Vietnam - The first steps of the Di An community

It was on the 15th of October that all five of us were together there. The young women of our hostel gave us a warm welcome, helping us to adjust gradually during the first two weeks by preparing the three meals each day and also the daily prayer.
Then, as each stage of life needs to be respected, we organised ourselves so that the "youth" group and the "community" group would have its own life with some times in common (prayer, a meal together once a week, the Eucharist, celebrations). After that, our life was soon organised on the basis of the timetables of the sisters who are studying and our commitments. 
We thought that each one might review the past few months and share with you something of the journey we have made up to now. 
Hiên: That’s it! I’ve received my mission – to go back to Vietnam. It is quite an adventure – a different pace of life, fresh activities etc. I felt great pleasure in being part of this new community. I left France filled with enthusiasm for this return to Vietnam, my country, to start a community with Colette, Diep, Sàu and Hoa. 
Gradually, during these four months in Vietnam I have rediscovered my life, my culture, our political life, our economy, the communism of Mr Co Hô and the lively and dynamic Church. 
My studies are giving me the opportunity to go more deeply into the history of my country through the topics of the war, communism, Mr Cu Hô, and I am really pleased with this. I have many friends in my class and they have confidence in me. I have found that it is easy for me to have simple relations with these young women. I recognise the positive and pleasing aspects of this companionship, as well as some limits. 
I also like living out the community project, and our life review. This enables each one to look at herself and also beyond oneself; this helps us to create deep bonds among ourselves and with others. Through praying together, living and working simply at the kindergarten we help one another to grow in a new way of being a Little Sister, in community and with others. 
I have learned, in France and in Vietnam, that the mission of our Congregation makes us attentive to all those who are suffering; to be loving and non-violent. We all have inner wounds and so we can be close to all the persons who are suffering through our way of being, and our way of being close. 
There are many workers in Di An. We are not there to work a few hours a day with them, but to share our lives with those who are poor, with the families in distress. Yes, we form a single Body. We recognise the presence of God in those who are suffering, who are wounded by life, and also in the great poverty of the places where we commit ourselves and to which we are sent. 
Diep: "I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living", says the psalm. Yes, let us give thanks to the Lord who enables us to marvel at the all the kindness he shows to his children: 
During this second year for the Anh Duong kindergarten we can see the parents who are organising and be-coming involved in the running of the school for the good of their children. 
The birth of the community: God sees that it is not good  to let a person "remain  alone, he/she needs a helper…". He created us: Colette, Hiên, Hoa, Sau and Diep to be together in community, to be with Him and for His mission in the land of the living. 
In the service of accompanying the young sisters. Often they say to me: "Thank you for journeying with us." I like to reply that we are journeying together because what they share of their life is a source of learning for me; it is also a source of admiration on seeing what God does in each of us. Being able to see for oneself the grace He showers on us enables us to be closer to Him day after day and to be able to give ourselves to Him and to others in the mission. 
Sàu: After four months of community life at Di An, I feel very much at ease, in the midst of the workers, with the children and with the young women. With our different studies and work we have the same project. In confidence we live out sharing and welcome, that we learn to give and to receive. We receive strength and courage to continue and to look every more deeply at our missionary here in Asia. 
Through my involvement in the youth ministry I received their dynamism on the occasion of festivities, and in sport. I have admired their faith during the meetings, the retreat, the commitment with Caritas, the visits to the sick. Their confidential sharing helps me to understand their needs. The confidence they show me is a joy for me. 
Studying also forms part of my mission today. Living simply with the young students teaches me another way of being a Little Sister on mission: to live close to people, to do the same work with them, to share simple actions in daily life. 
Colette: "Behold, I make all things new…" Rev 21 .
Rather than being a simple invitation to renewal, it is a reality into which I am plunged each day: a new land, a new climate, new food, a new language, new faces, a new daily routine, new living conditions, a new way of cooking… the list could to go on and on!! This daily reality is for me the symbol of the newness to Christ is inviting us. 
I am trying to be fully present to the hard-working people of Di An with whom I am journeying, to the young women, and to the sisters with whom I am living. 
The market: The occasion when I go to the market is for me a special time of encounter. Through this task I come in contact with the persons who are waiting for clients and the persons who are the clients. I like that atmosphere where people call out to one another, talk to one another, try hard to make themselves understood, where smiles and gestures accompany a language that the other doesn’t know. I like the recognition that appears on faces when I manage to say a few words. The people I meet there are open, welcoming people. That crowd, full of humanity, makes me think of the one that followed Jesus – an expectant humanity. 
The mass: When I go to mass I have to transcend the language so as to plunge myself in what is happening over and beyond the words. I am not always fully present at what is happening but I welcome the One who comes, here as everywhere. When we leave the church I recognise, with a smile that overcomes silence, the women who are present at mass every day. Without any sharing of worries I know by looking at them that they are carrying their burden of life and of suffering and that, there, they have come to draw strength for each day. There is also a man who is happy to say "good morning" to me in French, holding out his hand to me. And then there is little Khoi, a handicapped child, who comes to take my hand with a "gorgeous" smile! And so many others who are becoming my friends in a mutual presence. 
The young women: It is a great joy for me to be close to this group of young women who bring freshness and enthusiasm to our common journey. My regular meetings with them help them to make progress in French. When we manage to understand one another, there is real jubilation! They, for their part, might well despair of my Vietnamese! But they are indulgent and quick to admire, congratulat¬ing me when the sentence I repeat is correct. The will and the desire to learn are there and that is a source of energy for me. 
In the community, I am the oldest sister: a strange novelty! I receive the joy of one, the availability of another, the calm reflection of another; there is trust and the discovery of the reality of the country and the history of our Congregation here. And there are the customs and the ways of doing things and the attentive help and…. so many other things. I also give – what I have received from my experience of life. And all this is for the Life of each one and of all; with St Paul I believe that all things work for the good of those who love God. 
Hoa: After my first religious profession in the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Assumption, I was sent with the older sisters to found a new community in Vietnam. It is here in my native country that I am beginning my first apostolic religious mission. 
After receiving this assignment, I sometimes wondered how I could live it. And this was the response: "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act." Ps 37:5 
"Go with all your strength… Am I not sending you myself?" Jg 6:14 
Becoming aware that I am sent by somebody, by the Congregation but also by God, that it is He who is sending me for His mission, gives me the strength and the inner freedom to move ahead. 
Founding a mission community is not easy, it requires many things: daring, confidence, effort, humility and availability. The older sisters and I help one another, we share the joys, the difficulties and the worries. We are creating a sisterly and prayerful atmosphere and we dialogue so that each one may have her place in the community and, at the same time, be at ease in her apostolic activity. 
We have begun many apostolic activities: it is for us to find how we may best continue this journey by consolidating the different settings: 
  • The Anh Duong kindergarten now has 150 children, with a team of twelve (12) persons: teachers, children’s nurses and cooks.
  • The three hostels for vocation discernment seem, for the time being, to respond to a demand. 
  • The pharmacy, where the young women can have a placement, with the prospect of financial autonomy in the future, requires professional input.
  • The reception of some handicapped children every afternoon is to be reinforced by improving our facilities. 
  • A first-aid room, open three times a week, needs to be rooted better in the neighbourhood. 
  • Participation in some parish activities is also part of what is asked of us as Christians. 
After all that, what we would still like to say to you is not a conclusion but rather a call. Continue praying with us so that, together, we may remain vigilant so as to hear the voice of the Lord and the expectations of persons with each one, in community and on mission, so that His reign may come. 
The Di An community