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By Bro Bosco Hai SDB

Van Phuc, Ha Noi, 09 May 2024 - Fr. Alfred Maravilla arrived in Hanoi on April 8, 2024, to start the extraordinary visitation of the ‘North Delegation.’ This is part of his almost a year-long visitation of the Province of Saint John Bosco in Vietnam with 360 confreres and 37 houses, which commenced last August 2, 2023.

The first Salesian to arrive in Vietnam was Fr. Francisque Dupont, who was a missionary in Japan. Due to the Second World War, he was called in 1940 to serve the French army and sent to Vietnam to serve as an interpreter for the French High Command in dealing with the Japanese occupying force. While there, Fr. Carlo Braga asked him to take care of an orphanage near Hanoi. Raymond Petit from Thailand was sent to help him. As the revolutionaries closed in, they were advised to leave, but Fr. Dupont responded, “I have to stay because of the children.” That evening of 10th August 1945, he was assassinated, and his body was found floating in the river the next day. In 1952, Fr. Antonio Giacomino and Fr. Andrej Majcen arrived to take over the Boys’ town in Hanoi, which the Rector Major, Fr. Renato Ziggiotti, had accepted. Due to the turmoils in the North of Vietnam, the Salesians moved to the South in 1954. Encouraged by Fr. Vigano, they relaunched the Salesian presence in the northern part of Vietnam in 1995 with the arrival of Fr. Joseph Hoàng Văn Tiệm and Fr. Joseph Nguyễn Văn Thái in Hanoi. In 2019, the presence in the north became a Provincial Delegation.

At present, there are 4 Salesian communities and 7 presences, composed of 50 confreres of the Northern Delegation of Vietnam province. Due to their particular context, the confreres have been working mainly in parishes so far. There are 3 students of theology, 14 postnovices and 5 novices coming from the North Delegation.

The high point of the visit was the pilgrimage of the Visitor to La Vang, where the Virgin Mary had appeared in 1798 as the powerful help of Christians persecuted in Vietnam. There on 26th April 2024, after the Eucharist, together with Br. Bosco Hai, Br. Martinô Phạm Thế Hiền and Fr. Phêrô Nguyễn Bá Quỳnh, he entrusted the North Delegation to Mary’s help and protection. On April 30, he visited the tomb of Fr. Dupont in the Ke So Catholic cemetery.

This extraordinary visitation was an opportunity for Fr. Alfred to attentively listen to each confrere and observe all the contexts of each community or presence. In the morning of May 1, the extraordinary visitor met the Delegation Council and, in the afternoon, the Provincial two Provincial councilors. This was an occasion to exchange ideas and clarify impressions. The next day, May 2, Fr. Alfred met all the confreres of the Delegation for a full-day study on the present situation, analyzing the strengths and opportunities, weaknesses and challenges, in order to identify the possible root causes of the challenges that the North Delegation presently meet.

To help the Salesian presence in the northern part of Vietnam grow in fidelity to its vocation and mission, strengthen processes already in place, and overcome its institutional weaknesses, the extraordinary visitor made timely, decisive, concrete, and clear directions for the development of the Salesian mission on this vast part of the Province. Among other things, the Extraordinary Visitor launched a consultation with the new Delegate and members of the Delegation Council. “You have not only a glorious history to recount in the north of Vietnam but also a great history still to be accomplished!” Fr. Alfred pointed out to the confreres. “Look to the future with hope and missionary zeal!”

The visitation to the North Delegation came to its conclusion with the thanksgiving Eucharist presided by the Provincial, Fr. Barnaba An Phong Le. He reminded the confreres to forge ahead with hope. After the Eucharist, the Delegate, on behalf of the confreres, expressed their gratitude to the extraordinary visitor for giving clear directives to make the charism of Don Bosco grow and deepen in the northern part of Vietnam.



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