VIE - "Sacred Heart" House in Hô Chi Minh City

Sacred Heart House in Hô Chi Minh City

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    Saturday April 27. The SCJ presence  in Vietnam - small in absolute terms, but enormous in relation to provinces with a much longer history - has chosen to locate itself in the northern periphery, not far from the river Sai Gon, from which the city drew its name.

     We had first gone to see it on Monday. There was still lots of frenetic activity. To us it seemed almost impossible to have it finished  on time. "They'll make it!" p. Rino Venturin who had accompanied the project step by step,assured us. And so on Monday, he began to give all his time to the visitors who had come from various parts of the Congregation (the General Curia, the United States, Northern Italy, Indonesia, India). He left the preparation of the party in the hands of our priests and Vietnamese students. They were much better attuned to the traditions, he said, and could give  a more suitable attention to the "political" aspects of the occasion. VIE-Nuova-casa-2013-04-27 6

     In Vietnam a work site never shuts down, not even at night, and so this morning they were fully ready to welcome the thirty new residents (including community, students and postulants). In a few days they will be able to move permanently from the rented space in the center of the city.

     The students worked all night to prepare a lively party for more than 200 people. They called on many other religious and laity to help them. The auxiliary bishop Peter Kham along with Fr. Tom Cassidy cut the ribbon and together they blessed the rooms of the four-story house. Then the bishop gave the prayer of blessing, standing with Fr. Cassidy on the top floor, which is normally quite wide, but for this occasion much too small. Everyone was packed together on the balcony and the stairs. An attempt had been made to seek permission to celebrate in the garden, but they did not want to embarrass the authorities of the district. From both sides they acted as if the request had never been made. Thus, the Mass was celebrated "privately." But that did not mean that the party was not attended also by these authorities. That’s the “Vietnam style” ...VIE-Nuova-casa-2013-04-27 45.VIE-Nuova-casa-2013-04-27 40

    The speeches during the celebration gave a good account of the circumstances of this dedication. Fr. Cassidy, in his homily, used the metaphor of indigenous peoples of the United States, so close to his experience, to recall the inalienable value of minorities. Whoever lives in such minority, like the Church in Vietnam and the SCJ in this Church, keeps alive something which without this presence would deprive the world and the Church forever of something essential. It gives an added value and an ulterior responsibility. The house that opens today is a gesture of kindness, a care that preserves and gives life to the fragile, but irreplaceable, SCJ presence in the Church and to the Church in Vietnamese society.VIE-Nuova-casa-2013-04-27 10

    P. Oliviero Cattani, the provincial of Northern Italy, drew from the biblical image of the “Church – house”: we are the Church, we are the house. It is not we who have built a house, but it is God who builds this house. We do not own the house, yet “we are” the house. The architecture of God is amazing: he chooses as the cornerstone what humans often do not appreciate or discard. It does not matter whether it is "great" or “strong” in earthly measures in order to be chosen to be cemented in love and to grow into a welcoming house of God. It does not matter whether the building is big and flashy. It is important that it takes the shape of the architecture of the gospel. The largeness of the house does not matter. What matters are hearts large enough to be able to stay in small and humble places.

VIE-Nuova-casa-2013-04-27 36     In ending I want to tell about the neighbor across the street, a old man who cannot even write the name “Christian.” As we climbed the stairs of the new home, his discomfort grew as he compared this new house with his small single-storey dwelling, marked by age. Both dwellings are found three or four blocks from the main road, connected by a dirt alley. So no one noticed the somewhat ‘shabby’ house. Now the totally new house makes his house stand out. And the neighbor known as a Christian was afraid of "being out of place” with this new home next to his. ... And so he spruced up the outside of his house, copying the colors, matching his house to the SCJ house. This morning he was standing proudly in front of his home in party dress. He was silent, but his gesture expressed eloquently the deep conviction of being part of this one house.

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