Missionary journey via Ireland to Australia-Pacific from Dalat:
interview with Cl. Peter Anh Vu Nguyen, SDB
Melbourne, Australia, 3 December 2018 -- Another new missionary has arrived in our Region. Vietnamese Salesian and practical trainee, Peter Anh Vu Nguyen, spent one year following his new missionary course, in Ireland (Maynooth) studying English. Now he has already reached Australia, where he became a member of the Brunswick community in Melbourne.
How did you discover your missionary vocation in Vietnam?
As a young Salesian, I still have limitations, but I have received so many graces from God and support from my Salesian brothers and sisters that I confident in speaking up to share some experiences from the very bottom of my heart. I hope that through my sharing, I can grow in the Holy Spirit and others too can be inspired and set out on or continue their journey of faith with joy and new inspiration.
After joining the aspirantate in the DaLat (Vietnam) community, the dream of becoming a missionary came to me. Unfortunately, a simple thought that missionary life is not easy and might be too hard for me wiped that dream away soon after it appeared. However, as it is a call from God, it was still implanted deep in my heart like a seed buried deep underground waiting for the right time to sprout, even though I tried to get rid of it. I kept carrying that seed with me year after year until I took my first vows and moved to the post-novitiate where I learnt from my spiritual director how to discern my Salesian and missionary vocation. As a result of his help, my deep inner peace found that missionary dream sprouting once more as I discovered and decided to live out the Salesian missionary vocation. It was a long journey of discernment and formation for me aftwerwards. Eventually, I received the Salesian Missionary Cross from the Rector Major at the Basilica of Mary Help of Christian in Turin, on 24 September 2017. My missionary destination was Samoa, a country which is part of the Australia-Pacific Province.
How did you spend first year out of your homeland?
I was very happy and blessed to be part of the missionary course to prepare myself for a missionary journey. We are proud that our Congregation has so many Salesians who courageously offer themselves as missionaries ad gentes – ad vitam (= leaving their homeland for unknown lands where they will meet and work with those whose language and culture they do not know).
Nevertheless, it is where they meet and encounter Jesus in those other cultures among people who in Him will become familiar and then very close to them. The vocation of living for foreign people in Jesus really supports my Salesian vocation, since I have found my place among the Pilgrim Church of God.
How was your English course in Maynooth - Ireland?
Before going to my promised land, I had a great chance to learn English and experience my first period of missionary life in Maynooth, Ireland, for the past 11 months. During this time, I felt privileged to see, touch and draw on first-hand experiences of living abroad in the Salesian community of Maynooth. At first, it was challenging for me living there in the early months due to my as yet brief contact with English, which caused many miscommunications and misunderstandings between me and other confreres. However, later I have found it so helpful and beneficial both for my improvement in English skills and my growth in my Salesian vocation. Living in an English-speaking environment helped improve my English skills whether I was in English classes or not. Also my pronunciation mistakes were not just for correction from other Salesian confreres, but also for laughs and gags in our community. It also helps strengthen the family spirit and boosted the aspect of community life in my own Salesian vocation. Thanks to this beautiful period of life, I made great progress in English even though there are still many things to work on for on-going improvement to master this language.
What did you learn as a Salesian missionary in Europe?
Life in Maynooth brought me many benefits in terms of observing many differences between Western and Eastern philosophy, the latter which I brought with me and the former from the society where I was living in. Every day, like a child, I opened my mind and heart to s learn new things around me. There were so many differences between my homeland and the local culture where I was, and sometimes I felt contradicitions with what I was saying or thinking. However, there were also many similarities in terms of promoting the ultimate values of humanity and the Christian faith. I learned a lot about adapting myself to a culture totally new to me. The missionary dream came true for me already during my stay in Ireland.
And what about Project Europe in Ireland?
When I lived in Ireland, I took part in retreats and recollections in which I had time to reflect on my own vocation and the Salesian life here as well. Like other European countries, Ireland used to be a great home of many missionaries going out to sow the seeds of faith over the world, but now it finds itself in a very difficult state with a lack of vocations. Meanwhile, the average age of Salesians here kept increasing up every year. It is an overwhelming hardship for senior confreres to attract young vocations in such a secularised society. In spite of having so many challenges, Salesians here are still constantly making attempts to “set out for the deep” by gathering small groups of young people to pray and have Mass together, hoping that God will stir up in their souls a desire to bring His salvation throughout the world. To witness such efforts by senior confreres inspired me so much that I made a promise that I will renew myself always and never stop trying my best to work in the field like them when my harvest comes.
Your message to young members of the Salesian Family in the EAO region?
To all my brothers and sisters who are young like me, I would like to send to you a message that you should never be afraid of anything when putting your hand to new initiatives to proclaim the Word of God.
As you know, that last November another 6 post-novices from DaLat community (Vietnam) have applied for the 150th Salesian missionary expedition. They are willing to take the challenge of going beyond and living out their faith in a foreign land no matter what awaits them. “Don’t be afraid and don’t hesitate to become a spiritual person to discerning God's call.” We, as Salesians, are living in a global Congregation. "Congregation" means a big house in which we share the same charism whether we live in our own birth countries or abroad.
So, why don’t you just prepare yourselves to live in another land where you can communicate with others in a second language, such as English. English is really a useful and popular language which is like a bridge connecting cultures.