Vietnam, 15 Nov 2023- As envisioned during this Extraordinary Visitation in Vietnam, all Salesians who are working in Gia Lai Province gathered together at Ia Pia, a missionary territory entrusted to the Salesians by Kon Tum Diocese, with Fr. Alfred Maravilla, General Councilor for Missions, for the concluding meeting of the Extraordinary Visitation of this zone.
In fact, Chu Prong and Duc Co, the two vast districts of Gia Lai Province, have been entrusted to the Salesians by the Emeritus Bishop of Kon Tum Diocese through a 20-year-long contract with the expectation that the Salesians are to evangelize the J’Rai people and implant the Salesian charism in these two districts.
At the present moment, there are two communities and two other presences in Chu Prong and Duc Co districts, ministering to six parishes, 26 public chapels, and 15 oratories. There are three after-school centers for elementary pupils.
During this meeting, The General Councilor for Missions traced out guidelines for Salesian missionary work among indigenous peoples.
Our fundamental option is to foster their integral evangelization. Similarly, it is necessary to build up the local Catholic community by forming lay leaders and the Basic Ecclesial community. This has priority over building physical structures. Should buildings be necessary, these should be simple and functional, by all means, avoiding mega structures.
The Visitor insisted that the missionaries should pay more attention to serious study of the J’Rai indigenous cultural practices and language though the majority of the people can converse in Vietnamese. “The J’Rai people need to learn Vietnamese to find work and live in Society. However, you missionaries need to learn well the J’Rai language and culture so that you can preach the Gospel in a way that touches the minds and hearts of the J’Rai people”, Fr. Maravilla insisted.
It is the task of Salesian missionaries to promote the indigenous people’s appreciation of their own language and culture, as well as preserve it through documentation of cultural practices, possibly through a museum of indigenous culture and arts. This implies liturgical inculturation in vestments, religious icons and liturgical celebrations.
Thus, the Visitor required communities to prioritize the learning of the J’Rai language by sending younger confreres one after the other for full-time study of J’Rai language and culture at least for a period of three months. Similarly, each community has been asked to develop inculturated religious icons, vestments and rituals. to assign a representative in the commission of this zone coordinated by Fr. Vincent Thanh Trung to discuss at least every month the cultural practices of the J’Rai people. They are to describe them and evaluate ‘seeds of the Gospel’ in them, then make a brief Salesian pastoral reflection on them. A booklet of these pastoral reflections should be ready for publication by 31 January 2025.
The meeting concluded with a group picture in remembrance of this important event in the area’s Salesian missionary history.