Vietnamese vocation story
By Br. John La Thanh Long, SDB
Vietnamese missionary to Brazil
Rome, Italy, 15 September 2019 -- The 150th Salesian missionary expedition (29 September 2019) is prepared for by a four week course for the 36 new missionaries. As in every (good) Salesian community, there is a daily good night talk. One of the 7 Vietnamese new missionaries had a chance to share a few days ago. The first two weeks of the orientation course was a time to learn the basic inter-cultural dynamics of inculturation, overcoming the cultural shock and living in inter-cultural missionary communities.
My name is John Long, a Vietnamese Salesian Brother. I'm coming from Vietnam, a Province with 333 confreres, including the 10 in the Mongolia Delegation [and Cl David and Cl Felix are already in the Vietnam Mongolia list of this year 2019-2020]. Myself and 7 other Vietnamese missionaries are already out of the VIE province SDB list! Among 323 Vietnamese confreres, 11 are working in other provinces like China, Australia, Japan or Italy; there are another 26 confreres who are being qualified abroad.
One of the characteristics of the Province of Vietnam is the strong presence of Salesian (Lay) brothers. Totally, we have 36 perpetually and 25 temporary professed Vietnamese Salesian Brothers. Almost every year, some novices like me choose to become Brothers. Just two years ago, among 10 novices, not less than five of them [50%] professed as Salesian brothers. People asked me and other Salesian brothers the reason: 'Why did you decide to choose this form of the Salesian vocation?' You know well that as in other Asian countries, in the context of Confucian culture, clergy - priests are more respected than other consecrated people like religious brothers or sisters. I don’t have the answer for others, but I want to share my story why I became a Brother instead of becoming a Priest.
THAT IS A MYSTERY - THE MYSTERY OF GOD’S CALL
Seeing all the priests around me, in my home parish, in the Salesian communities, my rector of pre-novitiate, the novice master, somehow I was not inclined towards the priesthood. A calling in me asked me to respond, I want to respond to the Salesian call as a Salesian Brother.
Maybe God was working in the journey of discerning my vocation as a college aspirant. I was placed in a Salesian community (Ben Cat in Ho Chi Minh City) which has some Salesian brothers and they were really attractive models. I would like to mention one exemplary model - Brother Vincent Chuyen.
He is now already 88 years old. He is a man of doing rather than speaking. Watching carefully how he behaved during these years has encouraged me to want to be like him. I can say, he is a man of God as he is always present at community prayer, in the Mass, at meals, and especially, he is a man caring for all confreres and visitors in the community. I have never seen him yelling or harshly reprimanding any one, always smiling to all the youngster passing by him. Now, at his advanced age, he cannot take on regular tasks with any vigor, his back is already bent and for it is very difficult for him to walk. Still, every day he is there in the playground with the boys who come to our oratory. He goes around, picking up some recycled stuff and selling for some extra money for the community to help the poor.
I am really impressed with his lifestyle. For me, he presents some aspects of a model Salesian, an exemplary Salesian (Lay) Brother and I sincerely respect and love him. I want to be like him, Salesian brother of prayer, of doing rather than speaking, serving other people with all my heart in spite of my limitations.
And I ask you to pray for him in these days. I am sure that he would be very happy to have you to pray for him and for his peaceful departure from this earth as a good lay brother in the Great Salesian Family. Good night.