are teaching with our exemplary and focused life.
What keeps you going as Salesian Brother on your vocation journey?
Key factor is to be (always) with the young, it’s the key to the vocation perseverance. When I was young, it was easier. Now I need more effort. Sometime I am tempted to give up my vocation and share this feeling with the young! (J Smile!) They reply me with a smile: ‘We will quit too!’ So I’m always reminding them - please, follow Jesus, don’t follow me!
As participant in 2013 EAO Brother Congress, what memory do you keep?
In spite of my English language limits, I observed a lot effort in other provinces to live and promote the Brother vocation. The Hua Hin Congress motivated me a lot to keep in my daily commitment.
What are your expectations for the 2018 EAO Brother Congress?
This year we are preparing the Congress in our country. We expect the growth of Salesian vocation in all EAO provinces. Even if we have many young Salesian Brothers in Vietnam, we need to root more deeply their vocation. Probably half of the temporary professed Brothers are not yet enough deeply rooted in their vocation. Maybe they are weak due to the push during the novitiate choice, due to their intellectual preparation.
There is a need for closer vocation accompaniment of our young Brothers. During our recent Formation commission meeting we suggested to send to Sandor community (specific formation) only those who are stronger in vocation. For those weaker in formation suggested do this specific stage in Vietnam, to accompany these confreres more closely. Without closer accompaniment we may have in near future some significant challenges.