Preaching Hope From Prison

By François-Xavier Cardinal Nguyên Van Thuán

The extraordinary story, in his own words, of Vietnamese Cardinal Nguyên Van Thuan, Coadjutor Archbishop of Thành-Phô Hô Chí Minh (formerly Saigon) from 1975 till 1994. Just three months after his appointment he was imprisoned by the communist government. He spent thirteen years in jail, nine of them in solitary confinement. In 1998 he was appointed President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in the Vatican. He gave the Lenten retreat to Pope John Paul and his staff in 1999 and died inRome on 16 September 2002. Here are some edited extracts from the cardinal’s story.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam: The Long Road To Freedom

An edited version of an article by Fr Bernardo Cervellera PIME of FIDES that appeared in
World Mission

Pope John Paul in Manila in 1995 called on all Asian Catholics to evangelize their continent, the one with the smallest percentage of Christians in the world. This invitation certainly involves the Philippines but also the 8,000,000 Catholics of Vietnam who form ten per cent of the population there, the third largest percentage in the continent.

The Woman Who Made A Difference

The mission of Merly Hermoso

By Fr Shay Cullen SSC

One day, 28 years ago, I walked into a small dingy office in Manila to collect some documents and met someone who was to become a dedicated companion in mission and who helped change the history of the Philippines. Her name is Merly Ramirez Hermoso, a woman of extraordinary faith, courage and determination and who fulfilled a challenging and difficult mission for Jesus Christ.

Great events begin in small ways. In 1973, I was planning to set up a recovery center for the young people of Olangapo City so exploited by drug dealers, sex tourists and pedophiles. I wanted social workers of strong faith for this challenging mission, which I knew would be dangerous and difficult. There were few available during martial law when the military ruled the land with a cruel heart and jackboot tyranny. Merly Ramirez was the first to say yes. As a graduate in business studies, she was an unlikely candidate for a tough mission but I saw her courage as a sign from God.

Agent Orange: Slow Death From The Sky

By Richard Deats

Richard Deats, a lifelong peace activist in the Fellowship of Reconciliation and author of many peace books, writes to warn us of the great threats tour environment which are around the corner if not already upon us. This particularly relevant to us here in the Philippines where attempts are being made to introduce genetically engineered plants as the Philippine Government is considered to be a soft target by the companies who want to do this. Richard Deats is a longtime friend of the editor of Misyon.

I lived in the Philippines from 1959 to 1972 and was part of an antiwar group there that called itself American for Peace in Indochina. We did research, we wrote open letters, we talked to members of the U.S. Armed Forces coming to the islands for rest and recreation, we met with the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, and we picketed the U.S. Embassy on Roxas Boulevard in Manila every month. With our homemade signs, my wife, Jan, and I, and our two young sons, Mark and Stephen, joined twenty or so others in vigils to stop the war in Vietnam. Thich Nhat Hanh, exiled Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, stayed in our home during his Manila visit, and I organized speaking engagements for him, as well as a press conference.

Dust Of Life

By Christina Noble

Christina Noble was a street child in the city of Dublin, Ireland. Her father was alcoholic and she suffered unspeakably. But it is one of the mysteries of life that she has risen from the ashes of her childhood and given her life to helping street children in Vietnam. Vietnam, like the Philippines, has thousands of street children and homeless children. The editor of the Korean version of Misyon, Fr Malachy Smyth, a Columban missionary in Korea, has interviewed Christina and has allowed us to share that interview with you our readers of Misyon.

Story Of A Boat Person

Q. To begin, could you tell us a little about your personal background?

A. I was born in a little town called Binh Tuy, South Vietnam, in 1958. I have five brothers and two sisters. My parents, natives of a very strong Catholic village, fled from North Vietnam, in 1954.

Q. How did things work out for them?

A. Those who came from the same village in the North had a Catholic priest as leader who established a new settlement for the refugees. They turned this very poor, dry area of Binh Tuy into fertile farmland.

Q. What kind of memories have you from your war-time childhood?

Behind The Bamboo Curtain

By Gee-Gee O.Torres

In 1975, Saigon fell to the Communist forces of North Vietnam. The image of the US embassy staff being helicoptered out dramatically at the last moment had been immortalized in the musical Miss Saigon. Then a bamboo curtain fell in front of the land of rice paddies and pagodas. Inside the curtain a large Catholic population shuddered in fear of what lay ahead. Would it be the end of the Church?

A quarter of a century later our editorial assistant, Gee-Gee Torres, ventures behind that curtain to report to the readers of Misyon. Naturally she has had to change names places for security reasons, but I think her story loses nothing in the telling. (Ed)

The flight from Cambodia to Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh, took only 55 minutes. However it seemed hours to me. I knew my friend Ty was going to meet me at Tan San Nhat Airport. But I felt nervous. I was only relieved when I saw him smiling and holding a “Welcome Gee-Gee” banner outside the airport.

Don't Let Go of your Dream

By Sr. Leonor Montiel, MM

Sister Leonor (Len) Montiel of Romblon is off to Cambodia to join the Maryknoll and to fulfill her dream.

My name is Maria Leonor Montiel and I was born in Looc, Romblon on December 30, 1970, the youngest of the two sons and five daughters of Lucy and Juanito G. Montiel.

After my graduation at the Ateneo, I work with Vietnamese Refugees as a teacher for one year at the Philippines Refugee Processing Center at Bataan Working with the Vietnamese refugees made me race how rich each of our cultures is, as well as the fact the no one culture is perfect.

50 Years Ago When I Was A Little Girl

By Sr. Evangeline Canag, FSP

I am sending you...

From far away Rome, I heard John Paul II’s impassioned commissioning of the young people during the 10th World Youth Day in Manila: “To each one of you Christ says: “I am sending you....’ These words are addresses to you. The Church addresses them to all young people around the world today, though they are being addressed especially of the Philippines and to the young people of China, of Japan, Korea and Vietnam....”

Farewell Saigon

By: Nguyen Xuan Tien

Nguyen Xuan Tien, originally from Vietnam and educated in our Australian seminary, had his experience in Japan. Here he bids farewell to the people of Takatsuki Parish in Osaka where he found the acceptance that meant so much to him because of his personal journey which he now shares with us...

When I was just fifteen years old, about four years after the Communist took over South Vietnam. My father tried to get the whole family to escape from the communist, but he could not. We were cheated by some of the escape organizers and we lost almost all of our money.