Vietnam, December 24th, 2022.
Dear confreres, family members, and friends,
Today is Christmas day and this very special atmosphere is felt in the district of Saigon where I live. Nativity scenes, garlands, Christmas music, traditions are still alive. Yesterday, I went to the hairdresser and the young boy who was cutting my hair told me that he was not a Christian but that he liked to come to the Christmas mass, like many people here.
This year will be my 13th Christmas in Vietnam (I have spent two Christmas abroad since I arrived in Vietnam). I have been the superior of Vietnam and India for a year and a half now and I am half way in this mission since I have been appointed for three years. We have just organized the provincial chapter for India and Vietnam, we were 19 members present. It was an opportunity to look at the path we have taken. We were three in Vietnam in 2007 and one confrere in India in 2010, we are now more than sixty confreres and brothers in formation for these two countries. We have 14 priests and four deacons trained by us. In the next five years, we will have 30 priests. The figures are impressive; it is due to the generosity of the brothers who give their whole life for God and for the Church and also due to the generosity of the confreres who accompany them in their formation process.
At the Chapter, we expressed our solidarity between India and Vietnam. The geographical and cultural distance between the two countries is big but the challenges we face are similar: recognition by the civil authorities of our congregation, search for finances for formation and building of houses in which to live in the long term, sending most of our members on mission abroad, local development in our respective countries, social projects, ... the challenges are there and only time will enable us to face them.
As for me, I continue my mission. I do no longer work as a formator of the brothers as I did during ten years. My role is to coordinate the work and mission of the various communities. I am now the only foreigner in Vietnam and it is not an easy situation. Even after 17 years, there are still ways of thinking and acting that differ greatly between the Western culture that still deeply influences me, and the Eastern culture. The Vietnamese are people who have a good sense of conviviality, who enjoy meals and Eucharistic celebrations. They are generally in a good mood. But they have more difficulty in anticipating things, establishing rational criteria for for the years to come and they don’t easily deal with the inevitable conflicts of any community life. They tend to distance themselves from authority, which is sometimes difficult to accept since I am in actually a position of authority.
As a superior, I try to facilitate the cohesion of the group and to establish the foundations of the upcoming missions in Vietnam and India. I am not always sure that I am up to the task at hand and like everyone else, I have my qualities and limitations, my areas of competence and incompetence. But the Church has always moved forward, because God guides us. God constantly calls us to trust, to be humble and patient. For Mary and Joseph, welcoming the Savior of the world in the fragility of a little baby, providing for his education and his future was no small task. But they had faith, they put their hope in God, they accepted the surprises of life, joyful or painful, as a grace from God, and with all this, they were always grateful because God protected and guided them. And they carried out their mission, so it can only be the same for us here in Vietnam and India and everywhere else. Happy Christmas to everyone.
Father Frédéric Rossignol.